15 Back to School Tips from a Mom and Teacher!
My top 15 Back to School Tips for a successful and stress free year based on my experience as a mom and teacher!Back to school time already! Hard to believe that the holidays will be coming to an end soon. Although I have been a teacher for 15 years this is the first year that I will be a parent of a primary school going child – how did that happen? While I have been preparing my son to start school at the end of August and I have also been going through the advice I tend to offer parents at the beginning of each school year on Parents Night. This is such a busy time of year, here are a few tips to help make things go smoothly! (I will be doing a post more specific to preparing your child for their very first day at school very soon, these are tips that could apply to all class levels).
1. Label everything! Ensure you have labelled everything – books, uniform, clothing, coats, pencils, lunch box, bag etc – EVERYTHING!
2. Lunch box and water bottle: When buying a lunch box and water bottle, show your child how to open and close it and ensure that they can do this with ease before starting or going back to school. This is for 2 reasons, 1) you do not want food and liquids spilling all over the inside of a school bag if it is not closed properly (there is nothing more disgusting than squashed banana mushed into copy books!) and, 2) a teacher will more than likely have between 20 and 30 children in their class and really doesn’t have the time to give to opening and closing lunch boxes. You want your child to be as independent as possible at school.
3. School bag: A sturdy and durable and washable/wipeable bag is an essential piece of school “equipment”. Check to see if the straps are padded so that it is comfortable to wear. Does your school allow “wheely” bags? Ours doesn’t as they can cause a tripping hazard in the classroom as the do not fit under the desks (especially in younger classes). Again, ensure that your child can open and close their bag with ease and don’t allow them to carry any excess materials, books, etc – school bags can be heavy (especially in older classes), keep the contents to a minimum.
4. Shoes: practical shoes are a must – velcro straps instead of laces if your child can’t tie laces. Double check the dress code – the school I teach in doesn’t allow boots, shoes with heels etc – gym shoes are the preferred foot attire whereas at the school my son goes to they are allowed to wear whatever shoes they like so long as they are practical for play – indoors and out!
5. Contact details: it is imperative that the school has up to date contact details for you and a designated emergency contact in case you cannot be reached. So many times over the years I have tried to contact parents to tell them that their child is sick, that they have been in an accident in the playground, that their is a problem that needs to be discussed etc and have been unable to reach them as the numbers we have been given were incorrect or outdated. If you see your child’s school number ringing your phone, please, if at all possible, answer it immediately – it will be important and your child will also need the reassurance of knowing that you have been contacted and are making arrangements to collect them especially if they are ill or injured. Does your child know their phone number and address? Encourage them to learn it.
6. Healthy eating: Most schools have a healthy eating policy. Fill up your child’s lunch box with a variety of healthy food and snacks each day. Keep the policy in mind if there is one. You don’t want your child feeling bad if they bring something in their lunch box that is not permitted/recommended by the school. Also, most schools have a nut-free policy. Encourage your child to bring home whatever they don’t eat so that you can keep track on what they have eaten and plus a lot of schools will have an environmental awareness policy or “Green Schools” initiative in place where they try to keep waste to a minimum..
7. Medical conditions: So that your child can be fully supported in their learning, the school will need to know if there are any medical conditions of concern. If your child is on medication, the school should also be informed. If it needs to be administered during school times you must discuss this in detail with school management as special arrangements will have to be made for the administering of medications. Never allow a child to carry medicines to school unless it is essential such as inhalers, epi-pens, insulin etc. I t is also a good idea to ask your school to store a spare inhaler, epi pen or insulin pen in a secure place in the school in case your child needs it in an emergency and has forgotten their own. Medicines such as Ritalin etc that are unfortunately common place in most schools should not be in the child’s possession, these need to be under lock and key in a supervised location so that they are administered safely.
8. Early to bed! Before school begins, start to bring bedtime back a little earlier if possible. A good night’s sleep is essential for learning.
9. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Children need fuel to learn. Breakfast is so important. Encourage your child to eat a good, healthy breakfast in preparation for their day of fun and learning ahead.
10. Positive attitude towards school and learning. Parents are the primary educators of their children. Children learn many of their attitudes and views from the moms and dads. Talk positively about school. Whatever your own experience of school was, ensure that your child sees school as great place to be and values the importance of learning.
11. Read, read, read. One of the most valuable things you can do to encourage your child’s reading is to read with them everyday and encourage them to read widely.
12. Morning routine: Children who come to school happy, relaxed and organised tend to do better and settle better. Ensure that there isn’t a big rush every morning to get ready for school. Prepare clothes, lunches, bags etc the night before, involve the children in this. Get up a little earlier and try and slow your morning down if possible. This will help reduce any anxiety your child may have about starting school and will keep everyone calmer and happier – mum included. Set up a simple picture schedule for your children with a list of what they need to do to be ready for school that they can check each day.
13. Homework: Allow children a little time to unwind, have something to eat, maybe get some fresh air before homework, but, try and get it done as early in the afternoon as possible. Turn the TV off, try and reduce the number of interruptions – , turn off ringer on phone etc. For younger children, homework should be done under supervision at the kitchen table. Older children should have a designated homework/study area. Keep the mood positive, be encouraging, offer suggestions and help if required – DO NOT do it for them, no matter how frustrating things get! If your child is struggling with homework and is finding something very difficult -set a time limit and then call it quits. Write a note to the teacher explaining the problem. Again, check your school’s homework policy, typically there is a recommended amount of time to spend on homework depending on your child’s age and class, check it out and if you are spending way more time than recommended let the teacher know (politely).
14. Reduce screen time: I’m all in favour of every type of screen and technology. However children need time to play and exercise after working very hard all day at school. Encourage them to be active, preferably outdoors for some part of everyday – it will have a very positive effect on their learning. Keep screen-time to a minimum during the week.
15. Communication: Keep the lines of communication open with your school. Schools are extremely busy places, if you have a question, write it down and send it in with your child. Drop an email to the teacher, principal etc if you have a query or concern. Always make an appointment if you want to meet face to face with teacher or principal. The class teacher should always be your first port of call if you have a concern. Let the school know of any changes in circumstances at home – illness, living arrangements, new baby etc – the more information that the school has regarding any difficulties that your child may be experiencing allows them to support your child in the best ways possible. If your child is unhappy at school you may find out post on tips for when your child is experiencing problems at school helpful. For the vast majority of children, school is a very enjoyable and positive experience, but if you your child is having an issue contact the school so that a solution can be found.
If your child is starting school for the first time then look out for our post on tips for helping your child prepare for school and make the transition as smoothly as possible!
Have you more tips to add? Please feel free to add to the list in the comments. We love to hear your tips and advice!
Wishing you and your family a happy and safe school year!