Oh August. I've already attended school registration. My daughter has gotten her yearly physical and teeth cleaning. By the way, they started requiring dental exams for school at some time since I graduated? Alright then. You can't walk through your local Target without being trampled by kids picking out their new folders and the right set of colored pencils. You can't get into a department store without a pounding headache filled with back-to-school fashion, complete with neon glitter and lots of sequins. Yes, August is upon us.
Don't spend all your time thinking about supply lists and vaccination records, though. In the flurry of back-to-school checklists it can be easy to forget that the real people who need to be ready for September are your kids. Yes, those lumps who have gotten tired of running around outside in the heat. The little ones who have gotten too used to snacks at any time throughout their day. The ones who are staying up late, waking up late, and generally ignoring clocks all together. Those kids have to get back into school-mode!
Don't worry. Mommyish looked into this daunting task for you. We sat down with a couple teachers, themselves just getting back into the swing of things, to talk about how kids can prepare for the fall. Here are a few things to keep in mind in the upcoming weeks so that your children don't suffer from culture shock during the first week of school.
This is easily the issue that parents are dreading the most. We all know that our kids need to get back into the habit of going to bed at 8 and waking up by 6am. That doesn't make it any easier after the bedtimes have been creeping backwards over the summer. It wasn't your fault, it was still sunny at 10pm!
"But it really is going to be difficult for students those first couple of weeks if you don't get them used to it," multiple teachers warned me. "There's so much going on in the beginning, you don't want them to be exhausted and falling asleep on their desks after lunch."
So a couple of pro tips? Make the transition gradual, don't just try to plop them into bed an hour earlier the week before school and expect a miracle. And enforce the morning wake-up time too. After a couple of early mornings on little sleep, your kids will want to go to bed at a normal time.
The other biggie that I know I don't actually have to tell you. "It's just amazing how you can tell the kids that have been reading during the summer versus the kids who haven't," one elementary school teacher confided. "I know it seems simple, but it just has such an impact."
And don't let reading be the end of it. For younger kids, journaling and math skills are also important things to catch up on. Take a look at last year's academic markers and make sure your kids haven't forgotten things they already knew over the summer. "If you still have end of the year assignments or tests to look back over, those are great resources," we learned.
Honestly, one month of reviewing a small amount each day can help your kids be more confident and secure once the school year starts. Give positive incentives to help motivate your little ones to get back into the habit.
(Photo: Losevsky Photo and Video/Shutterstock)
"You know the parents who practiced their morning routine ahead of time," one teacher warned, "because they're the only ones who make it on time! The others come rolling in fifteen minutes late for the first couple weeks." And walking in to a classroom that's already in full swing can make the first week of school even more intimidating for little ones.
I know that the morning routine is not easy. It was the hardest part of working motherhood to adjust to for me. Getting up at 5am so I can make sure lunches are packed, hair is brushed and socks are matching for the entire family has never particularly fun. Over the summer, it's so nice to see the little ones lounging at home as I take the time to do my make-up and iron my clothes.
Now, it's back to the grind. Try to make time to let kids wake up slowly and get in a good sit-down breakfast before rushing off to school. Everyone's day will go better.
(Photo: Olena Kryzhanovska/Shutterstock)
If your kids have been hanging out at home with no friends but the babysitter all summer long, they could have a hard time readjusting to the social world of school. "If you know a couple friends in your kid's class, it's a great idea to get them together for a playdate before the first day of school," another teacher suggested. "When kids walk into the room and see a familiar face, we lose so much of the beginning-of-the-year jitters."
Especially for younger kids who might be nervous about their classes or new friends, calling up friends from last year can remind them how much fun school is!
My daughter spends the summer with family members, cousins and her sitter. That's a bit different from the social world of school. But just one birthday party with an old school friend had her right back in the swing of things and excited to get back to school. Plus, moms can start working out volunteer schedules and carpools before the year even starts.
(Photo: Anatoliy Samara/Shutterstock)
Have your little ones been grazing all summer long as well? I feel like we have one meal a day at my house. Aside from family dinner, it's snacks and picking a yogurt here or an apple there. Unfortunately, that lax eating schedule just doesn't translate for the school year. Kids are going to have a very defined breakfast, lunch and dinner now that their back to the the books.
"It seems simple, but when a child wants a snack at 10am and then another around 2pm, it's hard for them to focus," one teacher told me. "Just like sleep and morning routine, you want to help your kids get used to the schedules that go with school. That includes mealtimes."
It's an easy thing to overlook, because we don't often realize just how out-of-hand it gets when the fridge is just a few feet away. So I did a little experiment with my own munchkin. Without a normal school schedule, she's gotten to snacking about 4 or 5 times a day, then just having a big meal for dinner. Those little snacks won't work so well she heads to the classroom, so it's time to remember that lunch is an actual meal that happens in the middle of the day.
(Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)
I know, I said that I wasn't too worried about a little extra screen time in the summer. But that doesn't mean that kids aren't going to need to tone it down now that the school year has come back around.
"It's amazing to see the number of kids who seem to be going through screen withdrawal once the school year comes around," remarked a middle school teacher. "The ones hiding their cell phones under their desks. The ones who say that want to use iPads to take notes as if I'm not aware what's really going on. It's odd, but parents really need to start weening that stuff down a little before back-to-school," she suggested.
The beginning of the school year is always a good time to go over rules about cell phones and screen time in general. It's also a good time for parents to take stock of their children's screen time usage and how controlled it's been. While every other part of the schedule is shifting, why not use this time to make sure that your tech-obsessed child isn't going a little overboard?
Remember that half hour after recess when your teacher made you lay your head on your desk and listen to a chapter book? That was a great half hour. And kids always needed it.
Your children are going to need it too. And with all the rush of the school supplies and new clothes and new friends, it's easy to let them get overwhelmed. It's easy to forget that relaxation is important, even for little ones.
"Try to have a little time each day where your kids sit down and take a breather. Let them relax, empty their kids, maybe do a little reading on their own," one teacher suggested. Sounds like something that all of us could benefit from.