Back to School: Starting the year off on the right track
Posted: Jul 26, 2014
Whatever happened to summer vacation? Wasn't it just last week that the kids were leaving school?
Alas, the sad, or happy, depending on your viewpoint, truth is we're staring down the barrel of the 2014-2015 school year, and parents best be prepared to prepare their children to succeed in the school routine.
Be it the first day of a new school year or that important milestone of the very first day of school, your child needs your help in starting on the right track.
Dr. Teresa Wright, director of Brevard Public Schools' Early Childhood Education and Title 1 Programs, has plenty of suggestions to ease the transition into school
Parents of kindergarteners should take the time to get to know their child's teacher well before school bells ring for earnest, so the first day of school should not be the first time your child sets foot in the school.
"Brevard Public Schools provides a one-hour session for each child and family to meet individually with the teacher before the official first day of kindergarten," said Wright. "This session provides a prime opportunity for teachers to build relationships with students and their families, and significantly reduces school anxiety."
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Register on time
Every school year is something of an adventure, and wise explorers know to be prepared before setting off on such exciting pursuits. Begin by making sure your child is registered for school. Registration dates for individual schools vary, but a list is available at the district website. Waiting until the last minute to register only adds to the anxiety.
Kindergarten students should be registered as soon as possible to make it easier on parents to meet entrance requirements such as vaccinations and physical exams.
"All local elementary schools can advise parents on kindergarten registration requirements," said Wright.
Wright also suggests that parents of kindergarteners have their children practice clearly stating their first and last names, so there never is an issue when school begins.
Begin establishing school bedtime routines at least two to three weeks before the first day.
"Make sure children are getting enough sleep during the summer," said Wright.
Another important routine to maintain — this one is throughout the year — is to read, read and then read some more. The more a child reads, or is read to, the better he will probably perform in school.
What do teachers wish parents would do more?
"Read to and talk with their children every day," said Wright. "Talk with your child, ask and answer questions and play learning games that feature reading, math and thinking skills. As part of the household routine, play simple learning games, such as rhyming words, letter and numeral hunts and counting everyday objects."
In the bustle of preparation for kindergarten, parents may sometimes forget the simple things.
"Parents should work with children in developing skills of independence in meeting their personal needs," said Wright. "Children should be able to manage their clothing when going to the restroom. Keep backpacks simple in design so the child can manage opening and closing it on their own."
At lunchtime, the child should be able to manage his lunchbox.
"Provide practice using the lunchbox," said Wright. "During these practice sessions, encourage the child to open containers and food packaging on their own. There will be staff members in the school cafeteria to assist with these tasks, but it helps alleviate anxiety for the child if they go to school knowing how to manage their own lunch."
School supplies, dress codes
Don't wait until school starts to purchase school supplies. The list provided online by each school may vary, but these all represent items that will be needed in the classroom. Resist the temptation to go overboard with these.
"Limit school supply purchases to those items on the list provided by the school," said Wright. "Help your child understand that school supplies in a kindergarten classroom are often shared among class members."
Dress codes are not typically an issue in kindergarten, but parents of older children should pay heed and not dismiss dress requirements as irrelevant.
"The basic premise of the school district dress code is that students dress in a manner that is conducive to a studious atmosphere," said Wright. "The expectation is that students adhere to the established dress code."
Footwear is a particularly critical aspect of dress code, for parents are expected to make sure their children wear safe, comfortable shoes that will perform well both in and out of the classroom.
Embrace the new year
When school finally starts, remain calm and positive and help your child embrace the new school year. Pencil in those open house and curriculum nights to keep the lines of communication between school and home always wide open.
As for those first-day-of-school tears, the experts will say that it is okay to cry, and that goes for both children and parents.
"Tears are a given for the first day of school," said Wright. "Entering kindergarten represents a milestone for the child and the family."
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