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Back To School Tips From the Expert - An Elementary School Teacher

Published Jul 24, 2019 | Updated Feb 19, 2020

An elementary and middle school teacher offers some valuable tools for a smooth transition back into the school routine.

As an elementary and middle school teacher, I know how scary and difficult the back-to-school transition can be, especially for parents who are sending a child into his or her first year of kindergarten. I'm here to help! Here's my advice for an easy start to the school year.

It’s almost back to school time! Should we be preparing our kids?

Yes, definitely!

For anyone, when there is a change in routine, there are bound to be some challenges. Back to school time can be stressful for both kids and parents alike. Kids have the summer to play, sleep, and visit with friends without the confines of a classroom or regimented routine.

We need to help kids prepare for school as well so they have the best chance at success.

When is the right time to start that preparation?

The right time to start preparing your children for the transition back to school depends a lot on each family. 

Don’t feel too pressured about the time frame; it has to make sense for your situation. Many families vacation, host visitors, or attend special events during the summer, which can make it difficult to get back into any school routine. Enjoy most of the summer to relax, play, travel, and enjoy some family time (and self-time!).

A couple of weeks before the first day back to school should give you plenty of time to go from late nights and sleep overs to early mornings and homework.

What are your top recommendations for that smooth transition back into a school day?

There are two things you can do that are vital to making the transition simpler and less stressful for everyone.  

  1. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep. Children need much more sleep than we often think they do, several hours more than the average adult. You may be shocked to learn that children ages 3 to 5 years old need around 10 to 13 hours of sleep each night and children ages 6 to 13 years old need 9 to 11 hours. Begin to establish a healthy bedtime and wake-up schedule for your child at least a week or two before school begins. If your summer routine is very different than school time, make the change gradually. Even quiet evening time reading or drawing in their rooms can help to establish healthier sleep patterns. Just make sure that your children aren't using their screens right before bed!

  2. Plan healthy meals and snacks. Your child, like you, needs to be fuelled with healthy foods to maintain focus and energy throughout the day. Talk to your children about any foods that they like, or better yet, take them shopping and let them pick out a few things they like and will happily eat for breakfast, lunch, and snack time. For example, eggs are a great, high-protein breakfast item that give kids the energy they need to get the day going, and hard-boiled eggs packed in school lunches can give kids the extra boost they need to get through another day at school. 

Do you have any recommendations to combat ‘summer slide’ so that kids don’t have a really hard time going back to a learning environment after such a long break? 

During summer break, kids’ brains are still learning and working hard but the type of learning and focus is quite different than in a classroom. 

Help your kids switch their brains back to classroom learning by following these 3 simple rules:

  1. Turn off the electronics! Teachers can’t move or entertain like video games and movies can (no doubt, I’ve tried!) Kids’ brains need some time to slow down and adapt to a learning environment based on human interactions, rather than screen interactions.

  2. Open more books. Books provide exposure to vocabulary, information, and different processing skills than TV or electronics do. Read to your child each day, even if it’s the newspaper or comics, and take your child to the library so they can find books they are interested in to read over the summer. 

  3. Practice math basics. More kids nowadays lose their basic math skills and have to re-learn them every year. There are many affordable math practice books available in stores or websites that provide free math drills and worksheets. Have your child complete just one page of these a day, or better yet, incorporate addition, subtraction, multiplication and division into card or board games that can be played by the entire family!

What are your top five first day back to school essentials? 

  1. A good night sleep (for both you and your child).
  2. A healthy breakfast that includes some protein and little or no sugar.
  3. A healthy lunch and snack, ideally foods that your child enjoys eating.
  4. A calm family. Stress or fighting on any morning before school always disrupts a child’s day.
  5. An outfit they feel good in. Nothing beats a special outfit, new backpack, or accessories to help beat the jitters on that first day back!

Any top tips for first timers, those with kids going into Kindergarten?

Most schools have kindergarten transition days where you can visit the school, meet the kindergarten teachers, and learn all about how the school day routine is designed. 

Take advantage of these opportunities, as they provide a chance for your child to see the school and for you to ask the billions of questions that you have! If your school does not offer this, just ask if you can stop in to discuss the kindergarten routine and have your questions answered. When the big day arrives, try to relax and trust the teachers who are looking after your child. They really do know what they are doing and they also understand how hard it is for you to pass your child over to them. Be honest if you need to stay for a few minutes the first few days so that you can rest easy. Remember, the teacher is not going to do things the same way that you have done them as a parent, but your child will learn the expectations and routines and will be just fine.

What about kids changing schools, any tips for parents and children making that transition?

If your child is changing schools, you can help them prepare in a few ways: 

  • Visit the school ahead of time with your child and allow them to have a tour to get a feel for the school and become familiar with the layout. 

  • Try and connect your child with another student who attends the school already, or is in the same class, and might live nearby. 

  • Try to make the transition to the new school at a natural break, such as at the beginning of the year or after Christmas break. This gives you enough time to follow the first two suggestions and allows your child and the classroom teacher to prepare for the change.

Good luck with the back to school transition! For more advice on getting into the school routine, check out the following blogs:

What Kindergarten Parents Should Know

How to Make Going Back to School Special

How To: 6 Tips for Packing School Lunches

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