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A Back to School List From The Experts – 30 Tips To Cover All Bases

The first-ever full comprehensive back to school tips list for parents!

back to school checklist
Inside Pages, 'A Happy Start to School'

It’s back to school time again, and no matter what grade your child is transitioning into, it’s normal for your family to experience some level of back to school anxiety.

“According to a recent Brainly study, only 22% of U.S. parents said they currently feel organized for the start of the new school year, and a mere 10% of parents said they remain organized throughout the entire school year,” advises Brainly’s Chief Business Officer, Eric Oldfield.

In order to best prepare for the transition (and year ahead), we’ve asked a range of experts; teachers, parents, therapists, and educators, to share their top tips for the new school year.

With the world’s most comprehensive back to school list, we have you covered to ensure a smooth transition.

1. Establish School Routines

It’s highly recommended to start developing a routine for students to manage their time and set up a dedicated homework space so they are set up for success.

92% of parents said homework is the biggest school-related stressor for their families (Brainly Poll).

~ Eric Oldfield, Brainly Chief Business Officer (and father of two school-age daughters in New York), www.brainly.com

2. Get Sleep Back on Track

Take the last two weeks of vacation to get your child’s sleep back on track so that he or she gets used to going to bed and getting up earlier. You don’t want your child falling asleep on their desk.

Make the switch by moving bedtime and waking time back ten minutes each night, until your child reaches the target times.

~ Varda Meyers Epstein, Parenting Expert and Editor at Kars4Kids Smarter Parenting

3. Motivate Your Child

Get your child motivated for the upcoming school year. Remind them they have what it takes to be a successful learner. Remind them to ask questions when they need help. Let them know how proud you are of them.

~ Dr. April J. Lisbon,

Autism Coach Strategist and Empowerment Speaker, Running Your Race Enterprises LLC www.advocacycoaching.com

4. Remember Everyone is Nervous on the First Day of School

I talk to many kids who are starting at a new school and they feel anxious about whether or not they’ll make friends, whether they’ll like their teacher, and whether it’s going to be a good school year.

You know what? Everyone worries about these things. Some people just hide it better. So, know you are not alone.

~ Ali Wenzke, Author of The Art of Happy Moving: How to Declutter, Pack, and Start Over While Maintaining Your Sanity and Finding Happiness, & Family Workshop Host in Chicago to help kids adjust to a new school

5. Transition From a Vacation Mindset into a School Mindset

Have a day of ‘summer cleaning’. Similar to ‘spring cleaning’, on a summer afternoon get your student prepared for school. If they have a spot at home where they do schoolwork, make sure that it’s cleaned out and ready for school time.

If you don’t have a spot designated, now is the time to create a little ‘workstation’ with a tray where they can put their papers. If your student had homework over the break, now is also the time to remind them to get it done, or review it.

~ Carla E. Campos, Founder of 15 Minutes of Creativity, www.15MinutesofCreativity.com

6. Meet the Teacher

Attend back to school business nights to meet your child’s teacher(s). Discuss your expectations collectively for the school year to ensure your child is successful. This may include preferred means of communication to discuss your child’s progress or concerns your child has expressed about the new school year.

~ Dr. April J. Lisbon, Autism Coach Strategist and Empowerment Speaker, Running Your Race Enterprises LLC, www.advocacycoaching.com

7. Buy them a Journal and Encourage Spending 15 Mins a Day to Write in it

Not only will this get them in the habit of rebuilding discipline to be in a ‘productive’ and ‘creative’ mindset for school, but this also gives them an outlet for them to express themselves.

Being a student comes with a lot of responsibilities and growing up can be very overwhelming for your student. So, having this outlet before the rush of classes, social life, and other school-related stressors gets to them, means they can have something to turn to.

~ Carla E. Campos, Founder of 15 Minutes of Creativity, www.15MinutesofCreativity.com

8. Teach Your Children How to Manage Their Time

Start with a calendar. Your child should have access to their schedule. It empowers them and begins to remove you as their portal to the outside world. Starting when they’re a teenager, have a weekly meeting with your child, identify all their practices and appointments for the week, and have them note those on a wall calendar.

By the time they have their first smartphone, their calendar should be electronic. When they are in high school, they will be the ones sending you calendar notifications.

~ Dr. Melissa Gratias, Productivity Specialist and Author of Seraphina Does EVERYTHING! a storybook about life balance for children, melissagratias.com

9. Create a Daily Routine

One of the best things parents can do for their children to prepare them for school is to set them on a daily routine. The summer months can disrupt a child’s daily routine due to vacations, camps, and other activities. Students who are not on a daily routine before they arrive within their new classroom tend to have more behavioral problems within the school.

