“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
With summer vacation winding to a close, it is time once again to think about getting ready for a successful school year. It is hard to believe that school is beginning, especially when the days are still long and hot and the beach beckons. It feels like we are just getting used to the more relaxed days, a casual schedule and fewer demands when suddenly we have to think about rising early, making school lunches and jumping on the roller coaster of the academic year.
For some, this is their very first year in school, for others it is their senior year and thoughts of college lay on the horizon. Parents stand at the beginning of the path beside their child, and then on that magic first day, wave goodbye. Children step forward to learn not only the curriculum for the year, but about themselves, on the ever-evolving journey to adulthood.
Education is life for many educators, students, parents, and us, for the school year is all-encompassing and consumes us for nine months. What starts out as a slow ride, gains speed and perhaps throws in a few loops during the year. We prepare as best we can, but learning to be flexible is a lesson best learned at the onset. Parents can help their children prepare for a successful year and in turn, have a great year themselves.
Plan by talking positively about the upcoming year. Parents can do research at corestandards.org/ to learn the standards, curriculum, and expectations for your child’s grade so both you and your child know what to expect. Most report cards are also tied to the Standards, so becoming familiar with them is a great way to plan for success. Teachers usually go over the curriculum and classroom expectations on Back-To-School night so be sure to make it a priority to attend this adult-only evening. It is also a good time to see how your child’s teacher communicates information to parents, as some teachers use an online blog format; others use a paper newsletter. Knowing where to look for information can help you stay current with your child’s assignments and classroom activities. Older students (middle and high school) have online accounts tracking assignments and grades, which parents have access to as well. Beginning with the upcoming school year, all schools in the LAUSD will be implementing an online grading system. This will be introduced to parents as it is rolled out in the District.
Prepare your student for a successful school year by acquiring materials that will be needed to complete assignments. All children should have pencils, crayons, scissors, glue and a variety of paper at home. Additional items such as poster board, access to a computer, and art materials for creating posters, dioramas and other projects is helpful. Acquiring a library card, if your child doesn’t already have one, is a resource for reports and finding books to read for pleasure.
It always feels exciting to begin school with a fresh backpack, folder and lunchbox. Be sure to label anything and everything brought to school. It is so easy for children to lose track of sweaters and jackets. Even the water bottles and containers used in lunchboxes get left behind on the playground or in the cafeteria. Label everything so the items can always find their way back home!
Prevent the stress of unexpected last-minute forgotten lunches and backpacks by establishing a routine. A checklist reminder near the front door can help children remember their own things for school. If a backpack or lunch is forgotten, try not to rush back to school to bring it. All children need to learn the responsibility of bringing their own things to school and, usually, once forgotten, the child will be more responsible the next time. This is a valuable and important lesson best to learn young. If a child forgets their lunch, the cafeteria will provide a lunch and the parents can repay the cafeteria. In addition to teaching responsibility, schools are increasingly encouraging safe campuses by requiring visitors to sign in at the school office. Some schools will allow forgotten items to be left in the office for children to retrieve later.
Prevent the stress of last-minute homework assignments by checking your child’s class website, blog or newsletter every Monday (some on Sunday night) and throughout the week.
We want our children to know their own homework assignments and to take on the responsibility, but truthfully, part of parenting is to shadow your children in their efforts to become independent. As parents, we are there to guide and support students on their road to adulthood.
Prevent your child from falling behind academically by monitoring their progress. If you see that your child is having difficulty grasping assignments, step in by first talking to the teacher and seeing what support you can provide and then, if your child needs continued support, a study group or tutor can help provide continuity and help build confidence. Take time daily to review graded assignments that come home in your child’s folder. Go over these with your child so they will know that you are there for support, but also, that you are interested in their progress and success in school.
By planning and preparing we can prevent extra stress for both our children and for ourselves. We can teach our children the valuable skills of responsibility and accountability, which are basic skills needed for life.