Get Real Guide for Back to School

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It takes a little planning on your part to get the new school year off to a good start.

Let’s get real — the new school year is HERE and there is so much more to prepare for other than packing a healthy lunch and frantically checking off your child’s school supply list at the last minute. Think organizing your home, planning your child’s transportation, communicating with your child’s teacher … and the list goes on and on.

   Don’t panic! We have compiled a go-to list with tips from teachers and parents like yourself with apps and resources to erase all of those back-to-school worries. Let school become exciting for you and your child. Make it fun by staying organized, talking with your child, getting involved or attending a back-to-school kickoff event. Your little student will be motivated and ready before you can say, “It’s time for school!”

HOME & SCHOOL ORGANIZATION

One of the keys to having homework assignments and books in order is to first have your home organized. A clean working space is a healthy working space, right?

   Director of Elementary Curriculum and Instruction at Lakota Local Schools, Christina French, says to hit the ground running.

   “You have to set the structure from the first day of school,” says French. “You know your child best, so build the schedule around when and where she works best, i.e. before or after dinner/snack, in a quiet space or at the kitchen table.”

   Doing this not only makes her comfortable, it gives her a sense of structure. Teachers help build a solid foundation for students as well by providing them with online resources or weekly/daily planners so they know what to expect later that day or even the following week.

   “If teachers give the week in advance, even better because you can plan around family and extracurricular activities,” says French. “If your child struggles with staying on task, consider setting a timer for her to complete the activity in smaller portions at a time.”

   Planning is essential to keeping you and your child on track and helping work around your personal schedules. Many teachers use apps now to make it easier for parents to access homework, grades, plans and expectations for the upcoming school year all in one place. Some of these free apps include ClassDojo, Teacher’s Assistant Pro, Bloomz and

Freshgrade. Parents can obtain this information at the school’s open house or at parent-teacher conferences. Check with your child’s teacher if you want more information on what app they’re using.

MAKE FRIENDS & CARPOOL

It’s never too late to meet new friends. Seek out other parents for helpful advice, playdates, one-on-one adult time or just having someone to share a common interest with. See who your child is friends with and reach out to the parents and break the ice. Yes, it’s easier said than done, but it can be done.

   A good natural approach is to volunteer through the school’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), talk with other parents at the next school carnival or post photos and videos on the school’s Facebook page to engage with other parents, grandparents, guardians, teachers and staff members. Jenni Kershaw, PTO treasurer at Adena Elementary and mom of two, helps organize a successful Facebook group for everyone to stay in tune with events and to help build relationships with other families.

   “This Facebook group has proved invaluable as a way to share information (such as homeroom assignments, approaching signups for activities, spirit days, etc.), encourage volunteerism, remind people of important dates, share photos and videos from significant events, and build relationships between families,” says Kershaw. “Tools such as Facebook and Twitter offer an incredible reach and tremendous opportunity to connect and strengthen the school community.”

   Starting a carpool is another great way to build relationships with other parents and to take the workload off of everyone’s shoulders. It’s not only a great way to make friends, it saves gas, time and money. Find a carpool that is best for you, and be sure everyone is abiding by the carpool rules — it’s a good idea to be sure everyone is on the same page and following the safety guidelines. This can be done by downloading the “Children’s Carpool Agreement” at nolo.com for just $5. There are carpooling groups for parents with tight schedules, and there are carpooling groups for those who are a bit more laid back and just need help getting a few extra things done at the end of the day. Some free apps that make it easier to organize your trips include GoKid or Carpool Kids.

PARENT-TEACHER COMMUNICATION

Parent-teacher communication is essential to avoid any extra stresses throughout the school year. These days, there are so many resources such as Twitter, e-mail, Facebook and apps that teachers and parents use to stay connected.

   “With technology today, most teachers are accessible at any point during the school day,” says French. “Many are tweeting out daily classroom highlights on Twitter or on their classroom homepages. There are also grade and behavior tracking apps that teachers enter data into in real time and can send you alerts throughout the day.”

   Never hesitate to ask questions and reach out to your child’s teacher — that is what they’re there for. Everyone works as a team to help support your child’s journey through her education. Some free apps that teachers use include Classtree, Remind and GroupMe. Check with her teacher to find out more about communication preferences.

WARNING SIGNS OF STRUGGLES

Some students tend to lose motivation or feel distracted — it happens. This is why schools have resources such as guidance counselors, parent-teacher conferences and tutoring available for when and if this is happening. So how do you know when your child is really struggling through school? Some of these early signs may just be a conversation away.

   “As a teacher, I like to watch the students in action,” says Bev Gfroerer, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) specials teacher at Adena Elementary School. “What are they doing as they are creating, making, tinkering, working with other students? How do they feel during class? As a science teacher, observation is an important skill to have in the classroom. Students’ faces and their actions tell everything.”

   Teachers can help guide students and observe their actions at school to see if they feel a student is struggling and needs more assistance. It’s also important to monitor your child at home and make sure she’s staying on track. Sometimes it’s just about communicating and listening.

   “My advice to parents is to have open-ended discussions with their children,” says Gfroerer. “Ask ‘What was the best thing about being at school today?’ or ‘Tell me more about (lunch, recess, art, music, STEAM, etc.).’ Listen carefully to what she has to say about her day. You may be pleasantly surprised to hear what she has to report.”

   After all is said and done, it’s good to make time to kick back with your child before the school year starts. Visit her school, donate school supplies, attend a back-to-school event or check with the school to see if, for example, they’re hosting a Boo-Hoo Breakfast for Kindergartners. Doing this can help you both relax. It can also show her that going back to school can actually be fun, and you’re both in it together. Check out local events and programs that help promote back-to-school fever or see where you can donate to school supplies to help low-income communities and foster children.

 

 

Amanda Hayward is editor of this publication. She is from Cincinnati, Ohio, a military wife and mom of two. If you don't see her writing for Cincinnati Family, you'll find her running, juggling kids, teaching group fitness classes and cooking up healthy recipes.

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