It is wise for parents to re-establish a child’s school routine at least a couple of weeks before school starts. Parents can obtain their school’s schedule from their principal’s office. Teachers usually will not have their daily schedule together until it is closer to time for the students to be in their classrooms but the principal should know when the students lunch and recess times are before then.

Once the parent has the school schedule, lunch and recess times, they can sit down and create their own daily schedule for their child. Parents can include activities such as reading, writing, and fun projects. If the child has recess then the parent can use this time for their child to participate in outdoor activities.

~ Allison Bruning, MFA, Principal, Academic Warriors, www.academicwarriors.com

10. Grades do not Necessarily Reflect Mastery of Skills and Content

As parents, we dream of our children being straight “A” students. However, an “A” is actually not a reliable measure of learning. For the next school year, rather than exclusively focusing on your child’s grades, try focusing on the manner in which your child studies.

Science indicates that repeated rehearsal (or practice!) of small amounts of information over time produces permanent learning….not grades. Help your child create flashcards and study small bits of material each night rather than cramming the night before a test. Not only will your child be more likely to get that “A”, but he/she will also permanently learn the material.

~ Kimberly Nix Berens, Ph.D., Founder of Fit Learning, www.fitlearning.com

11. Set School-Year Goals with Your Kids

Sit down with your kids and set some school-year goals. What are the 3 biggest things you and your child would like her to get better at this year? Memorize multiplication facts? Improve handwriting? Go up a few reading levels? Whatever the goal, also include a few steps to take that will work towards this, so there are concrete ways to achieve it.

Type these goals up and hang them somewhere where you and your child can see them; it is a reminder to be working on them. Parents can do this, too! We all have things we want to get better at and it’s great to let your kids see you working toward something, too!

~ Cindy McKinley Alder, Private Tutor & Author of two award-winning children’s books One Smile, One Voice, 365 Teacher Secrets for Parents, www.CindyMcKinley.com

12. Check your Child’s Component Skills Before you Assume he/she is Lazy or Learning Disabled

Students move to the next grade level based on age NOT mastery of skills. As such, many students are pushed ahead through a curriculum before they should be and the result can be tragic. If your child is struggling to complete assignments, or worse, your teacher suggests that your child be evaluated for a learning disability, check their component skills first. More often than not, learning issues are the result of lack of basic skill mastery. If your child is struggling with reading, use a timer to see how many words your child can read per minute.

If your child is reading less than 80 words per minute at the end of 1st grade, he/she needs some fluency building in reading. If your child is struggling with math, use a timer and see how many math facts he/she can complete in a minute. If your child performs less than 30 math facts per minute, he/she needs fluency building in basic math skills.

Before going down the road of evaluations and labels, find a way of getting your child repeated, reinforced practice of basic skills such that he/she can achieve fluency – automatic, effortless performance to ensures long-term memory, increased attention span, and the ability to learn more complex things.

~ Kimberly Nix Berens, Ph.D., Founder of Fit Learning, www.fitlearning.com

13. Consider College Requirements

Before starting 9th grade, do some research to check the application course requirements for colleges to which your child may be applying in the future. These may be different than the graduation course requirements for high school. For example, your child’s high school may only require three years of math although the colleges to which they plan to apply require four years of math REGARDLESS of the level of math achieved in high school.

This application course requirement information can be very important when deciding, for example, which math course they take in 9th grade given the need to take four years of math and the math courses available at their high school.

Before your child starts 9th grade, do some research to check the application course requirements for colleges to which your child may be applying in the future. These may be different than the graduation course requirements for high school. For example, your child’s high school may only require three years of math although the colleges to which your child plans to apply require four years of math REGARDLESS of the level of math achieved in high school.

This application course requirement information can be very important when deciding, for example, which math course your child takes in 9th grade given the need to take four years of math and the math courses available at your child’s high school.

~ Phyllis Zimbler Miller, M.B.A., Author of www.howtosucceedebooks.com

14. Build a Relationship with The New Teacher

In the first week of the new school year, approach your child’s teacher and say hello. The sooner you greet one another in a one-to-one conversation, the sooner you can start developing a collaborative relationship.

After first contact, you and the teacher will feel more comfortable about asking each other for help, approaching each other with ideas, and discussing the needs of your child. This 5-minute chat in the first week can set the tone for a smooth and productive school year ahead.

~ Chris Drew, PhD, Lecturer in Education and Elementary School Teacher, helpfulprofessor.com.

