Everyday Hacks

Back to School!

Tips and tricks for all ages

Starting a new school year is an adjustment for everyone. New classes, new teachers, homework, and if you add changing schools into the mix, the adjustment can be even more difficult. Here are a number of tricks to make the back-to-school transition a little less, well, tricky.

Preschool and Kindergarten

Talk about it

Talk to your children about their new school in very specific ways. Saying something like “You’re going to have so much fun at your new school” isn’t particularly helpful and may set them up for disappointment if the school experience doesn’t match their idea of fun. Instead, drive by your children’s new school often, point out the playground where they will be playing or the front door and say, “Look, that’s the door we’ll walk through each morning.”

Avoid the long goodbye

Create a goodbye ritual and put it firmly in place before school starts, so your children are accustomed to it. A good parting ritual is the “three kisses, four hugs, a high five, and we’re out the door!” If you practice that and stick to it, your little ones will know what to expect and that will help create a smooth transition into their day. I can’t speak to how it will work for your parental separation anxiety, however; mine usually requires an extra shot of espresso and a muffin.

Elementary School

Getting to know you

When starting a new elementary school, find out ahead of time about any special activities for your children’s grade level that they will have to look forward to, such as clubs, assembly programs or special field trips, or even art or music classes.

Check the school’s Facebook page for back-to-school events that your children can attend and meet other kids before the first day of school.

Hello, I’m…

Send your children to school with a few photos of themselves that can serve as an icebreaker to talk to new friends about. Pictures of pets, family vacations, or a latest LEGO creation may be just the thing to get a conversation started with a new friend.

Middle School

Lick the locks

What stressed my kid out going to middle school? Combination locks! Before your children start middle school, purchase a combination lock for them to practice with over the summer. As they get used to spinning the combination and opening the lock, their confidence about getting to classes on time will increase.

Many school lockers already have combination locks built in and students will get the combination on the first day. Write the combination down in an inconspicuous place — such as inside of their binder or on the back of their ID card — in case they forget it.

Teach time management

You can expect your middle schoolers to have five or six different classes and homework every night.

Organizing and prioritizing is difficult for many, if not most, students, so help them out by making an agreement before the school year begins on where they will do their homework, how soon after school they will get started, and how they will handle bigger tasks, like projects. Write this agreement down and post it in the designated homework area.

Keeping tabs

Middle school is also the delightful age when our children start becoming more private and want to do everything for themselves. There are some unobtrusive ways that we can still stay on top of what our students are doing in class:

  • Most teachers send home a syllabus and homework policy letter at the beginning of the semester for parents to sign. Before I send it back to school, I take a picture of both sides of each syllabus and store the photos in an album on my phone. I can easily refer to them throughout the semester and ask on Tuesdays and Thursdays where the math homework is.
  • Some teachers have text reminders and class websites, and when those are available, sign up for all of them.

High School

A little guidance

Make friends with your child’s guidance counselor as early as possible. When back-to-school enrollment starts, go to the school as soon as possible and sit with your student and your student’s counselor and work together to craft the schedule that will best meet your student’s needs. Choose electives that match your child’s interests and ask about teachers who will be a good fit for your student. Do this every year. Spending this hour can make a big difference in your student’s whole school year.

Keep up on grades

I set a weekly alarm to check my son’s school’s online grade viewer. I have the alarm set for a time when I know I’ll be near my computer, and my son will be around if I have any questions for him.

Get involved

Regardless of the size of your children’s high school, the next four years are a time of shifting social groups and interests.

Encourage your children to get involved as soon as possible with at least one activity at school. It might be a sport or clubs like Peace Jam, the newspaper, the gaming club, or the recycling club. These activities help your children become invested in their new school, meet students from all grades, and start to carve their own space.

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Locking It In

What stressed my kid out going to middle school? Combination locks! Before your children start middle school, purchase a combination lock for them to practice with over the summer. As they get used to spinning the combination and opening the lock, their confidence about getting to classes on time will increase.

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