The final two weeks of summer vacation can be a wonderful opportunity to talk with your children about their expectations and any concerns that they might have over starting a new school year. One thing that is unique for children and teachers, is that September presents an opportunity for new beginnings, which comes with a spirit of optimism, opportunity, and great anticipation.

Discuss goals for the new school year with your child, and make a list of strategies to address any concerns he/she may have about teachers, friends, or academic abilities. Listening carefully and compassionately to your child is important. Be supportive, and take care not to dismiss anything as trivial or as a non-issue. Often, simply listening to their concerns is enough. There are many proactive approaches which can ease a child’s fears and to help set him/her up for a successful September start.

• Preparation is everything! Set up a homework area, and ensure that there are sufficient school supplies to work with. Plan a fun trip to the local store to choose pencils, crayons, markers, rulers, notepads, etc. Ensure that the computer that your children will be using for school work is in good working order and has the appropriate programs installed.

• Schedule a few minutes each morning to brush up on addition and multiplication math facts. There are some wonderful audio programs available that will quickly refresh memory of math facts. For primary aged children, practise reading the Dolch list of 220 high frequency words which can be found on the internet. In addition, be sure to include at least ten minutes of daily reading with your child.

• Prior to the first day of classes, if possible, visit your child’s school, meet the teacher, and review the class list. This will go a long way to avoid any first day ‘surprises’. If there are outstanding challenges from the previous school year, schedule school appointments to discuss issues and set up strategies to ensure a good September start. Establish routines to monitor progress at regular intervals during the school year.

• As a family, set realistic expectations for time allotments for television, electronic games, and computer activities to help your child achieve a suitable balance. It is critical to tightly monitor your child’s access to internet sites, emails, and other activities, and to provide the appropriate amount of support and guidance as needed.

During these last few weeks of summer vacation, plan some fun family activities. Together, consider visiting a local community street festival, spending time at a friend’s cottage, exploring a local museum or art gallery, or visit a hobby store.

Finally, be aware that a child’s rapidly expanding brain requires nourishment. After a student’s busy work day, it is very beneficial for a child to have some downtime. Over-scheduling a child’s evening with an abundance of sports, music, dance, or other extra-curricular activities, can easily put a young person on overload and create stress. It is important for a child to have some ‘alone time’, to be able to putter around with projects, explore personal interests, read, or play with a pet. It is also important that children get sufficient sleep so they wake up refreshed and ready for the challenges of a new day.

Preparation is everything, and will help to ensure a great start to the brand new school year.   (Published – Oakville Today – August 18/11)

Linda Sweet M.S. Ed.
Founder and Director, Glenburnie School
Pre-School to Grade 8
Providing a progressive and innovative private school education