15. Get Your Kids (and Yourself) Organized

Create a plan for before and after school for your kids and yourself and stick to it. Routines are important for everyone.

~ Eric Oldfield, Brainly Chief Business Officer (and father of two school-age daughters in New York) www.brainly.com

16. Pull out the Calendar and Start Scheduling

If your child is apart of a sports team and has training sessions already listed, make sure you schedule them. Put this calendar somewhere where the student can easily access and view it.

Encourage them to use it to put in the dates of their exams and school projects when they get their syllabus at the beginning of the school year. If you want to make it fun, also encourage them to pencil in relevant birthdays and holidays as well so it’s not just a ‘school calendar’.

~ Carla E. Campos, Founder of 15 Minutes of Creativity, www.15MinutesofCreativity.com

17. Get Your Check Ups

Starting the school year off strongly is easier when you aren’t worried about your child’s physical or mental health. Schedule any doctor or dental check-ups before school starts.

Review any concerns that you have about physical or social-emotional development. Your physician can help identify which concerns are age-appropriate and which might require intervention.

~ Dr. Ari Yares, psychologist, www.ariyares.com

18. Prevent Learning Loss

Over the summer, parents should do everything they can to try and stem the worryingly common problem of summer learning loss that follows a long school vacation. Students who don’t revisit material or get a head start on the new semester’s curriculum during their summer break face regressing back on months of previous learning.

On top of that, when school restarts children can struggle to make a good start and fall behind without adequate preparation. I’d suggest finding resources that can help with introducing new content or revisiting last year’s school notes to gently ease students back into a learning routine.

Afterwards, parents should continue to support their children after school starts by working through resources relating to their weakest classes together as a supplement to what they learn in class.

~ Will Bond, Education Writer at Twinkl.com

19. Use The Fresh Start as an Opportunity to Reinvent Yourself

Whether you and your child are starting at a new school or it’s the beginning of the school year at a place you’ve been to forever, it’s still a fresh start. You can be whomever you want to be this year, so set some goals. You can come up with academic goals or friendship goals, but be sure to write them down.

You are more likely to accomplish your goals if you write them down and if you have a measurement of success. So, figure out where you want to be by the first holiday break.

~ Ali Wenzke, Author of The Art of Happy Moving: How to Declutter, Pack, and Start Over While Maintaining Your Sanity and Finding Happiness, & Family Workshop Host in Chicago to help kids adjust to a new school

20. Shop for School Supplies

Some teachers want specific items for their students, so I do not suggest buying notebooks or 3-ring binders until they start school and know exactly what supplies their teachers want them to use. However, students like to have special school supplies: backpacks, lunchbox, pens, and pencils. It ’s fun to let them choose some personal items as they prepare for a new grade and new beginnings.

~ Joyee Lin, Independent Educational Consultant, Test Preparation Expert, and Founder of Thinque Prep, www.thinqueprep.com

21. Develop a Homework Policy

Sit down with your child and come up with a Homework Policy you all agree on. Most kids don’t love doing homework and there are so many distractions. If you come up with a plan ahead of time and hang it up, it becomes just a natural rule they have to follow, instead of YOU having to tell them all the time. For instance, if your family rule is to come home and have some free time for an hour but then do homework at, say 4:30, then there is no arguing and pleading with you; you just say, “The Homework Policy says you do it now…”

~ Cindy McKinley Alder, Private Tutor & Author of two award-winning children’s books One Smile, One Voice, 365 Teacher Secrets for Parents, www.CindyMcKinley.com

22. Invest in a Timer for Managing Homework

Homework time can be a very stressful, unpleasant part of the day. More often than not, it reflects “a gray” period of the day, where your child works a little, stares into space a little, daydreams a little, periodically checks his/her phone a little, etc. As such, parents often find themselves continuously nagging their children to get the homework done. Moreover, homework can take a LONG time to complete.

For the next school year, separate the “gray” into “black” and “white” by using a homework timer. Set a timer for 15 to 20 minutes and inform your child that until the timer goes off, it is 100% homework time where they must continuously work.

At the end of the time period, they should be encouraged to take a short break to check their phone, stretch, get a drink or snack, stretch their legs, etc. If you catch you child staring into space or checking their phone during the time period, RESTART THE TIMER! Being strong and structured with homework time will help your child learn effective, efficient, independent study habits and will remove the need for nagging.

~ Kimberly Nix Berens, Ph.D., Founder of Fit Learning, www.fitlearning.com

23. Fit in Downtime

It seems these days that many families are overly busy. Everyone is involved in sports and so many other after-school activities. Many kids say they hardly ever have any free time. While keeping kids active and learning all of the benefits of sports etc, is wonderful, be careful not to overextend your child.

