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In the Parenthood

Facing the challenges of the classroom

(Istockphoto)
By Lylah M. Alphonse
Globe Staff / August 26, 2010

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Whether your child is starting kindergarten, heading off to college, changing schools, or returning to the same place they went last year, the end of summer can bring on the back-to-school blues — for you and your child.

“You spend so much time getting your child ready for school, there’s so much excitement, and you’re trying to help your child feel good about the transition,’’ says Amy Gold, director of curriculum and instruction at the Rashi School in Dedham and the mother of a second-grader. “Parents forget what it means for them, that their child is going to school, some of them for the first time.’’

If your child is starting kindergarten or preschool, the advice is fairly straightforward: It’s important to establish (and stick to) a consistent bedtime routine, get used to getting up earlier in the morning, and talk to your kids about what they’ll be doing during school hours.

“Parents need to begin transitioning children into the back-to-school routine early enough so they have time to adjust — mentally and physically,’’ says Laura Olson, vice president of education for Kiddie Academy, a national child-care education franchisor.

If there are any big changes — your child is switching from private to public school, for example — discuss them and have your child help you come up with a way to cope with the differences. Even though it’s probably easier and faster to do it yourself, having kids help pack their own lunches or pick out their school supplies can help them feel involved in the back-to-school process.

For older students, there’s another issue to contend with: homework.

“Especially for upper elementary school and middle school, they need to know they have a dedicated space for homework,’’ Gold says. “It should be clean and free of clutter, a quiet space where they can do work — not the family room where younger children might be playing.’’ All of the resources they need to do their homework independently — everything from pencils and paper to a dictionary and, if age-appropriate, a computer — should be available at that place, Gold advises.

If you have younger kids who don’t have to deal with homework yet, try giving them something busy to do while you prepare dinner. It doesn’t have to be complicated — coloring a picture, leafing through a favorite book, or sorting blocks by color will do the trick, and establishing a homework-type step in their routines now will make it easier for them to transition to the task when they’re older.

And parents, don’t forget that you are transitioning, too — the difference between a summer schedule and a typical school day can be vast. So, while you’re establishing a routine for your kids, be sure to establish one for yourself as well. What do you need to do to get everyone out of the house on time? Will you supervise homework while you make dinner? How will you schedule any extra-curricular activities? If you think making lunches the night before might make your morning go more smoothly, try doing it a few times before school starts — it’s better to discover that you need more time during a dry run and not while the school bus is idling outside.

Above all, talk to other parents about how they’re dealing with their transitions. “Reach out,’’ suggests Gold. “It’s new for everybody. If you can try to make that connection, it can help.’’

Lylah M. Alphonse can be reached at lalphonse@globe.com.

Tips for transitioning back to school

Everyone is in transition as the summer ends — even parents. Here are a few tips to help things go more smoothly.

Start the transition process early. “Parents need to begin transitioning children into the back-to-school routine early enough so they have time to adjust — mentally and physically,’’ says Laura Olson, vice president of education for Kiddie Academy.

Keep children involved and excited. Talk about the things they’ll be learning this school year, address any big changes, and ask kids for their input when picking out supplies or packing lunches. Attend back-to-school events, and try to connect in advance with kids (and parents) from their classrooms.

Practice new routines at home. Will kids have to lay their school clothes out the night before? Go to bed earlier? Pack their own lunches? Walk or bike to school by themselves? Practicing without pressure will help make these and other routines second nature by the time school starts.

Establish a routine for yourself. Do you know what you need to do to get everyone out of the house on time? It’s better to discover that you need more time in the mornings before you actually need more time in the mornings.

Learn how to handle homework. Create a clutter-free, dedicated place for your children to do their homework. Breaking the nightly assignments down into manageable steps can help your child avoid feeling overwhelmed. — LMA