We can hear the groans already as you read the topic of the article, but ready or not, summer is winding down and it’s time to start prepping for the start of the new school year. Yes, there’s still a bit of summer vacation to squeeze the delicious juicy fun from, but with the Back-To-School signs beginning to pop up at the local shops and on TV, this is our cue to begin early prep. In fact, if you start now, you’ll be alleviating some of the stress that inevitably comes from waiting until the last minute. So what can you do now to prepare? Here are a few ideas:
To start, it’s a good idea to get the family into a school-time routine. Set the alarm clocks and get your children used to rising at a set time each day. It doesn’t have to be “school early,” but it’s a good idea to discourage everyone from sleeping-in at this point. On a similar vein, it’s a good time to jump back into regular bedtime routines and times. Start now and your school-year transition will be that much easier.
Hopefully, your family has been enjoying great books over the summer. Keep it up! If reading hasn’t been a part of the day, now is the time to head to the library, pick up a few good books, and set aside a time for reading each day. If your children are not independent readers, use that time to settle into a comfortable chair and read aloud to them. They'll not only enjoy the extra attention they’re receiving, but will soak in great tales while hearing the letter sounds, vocabulary, and cadence of the written word, now spoken.
Now is also a good time to set up play dates! Beginning the new year with friends will help to ease the transition and you too can benefit from getting reacquainted with their parents. Help your children refresh friendships by setting up a pool party or other get-togethers with classmates they probably haven’t seen since school’s end. It’s a fun way to get everyone excited about being together again once that school bell rings.
As the first day of classes gets closer, take the opportunity to take your children to their school for a walk-through, especially if it’s new to them. Search out the cafeteria, find the library, explore the hallways, and if possible, meet new teachers and say hello to the principal. It’ll certainly go a long way towards helping to ease any jitters on that first day of school.
Though you still have a bit of time, it’s not too early to start school shopping. Check to see if your children’s school has already posted a classroom supplies list, then buy a few items each week. If the list isn’t available yet, go for the basics: pencils, paper, markers, lunchbox, backpack, etc. Spreading out the new-year shopping allows you to take advantage of sales and coupons, is easier on your budget, and you’ll beat the crowds too. The same goes for school clothes. Instead of dealing with an exhausting day trudging through the stores for new outfits, just buy a few pieces here and there as these final weeks of summer vacation wind down. Bear in mind that you don’t need to buy for whole school year, you just need a few fresh, new pieces to start the year!
Treat yourself too, and pick up a fresh, bound notebook or organizer. Use this to record important contacts, messages, plans, questions and to-do lists. You can also store any hand-outs that come home from the school during the coming year.
Towards the end of summer or at the beginning of the school year, your children’s school with host an Open House. Make sure to attend and take your organizer with you! You’ll be showing the teacher that you are an active parent, it gives you the opportunity to spend a bit of additional time with the teacher, and allows you the chance to hear about and understand classroom rules. Having these recorded in your organizer will help you to better explain the rules to your children and answer any questions that they may have.
If your child has an IEP, now is a good time to reread it, make sure that you understand it, and think about any questions that you may have for the teacher or school officials before the year begins. Understand that during these final weeks of summer vacation, teachers are very busy readying supplies, getting classrooms in order, attending administrative meetings and planning for the year. It’s fine though, to make an initial contact and request a meeting with your child’s teacher to discuss the IEP and your child’s special needs now, rather than when it gets very busy.
We know it’s tough to switch gears and move out of summer vacation mode, but taking these steps now will definitely pay off and make everyone’s transition easier.