No matter our age, we all remember the excitement of going back to school each fall. Things that stand out are going shopping for clothes and school supplies, visiting a new classroom, seeing friends again and renewing the calendar cycle with a new year of festivities and things to anticipate. These outward activities are half the picture. Changing our summer life rhythm into school year mode takes a shift of thought and purpose and requires preparation.
School prep is mental and physical. How can you help yourself and your student through the several week process and going back to school? Here are a few tips:
Sleep habits for the school year
If you didn’t already start adjusting bedtime, start now. Sleep deprivation makes everyone cranky and learning becomes an uphill battle. both young children and teenagers need a lot of sleep. For the young child, bedtime should be early enough that they get their sleep and mom/dad have time for themselves.
Teenage students have a different circadian rhythm. They actually thrive at night and need to sleep in. Neither school or society is set up for that, so teens have had to be resilient and inventive to get adequate sleep. Some school districts have adjusted the school start times so that high school starts later. If that is an option, it’s a good one for the teen body. If it’s not an option, understand your teen may not be fully functional when they first wake up.
Prepare for the next day
Children 2 years and older can lay out their clothes and shoes the night before. This really helps prevent wardrobe meltdowns.
Prepare snacks and lunch together. Snacks and lunch choices can be made the night before and packed by the child. These would be ready to grab on the way out. This works for that teen student, too, but you’ll need a BIGGER lunch bag!
Mental and emotional preparation for school
For younger children, the bedtime routine – if already established – needs to be maintained all year so that child has continuity, predictability, and security in the parts of his life that can be controlled. If not established yet, it’s simple: Bath time, making ready for the next day, and reading time will make for a happy camper.
Adults and screen users of any age need to shut down at least one full hour before bedtime. Media and game devices stimulate the brain when you most need it to settle down.
Many progressive schools do not assign homework. There are educational studies supporting a decrease or elimination of homework. In The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning, authors Etta Kralovec and John Buell cite that there are no studies showing that assigning homework before junior high school improves academic achievement. Montessori Schools find that a productive 7 hour school day is more than sufficient for learning, and homework beyond that should be reading and helping the family with the household. A little research on this topic will help parents form their own conclusion and with that conclusion, they can engage with their local school leaders and school district.
Always have something to look forward to
Friday football or soccer, weekend trips to museums, day trips to local fall festivals, the anticipation of cooler nights with popcorn and cider. Enjoy every season and make this school year a joyful and productive time for each member of the family.