14 Aug 8 Tips for Back to School in 2022 with Ideas from a Paraprofessional
1 What to Expect from your Kids Before, and as, School Starts
Back to school brings a mix of emotions for children. Nervousness and excitement may be swirling together in your child’s mind. You can watch for…an outgoing child who might turn shyer, while a usually steady child might act out. An anxious child might want to stay in bed late because school’s coming soon, another might have trouble falling asleep because he or she is so excited. To get an insider’s perspective on back to school tips I spoke with a friend of mine, Jen a 20-year Paraprofessional in Pennsylvania. She’s preparing to return to work in an elementary school.
2 Before School Starts Parents Can Help Children Acknowledge Emotions
Jen reminds parents to talk about school with your child, both before and during the first few weeks. Many kids are understandably anxious. Ask simple questions and help them verbalize feelings. Let them know that these emotions are normal. She highlighted a few transitions that can be especially challenging:
- A kindergartener transitioning to school from daycare brings huge changes
- The shift from 2ndto 3rd grades is also tough as some work gets harder and more homework is assigned
- And for all kids…In addition to learning new subjects, and having a whole new schedule…
- Children will experience a new classroom and teacher (and the new teacher’s expectations and methods)
- They will likely also have a new group of classmates to adjust to
Talk with kids about anxiety (you don’t need to use the word), but adults can ask what are they unsure of or worried about (schedules are a frequent worry – what happens when), and what are they excited about?
3 Consider Starting a School Routine Before School Starts
Jen noted that parents can start school-time evening and morning routines BEFORE school starts; for themselves too, not just the kids! As a greeter outside the school, Jen sees plenty frazzled parents during drop-off time the first few weeks. Try to get yourself, AND your kids, out of summer mode before you need to.
Another friend, Renee whose kids are already back to school, said that mornings have become quite hectic. She laughed about “putting herself to bed when she puts her kids to bed.” While that is stretching it, she is trying to turn her computer off by then and planning to begin her bedtime routine earlier, soon after her children are asleep.
Jen, the Paraprofessional, also suggests shifting towards school-mode by inviting children to do some nightly reading. If a child has the habit of reading, kids can swap out reading time with homework time once school starts. She also added that getting breakfast and lunch time back onto a schedule helps. Little bodies need to get both fueled up and ready for schedules again.
4 Time to Recreate your Child’s Homework Station
Since Covid disrupted schools in recent years, parents likely have a child’s study spot set. During summer this space may get repurposed. Whether at the dining room table, or a bean bag chair and lap desk, Jen offers, be sure there is good lighting. Maybe have your child do his or her evening reading there before school starts. While setting things up, Jen suggests gathering homework supplies (scissors, a glue stick, pens/pencils, and a folder to hold papers) in baskets, or even Tupperware for easy tidying up. Jen noted that involving your child, asking what worked and didn’t work for them last year can be useful. Was it too noisy, too isolated, too hot/cold, or just right?
5 Use your School’s Parent Portal Early AND as the Year Progresses
You’ve probably logged into your school’s online parent portal to check your supply list. If you can, Jen advises, get some extra supplies for homework and projects. Also check out any clothing requirements, school uniforms or suggested gym clothing. Her BONUS tip: We know that life gets busy, but don’t wait until report cards arrive with a surprise. During the semester, use the parent portal to check your child’s progress. ALOHA’s tip is that by staying aware, you can intervene with tutoring or an afterschool learning program like those ALOHA runs before a final grade is set.
6 Help your Child Navigate School Year Changes and Schedules
Parents who can put themselves in their child’s shoes, Jen noted, can really help. The first two weeks are crucial. She clarified, your child needs to get acclimated to their new classroom teacher and subjects they are learning, noted above. The schedule of when they learn math, science, and language arts will also have changed as will their “specials” – art, gym, music, library, etc. Recess and meals (breakfast if they are taking advantage of that), lunch, and snack time will all be different. This can be stressful; walk through their schedules with them. Let them verbalize their worries.
Younger kids often need help remembering their bus number, and which days are pickup/drop off days. Jen helped one anxious boy create a chart, so he could be sure which days were bus days. A school greeter can be your child’s best asset; if you get a chance introduce yourself and your child.
7 Help your Child Navigate School Breakfasts or Lunch
One final area Jen sees stressing out kids is mealtimes. Dealing with the cafeteria can be a challenge for some. Many kids don’t like what’s for lunch or get overwhelmed and end up eating only the cookies or chips. These kids run out of steam in the afternoons. Jen recommends printing out the menu weekly and going over the meal choices each week and highlight the items they like. Then post it on the fridge to check each morning. Perhaps on days when nothing appeals, sending a lunch can be an option?
After school, ask what they had for lunch, without making it a tug or war, but letting kids know that it matters. She sees too many kids who are flagging by afternoon they really need that lunchtime fuel-up. Children are mostly unaware how much eating that apple and cheese stick or drinking the milk can help them learn better. Parents can also help make sure that breakfast is not the thing that gets skipped in the morning rush out the door. It can be awkward for kids getting subsidized breakfasts but encourage them to take advantage of it.
8 Bonus Tip: The Biggest Thing Parents Skip… Go Thru Back-Pack and Folders During the School Year
Jen’s final suggestion is to set up a paperwork/backpack routine. At least weekly (nightly at first) check your child’s school folder (or for older kids their assignment notebook or online homework portal). In most elementary schools, one side holds papers to be brought back to school – some of them may need to be signed. The other side of the folder holds items to stay at home – kids should show papers to parents then file them at home. Talk with kids about what their homework is; in some schools, homework is posted online.
Help them learn, and practice using their login and password. Most schools will have a district assigned username and password for each child. Also be sure they know their lunch pin number.
We know things get hectic but be sure to clean out the backpack and folder periodically. Jen especially says to be proactive. In December, 75% of kids are still lugging around worksheets from September. Children don’t need to keep carrying the stuff on the right side. They may have started out with papers on simple addition, but they’ve now moved onto fractions. This can help make it easier to find current items.
Written by Cathy Larkin, a freelance writer, and social media coordinator, who has been a part of the ALOHA Mind Math team for several years.