Home > Lifestyles > Back in the habit of going to school

Back in the habit of going to school

By Dayna R. Brown

Copley News Service

2004-08-30


Getting up each morning during the school year can be tough.

Getting up that first morning after a long summer of late nights and late mornings is even tougher. But that is exactly what millions of children will soon be doing.

By communicating, being organized, implementing a schedule and easing into a back-to-school routine, parents should be able to help children successfully make the transition back to the classroom.

"You don't want to surprise them one morning when they wake up and say, 'School starts today.' You need to work up to it," said Sheila Ogilvie, principal at a primary school in Peoria, Ill. "You need to talk with them about going back to school and what you expect."

First, start students thinking about school.

"Hopefully, parents have been doing that all summer with reading," Ogilvie said.

For those families who haven't kept up with the books, a few trips to the public library can get the brain going, Ogilvie said. Reading to children - or having them read to you - and asking them questions about the material gets them thinking.

Parents also need to convey to students what they should expect at school. Even moving from kindergarten to first grade can be traumatic to a young child, so be sure to talk about his or her feelings, Ogilvie said. The family then needs to make a plan for before and after school.

"I think children thrive on a schedule. They like procedures. They like routine," said Mike Illus, another primary school principal from Peoria. "They feel safe and secure when they know what each day will be like."

When parents are setting a bedtime, it is better to be conservative. If adjustments need to be made, it's easier to tell a child she gets to stay up later than to tell her she must head to bed earlier. Although every child is different, the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research recommends children get at least nine hours of sleep each night.

Before older children go to bed, it would help for them to lay out a "parent-approved" outfit; adults may want to lay out clothes for younger children.

If families pick a proper bedtime, waking up in the morning shouldn't be too much of a hassle. A lot of parents prefer to get themselves up and ready first, if possible. Staggering the wake-up times of children can prevent a bathroom traffic jam, as well as allow parents to have some individual time with each child.

Young students who read might benefit from a list of what they need to do in the morning. Simple tasks for adults - brush teeth, comb hair, get dressed, put on shoes - can easily be forgotten by children, and a list could alleviate the necessity for Mom and Dad's constant nagging.

Remember, children sometimes need "gentle reminders" to get moving in the morning. Yelling at them doesn't help, Ogilvie said. The same harried feeling adults get when they are running late for work is how children feel if they believe they will be late for school.

Children don't like to leave for school on a bad note, which can impact them the rest of the day, Ogilvie said. If things don't go well in the morning, make the best of it: Talk about what went wrong that evening and make adjustments. It might mean everyone heading to bed a few minutes earlier and awaking earlier, too.

No matter how late you might be running, never skip breakfast, Ogilvie said, even if it means handing your child a peanut butter sandwich, a piece of fruit or even a cold slice of pizza as he runs out the door.

Setting the table for breakfast the night before could help. Parents can even ask their children what they would like to eat in the morning. Some families also like to stock up on grab-and-go type food, such as cereal bars, yogurt sticks and granola bars, for those mornings when there isn't time for a large breakfast.

Parents can also contact the school to see if breakfast is offered there, although that might mean waking up a little earlier each morning.

Family Fun magazine suggests keeping a box of "emergency items" to quell last-minute crises. Contents might include pencils, paper, snacks, change, a hairbrush, ponytail holders, socks and anything else you seem to be running around looking for as the bus is pulling onto your street.

After school, students should know if they take the bus or walk home. Once they are home, there should be a set plan for homework, which will help avoid arguments.

Illuzzi knows the beginning of school can be stressful for everyone, but good preparation will help eliminate stress.

"I think both adults and children are stressed. It is an expensive time for parents, and children have the stress of a new teacher or even a new school," he said. "Anything we can do to put the focus on the classroom helps."

SIDEBAR

Countdown to the bell

By Dayna R. Brown

Copley News Service

Going back to school can be hectic, especially for families who aren't organized. Here are some tips to help things go more smoothly.

One week before:

- Set a bedtime and wake-up time and begin keeping that schedule, including time to eat a breakfast that is not too high in sugar.

- Review the information sent home by the school and make sure to return any necessary papers, including sign-up slips, health and emergency forms and volunteer opportunities.

- Mark the calendar with important dates, such as vacations, school programs and school-wide meetings.

- Determine how the child will get to school, and do a walk-through of that plan.

- Set a time and place for homework, preferably away from the television and other distractions.

- Buy school supplies and pack into school bag so things don't get lost.

- Visit school with your children if they are young or new to the area. Even older students might enjoy taking a walk around the school grounds.

- Label clothes and supplies in case things get lost.

The day before:

- Select outfits and lay out clothes the night before, including socks, shoes and other accessories that may delay things in the morning.

- Pack school bags with necessary items and set out bags and jackets near the front door so there is no hunting for them when it's time to leave.

- Make lunches, but keep in the refrigerator until morning.

- Be sure young children know their first and last name, their school's name and teacher's name, in case they get lost.

- Have children take baths and showers so there is no rush in the morning.

First day of school:

- Get dressed. Be sure clothing chosen the night before is appropriate for the day's weather.

- Make beds. It is a quick task that easily can be done before school, and having children perform chores helps teach responsibility.

- Eat breakfast. Studies show that students who have something to eat in the morning perform better in school.

- Place lunch in book bag for convenience and double-check contents for anything that may be missing.

First week of school:

- Clear the schedule. Try not to plan too many events for the first week of school. Instead, use this time for everyone to get acclimated to the new schedule.

- Allow extra time in the morning because things will take longer until everyone is on a schedule.

- Don't overreact if the first few days are a little rough. Things will get better.

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