Some children are excited about a new school year beginning, while others seem to dread the end of summer vacation. Either way, parents have an important role in preparing their children for a smooth start to the school routine.
Older children may need a reminder about the rigors of homework and classwork and the need to get organized. For first-time students, it’s important to make sure all of the proper immunizations have been given. There is a requirement for a whooping cough vaccine booster, Tdap, for seventh- through 12th-graders.
For students of all ages, parents can play an important role to support school achievement throughout the year. This is a good checklist to repeat:
» Breakfast: Children should begin each day with a good breakfast, and then have snacks and other meals at regular times. This helps small bodies adjust and react at maximum capacity.
» Schedules: Children should know their parents’ or caretakers’ schedules at home and on the job. This helps establish a sense of time, but also reassures children about consistency and order.
» Reading: Parents should read to their children every day, if possible. Newspapers, short stories, books and poetry can all be the basis of enjoyable shared experiences.
» Homework: If possible, a specific time each day should be set aside for homework. Children should know that homework is a No. 1 priority, but they should also be granted flexibility if soccer practice or band tryouts fall during homework time. Working together to set a new time for that day is a good lesson in the budgeting of time.
Adults should resist the temptation to do children’s homework for them, but it’s important that children know an adult is available for help. If children seem to be asking for help because they want someone else to do the thinking, a good response is: “I think you can figure this out on your own. You try first.”
» Tests: When children are studying for a test, they should be discouraged from “cramming” the night before. Instead, ask your children to bring a textbook home every night and teach you what they have learned in school. These discussions could be held at the dinner table for everyone’s benefit.
When children are preparing for a test, help them avoid panic. Advise them to study one section at a time. Encourage a good night’s sleep and a nutritious meal before the test.
If children are procrastinators and seem to do everything but homework, it might help to set up a reward system. Also, let children take homework breaks every half-hour to refresh their minds.
A voice recorder is a great study aid for children whose parents are short on time. One technique is to record a definition or question, pause for about five seconds, and then record the answer. Children can then play it back, have a chance to test their knowledge and get immediate feedback.
If children are having trouble with an assignment, be careful not to criticize. Find out what the problem is and try to help solve it.
The most important point for adults to remember, at all times, is that their positive attitude toward homework, teachers and school can have great influence on a child’s success. That’s the bottom line for all of us, and it reaps great rewards in the future.
— Bill Cirone is Santa Barbara County’s superintendent of schools. The opinions expressed are his own.