“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” For parents. For children, it can be an emotionally scary time of the year, the most depressing time of the year and the most boring time of year. So how do you get your child, of any age, fired up to start the new school year and to take an interest in his/her learning? This doesn’t mean that you have to go out and buy all the latest fashions or the best and brightest backpack and lunchbox. The mental preparation of your child is the most important back to school technique than a shiny new pair of shoes.
1) Keep a routine and keep it simple. This applies to any age group. It does become more difficult when children are in the upper grades due to after school activities, sports and homework. However, make sure that you set up a consistent routine for both the morning and afternoon/evening. It is also important to communicate said routine explicitly in the days leading up to the first day of school. This mentally prepares children that the lazy days of summer are over. Even though we are telling our children that the summer fun is over, we also need to be positive about a great school year and how much fun they are going to have learning about new things.
2) Be involved in your child’s class. This applies more to the elementary classes than the middle and high school classes. This is also difficult to do if you work, which I do. However, I do try to be a guest speaker, reader or the mom who donates the snacks to the class. If you don’t work, I highly suggest being involved by being a room mom, going on field trips and helping out in the school via the PTG. You could also ask to be a parent volunteer on the School Improvement Team. Your presence and participation associated with your child’s school lets them know that you value education and you care about their well being while they are away from you at school. The littlest of things that you can do to be “an active” participant for your child’s class speaks volumes and goes a long way. Plus, the teacher appreciates the time and effort that you put in to making his/her class successful.
3) Know what you child is learning. This doesn’t mean that you need to know how to solve a quadratic equation. (Although it may help!) This means that at dinner, actively discuss what your child has learned in class that day. Too often parents ask the questions “How was school?” “What did you do today?”. We all know that those type of questions elicit a one word response; “Ok”, “Nothing”. Unacceptable. If you want your child to know that you care about their learning, then the questioning can’t stop there. Also, the questioning shouldn’t be a line of interrogation. That turns children off immediately. Take an active interest what they are learning in class. Go through the papers from their backpack together. Ask them specifically what they had to do on assignment. Ask them “What was the best part of your day?” and follow up with a “Why?”. Too often parents just stop at the first line of questioning because we are busy as well. However, when we take the time to follow through with more specific questions, our children usually spill the proverbial beans.
4) Encourage questioning. Whether your child is just starting Pre-School or going into their Senior year of High School, encourage your children to ask great questions. We’ve all learned the basic questions; “Why?”, “Where?”, etc. These are great places to start. However, we need to be encouraging our children to think “outside” the box in order for them to be the next great generation. We can promote great questioning in two ways. 1) By being good role models and asking great questions of them, as suggested in tip #2. 2) By asking them when they get home or in the car ride home from school or to a sports practice “What great questions did you ask today?” The first couple of times you ask this question you will most likely get the response; “I didn’t.” or “I don’t know.” The more times you ask it, the more likely it is that your child will start asking good questions at school.
Best of luck in the new school year!!
**Kristin is a High School Spanish teacher at East Greenwich High School in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. She is currently “flipping” her classes and implementing more technology in her classes to engage her students. Kristin has taught students at the middle, high and college level. She has a five year old son who will be starting Kindergarten this fall. Learn more about Kristin at kpontarelli.blogspot.com**