Kids NEED time to just be. They learn a lot about themselves and the world when they are idle and can make choices for themselves. They need downtime. They need to be bored! That’s when their creativity soars.

~ Cindy McKinley Alder, Private Tutor & Author of two award-winning children’s books One Smile, One Voice, 365 Teacher Secrets for Parents, www.CindyMcKinley.com

24. Talk Through it as a Family

One of the best things parents can do with kids which is often overlooked is to gather as much information as possible about the upcoming school year and truly talk through it as a family. After all knowledge is power, and advance conversations can ease anxiety.

Let’s face it, there’s a great deal of information thrown at students and parents quickly such as school calendars, schedules, holidays, expectations, class lists, rules and more. Orienting your kids by driving by the school they’ll be attending, and engaging in worthwhile conversations about all the information you’ve gathered in advance can help students adjust.

This discussion should also include your home expectations, what their new home schedule might look like, how the changes might affect your family’s routine and more. Engaging in conversation in advance of the new school year or even early on in the new semester is a great way to show your kids you care, and it will help alleviate the new school year jitters.

Even older students and kids who procrastinate will appreciate the conversation. Keeping a family calendar with everyone’s special dates, deadlines, and holidays is a tried and true way to keep information front and center while also avoiding unnecessary anxiety.

~ Dr.Chester Goad, University Administrator and Instructor, podcaster and actor, Leader in Education, non-profit advocacy, parenting issues, access and policy, www.linkedin.com/in/chestergoad/

25. Set up a Distraction Free Zone

I encourage students to set up a “Distraction-Free Zone” in their homes so they can do homework and prepare for quizzes and tests. This area should be free of distractions such as: cell phones, radio, TV and outside conversations not related to schoolwork.

~ Barron Whited, MS. ED, Professional School Counselor at Agora Cyber Charter School in PA, agora.org

26. Create an Optimal Mindset

Considering the following;

  • Think about the great things ahead – what are the positive things you can see happening?
  • What worries you the most about the upcoming year – create a list. Then develop a plan to work through items on the list before they occur so you have a toolbox to deal with the worries of school.
  • What goals for success can you set for the year ahead?
  • At the end of the year, what are you going to do to celebrate when you reach the goals that you set after a successful year?

~ Sandra Mohr, Dean of Academic Resources and Administration NewEngland College of Optometry, Boston, MA, www.neco.edu

27. Use your Body Language to Attract People to You

If you don’t want to make the first move to talk to other people, let them come to you. In order to do that, use what I call “SEA” – Smile, Eye contact, Arms open. When you have a friendly demeanor by smiling and looking people in the eye, you seem confident and approachable. If you cross your arms, frown, and look down at the ground, your classmates aren’t sure whether you are angry, sad, or annoyed. Show people you are open to making friends by using SEA and let your new friends make the first step.

~ Ali Wenzke, Author of The Art of Happy Moving: How to Declutter, Pack, and Start Over While Maintaining Your Sanity and Finding Happiness, & Family Workshop Host in Chicago to help kids adjust to a new school.

28. Check Your Focus

For kiddos who might experience overwhelm, anxiety, or apprehension, check your focus to see if you’re emphasizing school too much or too little in an attempt to generate excitement.

For some children, you may find a run-through of the first day of school (campus visit) may support them in being their best and brightest on the first day of school.

~ Debbie Cordero, PreK Director at Aspen Academy, www.aspenacademy.org

29. Get Involved With Your Child’s Class

Meet the teacher as soon as you can and offer to help the class out. If you are able to go into the classroom, teachers will gladly put you to work around the room, working one-on-one or with small groups of kids etc.

If not, can you help out with field trips once a while, work on a project at home for the teacher…? Kids love when their parents are involved and it’s a great way for you to feel connected to the classroom.

~ Cindy McKinley Alder, Private Tutor & Author of two award-winning children’s books One Smile, One Voice, 365 Teacher Secrets for Parents, www.CindyMcKinley.com

30. Check In With How Your Child is Doing

Be aware of how your child is doing. If he is struggling (in one area or many) or is overly bored in school because it is just too easy, bring these issues up with his teacher. A kid who is happy in school will do better and your child’s teacher wants both for him.

~ Cindy McKinley Alder, Private Tutor & Author of two award-winning children’s books One Smile, One Voice, 365 Teacher Secrets for Parents, www.CindyMcKinley.com

Wishing you and your family a happy start to the new school year!

This article was originally published at findingyourpathbooks.com.

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