For the best start to the new school year, begin in the summer. Retired teacher, mother and grandmother Polly Jamison shares ideas and inspiration to make sure children are rested and ready for the year ahead, and have no regrets about the summer.
*Early to Bed, Early to Rise
"The first thing is to get back into the right sleep routine," says Jamison. "As a teacher, I could always see which children had a good night's sleep and were ready to do their work for the day.
"I always told my students' parents, 'It's no different from you staying up too late, but you still have to show up for work and do your best," says Jamison. "School is children's work. They need help to be ready, fed and rested so they'll have a good day."
Here are some ideas for a successful sleep schedule:
--Beginning two to three weeks before the start of school, start moving back your children's bedtime and wake-up schedule by 15 to 20 minutes every few days.
--Create a pleasant nightly bedtime routine. Wind down with a bath or shower, talk about the day, and then have quiet reading time.
--Check the weather forecast and get clothes ready for the morning.
--Serve nutritious, low-carb, high-protein breakfasts to keep your children awake and sharp.
--"Practice the morning routine for at least a week, including packing the book bag and making a lunch ... getting to school or the bus stop, and more," says Jamison.
*Refresh Math and Reading Skills
Young students who have practiced addition and subtraction, and older students who can quickly and accurately do multiplication and division operations will have a much easier time starting the year at or above grade level and will spend test time on problem-solving, not math facts.
Everyday household routines offer easy, fun ways to keep math in mind. Cook together and discuss numbers of ingredients and measurements. Ask young children to measure and count teaspoons of seasonings as you add them, for example. For elementary students, fractions abound in baking. At the grocery, older children can keep track of the bill, weigh produce, find the most economical purchase per ounce or count change at the register.
Schedule reading time every day to maintain word recognition and comprehension skills. Listening while your child reads aloud will nurture your relationship and track his or her progress. Occasionally, ask what is happening in the story to ensure reading comprehension.
Encourage "first, then, last" sequencing to see actions and activities in logical order. Puzzles that sequence events help preschoolers with this skill. Setting the table the same way every day is an easy way to build the idea of routines.
As your children grow older, sequencing will be an important skill for speeches and test taking. One way to combine sequencing and speaking in complete sentences is short "reports" after family outings. Before your visit to a park or attraction, agree that everyone will remember two or three things to talk about after the visit. Then ask young children what they remember from the trip. Ask older youths to describe the trip highlights from beginning to end.
Build quiet time into each day of the summer, says Jamison. Children who are accustomed to reading alone, working a puzzle, doing something quiet on their own and having "time to reflect and chill out," will be better able to quiet themselves in class, finish homework at school and make the most of silent reading periods.
Many kids struggle in school simply because they can't manage the paperwork: field trip permission slips didn't make it out of the book bag, completed homework doesn't make it back into the book bag.
Create one designated place to drop off book bags and gear, collect important school papers for signatures and communicate family announcements and plans.
Establish another place for homework that's always clean, stocked with supplies, inviting, well-lit and away from TV and other distracting devices. Add comfortable seating at a table or desk. This will also be where you double-check for teacher notes and assignments and repack the book bag. Remember to have them clean up each night!
Make time in the schedule every day to talk together, do something fun and listen carefully to your child. Reasonable scheduling and spending more time with each other than on devices and screens sets up lifelong habits for communication and close relationships. This can be at family meals, evening reading, family game nights, and various other times each day. Share family history stories. Make up your own charades with subjects your family likes, Jamison adds.
Make time often to affirm your children. Not just praise for what they accomplish, but true affirmation for who they are.
As you near the end of summer, talk together about things your children had hoped they would get to do. Did you do them? Make a list. See whether you can fit it in. This will help them feel heard, empowered and ready to begin the new school year.