Herald Journal Columns
Aug. 15, 2005, Herald Journal

Back to school time


Just as you can tell when a holiday is approaching in department stores, one can see the sure-tell signs of “back to school time” in the stores, as well. In fact, “back to school time” is second only to Christmas in retail sales.

The stores are filled with every school supply imaginable, and many of the stores have the area schools’ supply lists right at your fingertips, which definitely comes in handy, especially when you can’t find the supply list that was sent with your child at the end of the previous school year.

Children are excited to purchase that new backpack, shoes, and clothes. And I’ve found out through experience, if you involve your children in the school shopping process and give them choices, they are more likely to wear the clothes, which in the long run, saves money.

I’ve also learned that if one can garner enough patience to purchase some items, such as the new school bag, after the school year starts, and use the previous one for awhile, you can get some pretty good deals – if one can wait, that is. I have gone back and purchased some back packs for some great gifts, and I also stock up on folders, tablets, crayons, glue, markers, etc. to replenish my children’s supplies as the year goes on, or to use as gifts. You usually will never find supplies so inexpensive at any other time of the year.

In a conversation with my son’s piano teacher regarding the fast-approaching school year, his teacher commented that summer vacations are necessary, so that kids realize how much they miss and enjoy school with its structure and routines. This is so true (well, for many children anyway)!

Children do flourish in structure and routine; they even want it, although they may not admit it. And as we are preparing materialistically for our children to begin a school year, here are tips to help them start the school year off on the right track.

• In regard to school routines and structure, it is just as important to have some routines and structure at home regarding study time. Help your child set a specific time and place for doing their homework. Involve your child in this decision-making so they take ownership of the decision of where and when to study. Children are more apt to do something, if they have a say in it.

• Visit the school, especially if you are new to the area. Get to know the school staff. Make a point of you and your child meeting the custodial staff, food services staff, media center staff, bus drivers, and school secretary, as well as the principal and various teachers. These people can also be connections for your child, and adult connections are extremely important for children. The more people they have “on their side,” supporting them, the better.

• Walk, drive, or show your child the route to school to familiarize him or her with the trip. Familiarity with things helps children feel more comfortable and safe and helps create a situation where they are more likely to have a positive school experience. Fear can bring on negative or difficult behavior issues or situations for anyone.

• Get to know your child’s teacher, and let them know that you appreciate feedback – both positive and negative – on your child’s progress. Alert and keep the teacher informed of anything that may be out of the ordinary that’s going on with your child or family.

Extend an early appreciation to your child’s teacher and develop a cooperative rapport. It makes it easier for everyone involved! Teachers and school staff are there to help your child learn and have a positive and productive experience.

• To learn, children must believe that they can learn, and as parents, we are actually the most important adults in our children’s lives. What we say or don’t say about their abilities and efforts – the feedback we give them – will have lasting impressions and impact on their efforts. Let your child know trying and working hard is what counts. Provide that unconditional love and support that we all need.

• Talk with your child about the upcoming year and the first day of school – what to expect, catching up with old friends, maybe even meeting new ones, and learning rules. Try not to be anxious, or at least try not to show it, about your child going off to school. Anxiety is contagious.

Continue to talk and communicate with your child about his or her school year and experience. Children want you to do this, even though they may voice differently. It shows support and caring.

• The National Education Association noted on the website www.nea.org that research shows that children who are read to in their early years, do better in school. Make reading a habit and routine in your home. Read to and with your child each night, maybe before going to bed as part of the bedtime routine. If your child can read, ask them to read to you, or just set aside time that you all read silently, if they are older.

Be a role model. It’s good for children to see their parents/caregivers reading also.

• Be supportive of your child’s school. We must all work together to help our children’s school years be positive and productive. Schools need the support of parents and the community, and parents and caregivers certainly need support also. Children need support from everyone.

• Get involved in your child’s school. Attend school functions, conferences, events. Join the parent-school organization to have a voice in some work of the school. If possible, offer to volunteer in whatever capacity you can, to read to your child’s class, or put up a bulletin board, etc.

Many of these suggestions are from the National Education Association. Its website is very helpful and informative.

Things no one tells you

Here’s another thing no one tells you about mommyhood or daddyhood: “You won’t understand what people mean by “it goes so fast” until the first day you put your baby on a school bus.”

So true! This is from an article, Inside Mommyhood, by Jen Singer, Parenting, March, 2005.

Go to a park

There is still time left for summertime fun. On my park recommendation list this week are any of the parks or playgrounds in Waconia.

The community playground by the Bayview School is wonderful, and the downtown park, with the wonderful gazebo, has some great tire swings and a wonderful environment. The elementary school’s new playground is fantastic – lots of unique play equipment to try out.

My family and I did the Waconia “park hop” and candy store stop on one of our Friday family fun nights, and it was a fun night for all – not to mention tiring, as well.

Savor the summer days and nights with your children.