Jump Back to School
The end of August signals the start of school and the transition to the next phase of life. The flow of summer can come to a grinding halt or steady shift as we begin to find the new rhythm of the school year. It can be stressful or challenging or it can be exciting and invigorating. For most of us, it’s a mixed-bag as we mourn the loss of long summer days and anticipate the new growth that will soon emerge. It’s time to capitalize on the life lessons of embracing change, life-long learning, and the promise of a fresh start!
As with any ups and downs in life, learners of all ages benefit from the deliberate conversations and reflection. Careful planning (which hopefully you’ve begun) can ease that transition phase. Consider the following shifts, which will help establish or maintain a new routine at home:
- Shop for clothes and books now. Label supplies unless they will be community supplies. Ditto for lunch box, backpack, and uniforms. Model how to use a permanent marker and enlist the help of your child. Make a few purchases now and then plan an outing once a few weeks have passed, especially for those who want to scope out their peers’ style!
- Familiarize your child with school and the teacher. This might be a drive by or visit to school or a letter from or to a teacher. Check out the website together. Get together with new classmates or welcome a new family. Write notes to the teacher, especially if there’s something your child likes, has a fantastic idea for, or has a twinge of worry they can express with a sketch or short note.
- Peruse cookbooks for new lunchbox options and/or dinner. Take turns marking recipes with your child and spend some time the last few days baking and freezing goodies or trying new recipes. While you’re at it, double up on some dinner you prepare this week to freeze, so you’ve got one less thing to do yourself during the busy first few weeks of school.
- Decide with any parenting partners, the parameters for the school year routine. Keep it flexible, but consider transportation, homework locations/routines, TV/screen allowance (or the absence of), household responsibilities, and schedule down time as well as activities. Be sure to leave your child and yourself some “unscheduled” time to wander, daydream or be spontaneous.
- Chat about these changes and your hopes. Once you decide on the above, engage in a conversation with your child to glean his/her input. Make a schedule together and post it where your child can see it. Make short lists of the steps your child needs to follow to independently get ready for school, unpack at the end of the day, or get ready for bed.
- Enjoy the lingering hours of day light after-school. Take a twilight walk or evening chats on the porch are still possible in many parts of the country this time of year, and remind us of long summer evenings.
For teachers, I can recommend no better way to help your students ease back into their new routines than with the deliberate pace and guidelines from the Responsive Classroom’s First Six Weeks. Activities such as modeling routines and providing practice in the first few weeks, allow children to learn and internalize guidelines. Articulating hopes and dreams for the year are essential to generate classroom rules. The gradual opening of classroom materials and engaging children to help organize parts of the room and yields a sense of ownership in the space they help create and maintain. If you’re not already a follower, look at the Responsive Classroom website or find them on Facebook.
Whether at home or school, children need (and crave) boundaries and guidance from caring and observant adults. Observe yourself – are you calm, anticipatory, and viewing the start of school as a new opportunity to face life’s challenges, share your own talents, and learn from others? Muster your own excitement, examine any worries and put your best foot forward. Cultivate some gratitude for this moment and be fully present to send your child off ready to face the world. Your child will sense your growth mindset and benefit from your enthusiasm – and s/he be better prepared to take on the challenges and joys of the new school year!