19 Back-to-School Secrets Only Parents of “A” Students Know
Prevent back-to-school meltdowns (yours and theirs) with these simple pro tips. For starters, add printer ink and foam board to your supply list now—you’ll thank us later!
Designate a “homework spot”
“As both a teacher and parent, I find a homework area is key,” says Jenn Tullis, of Layton, Utah. It doesn’t mean you have to give your kid their own study or buy a fancy desk setup; any quiet, organized, comfortable, and distraction-free space with somewhere to sit and a clean surface to write on will work. “Students can’t be expected to focus on doing their homework if they are trying to do it in front of the TV or squeezed in at the dinner table,” she adds. Don’t miss the back-to-school items that will make your kids love learning.
Set a homework schedule based on your kid’s personality
Being too rigid with rules can make homework a battle instead of a cooperative effort, so to avoid math meltdowns and reading riots, figure out what works best with your child’s personality. “I’ve found that some kids need decompression time after school and should do homework after some play time, while other kids need to get their homework done right away and then have the rest of the day for free time,” Tullis says.
Allow plenty of play time
Speaking of free time, every child needs some unstructured time to run around and think their own thoughts every day, Tullis says. This doesn’t mean zoning out on video games, watching hours of television, attending a kid’s cooking class, or playing an organized sport. Those things aren’t bad, but you need to make space where your kid can be creative and move around all on their own, preferably outdoors. You know how sometimes you come up with the answer to your work problem while taking a walk around the block? Kids can figure out that math concept they’ve been stumped on while they play.
Make a list of your goals and rules before kids go back to school
Going from the freedom of summer to a strict homework-dinner-bedtime schedule on the first day of school can be a rude shock—for both of you! This is why it’s important to set the rules before school begins and make sure your child understands your expectations, Tullis says. Write it down and post it in an area where everyone can see it at least a couple of weeks before the big day.
Let your child (help) make the rules
As a parent, it’s tempting to say “my way or the highway” when it comes to grades, but your child’s feelings, fears, and preferences are important too. Ask your kid for their input on when, where, and how to do homework and what their academic goals are for the year. “Plus, letting them play a role in decision-making makes the rules easier to stick with,” Tullis says. Don’t miss the things your school principal won’t tell you—but you’ll want to know.
Start the school bedtime now
The days are still long and the evenings are still light-filled, so it’s understandable that your kiddos don’t want to hit the sack at 8:30 p.m. But mornings start early when school begins and it’s important to start adjusting your children to their new schedule before they need to actually do it, says Heather Bosworth, of St. Petersburg, Florida. “Start waking them up and putting them to bed at the new times at least two weeks before school starts,” she says. Good sleep is one of our 15 tips for beating back to school stress.
Plan out some healthy grab-n-go breakfasts
Breakfast is essential to keep little ones’ minds sharp and focused during long school days but it can easily get skipped in the chaos of getting out the door on time. Instead, come up with a list of healthy, easy breakfast items and post it in your kitchen, Bosworth says. You can make breakfast burritos or egg sandwiches in advance and keep them in the freezer or put protein shake ingredients in a bag that only have to be blended with ice. But you don’t have to be fancy. “A banana and some peanut butter on whole-grain toast is healthy and doesn’t make a huge mess in the car,” she suggests. Stock up on these healthy after-school snacks too.
Get an outfit organizer
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“Have the kids make their outfits for the week on Sundays—that way you have less to fight about in the mornings and you can leave on time,” Bosworth says. To help keep things neat and together, get a hanging sweater organizer with five shelves, one for each day. We like this hanging shelf organizer as you can put socks, hair bows, or other accessories in the mesh pockets on the side.
Set up a way to control their Internet access
Distractions are the number one enemy when it comes to getting kids to do their homework, and the Internet is the primary source of those distractions. To keep kids focused, unplug literally and figuratively—from tech gadgets like tablets, smartphones, TVs, and laptops, suggests Natacha Stocia, of Denver, Colorado. If your kid still needs to type their book report you can install an app that controls your router, so they can use the computer while still blocking the Internet until you turn it back on. You can even set it to turn off the Internet for set periods every day. “Parents often think their kid needs the Internet to do their homework and that may be true for certain assignments, but the vast majority of work can be done offline,” she says.
Create a sorting system for papers
The daily mountain of paperwork schools send home makes it all too easy to miss important things, like permission slips, math packets, or the notice that someone in your kid’s class has lice (eek!). “I set up a file sorting system on a side counter with a basket for papers that need a parent’s immediate attention, one for homework assignments, and one for everything else—that way I know exactly what needs to get done, and nothing gets lost,” says Charlotte Andersen, of Denver, Colorado. “It is the first thing my kids do when they get home.” Here are more ways to prep your home for a successful school year.