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Starting the School Year off Right

Kathryn Thompson

This week I asked our delegates, “How do you make the first day of school special for your kids?  We want to show them how important education is and to start them off on a good foot for the new school year.  How will you help your kids have the best possible start to the 2011-2012 school year?”

They came up with some great suggestions:

The first day of school each year is a bit of an "educational new year’s" for mothers and children.  A chance to set new resolutions and gather tools and materials to see them through.  This will be the year we empty those folders, buy exact supplies, and get permission slips signed on the first day they are sent home....  Or, at least, that is our intention. 

The preparation for the first day of school is similar to the approach of a new year indeed in our home.  Bedtimes get stretched later, sleeping in is accepted more, and lazy time and family trips dot the calendar.  Just as an impending diet allows us to eat excessively or eat one meal while planning the next, so, the first day of school seems to allow the stretching of acceptability standards for our children and their behavior. 

Perhaps, it is because we know that the teacher's rules and standards will soon be imposed on our children.  Bedtimes will be needed.  Homework will be exhaustive.  Activities will outlast the sun in the sky.  Perhaps we remember our own childhood sorrows at the sad warning of August's cicadas or the too soon advertisements for Back to School sales.  Or quite simply, we recognize the rush of time, the growth of little legs, the increase in scholarly expectations for these little minds we named at birth.

The first day of school is a marvelous day to create and maintain a family tradition.  A treat after school.  New book bags for all.  Different dry erase marker colors for each child as a new calendar is hung.  The most important thing for all families and children is to approach school and homework with a clear, dependable schedule.  Children live up to expectations.  Routines reduce anxiety.  Arguments are reduced when daily tasks are repeated...  All mothers should pause, though, to simply admire their children and the maternal efforts that have influenced their formation.  However, the first day of school is marked in your home, always remember on that day, today, now, is the youngest you and your child will ever be again.  Take a breath and then take a picture....  ~ Elizabeth Normile – 2011 Virginia Delegate

Spend the week before school starts getting back into the school routine, bed time, getting up earlier, etc. so that it’s not such a shock to their system that first day.  My child gets to choose any healthy breakfast and lunch for the first day, including a special not so healthy lunch dessert.  (This year it was Twinkies)

A brand-new outfit for the first day of school always makes the day more special.  Let them choose a couple of “special” school supplies. – This year my son will be writing more with pens, so I let him choose one really nice pen ($4.) and another cheaper pack and didn’t make him get the 12 for $1 pack that I would have chosen.  New crayons are always a treat, but, my 6th grade doesn’t need them this year, my baby is growing up.

We went to the Meet the Teacher Night and he saw me sign up to volunteer, one of the best ways for showing them the value of an education.  Attend all the Open Houses and PTA meetings.  Set goals with your child for the upcoming school year.  Goals do not mean large financial payouts for grades, rather privileges (tv & video game time, trip to the park or museum, etc. ) for being prepared, doing homework and good conduct reports.

Make sure to do your first night’s homework and read ALL those forms and fill them out for the next day.  Spend time talking with your child about that first day, so that you can pick up on any stress or concerns  that your child has and help them to deal with it.   Help your child plan how they are going to stay organized; and when & where homework will be done.  For stress-free mornings - get prepared the night before.  Have clothes picked out, back packs organized, lunches made or at least started, agendas signed, etc.

And, remember only 10 more months till Summer Vacation. ~Windy Tuck – 2011 South Carolina Delegate

My kids are the type who dread the first day of school.  I’ve heard and read about children who can’t wait to go back to school.  Who are these kids?  Certainly not mine.  Anyway, a lot of the anxiety surrounding going back to school for my children has to do with new situations.  They worry about the new teacher, new classroom, new fellow students and how that will all pan out.  I try to focus on the positive aspects of the new school year.  For my daughter, I remind her that since she’ll be a third grader, she’ll have art/technology twice a week instead of once.  She’ll also have the opportunity to try out for the 3rd/4th grade school play.  If I tell her that she’ll get to learn multiplication tables in third grade, I won’t get her out the door on the first day of school.  I do the same with my son, who will be a sixth grader this year.  At the end of the school year, he’ll have the opportunity to take part in “sixth grade camp” which is a fun rite of passage in our school district.  Basically for my kids, it’s all about focusing on the lighter side of school leading up to the first day of school.  ~Hilary Frambes – 2011 Ohio Delegate

The first day of school is always special; however, it starts well before the actual first day and it depends on if this is the first day at this particular school or if it is the first day of elementary, middle or high school.

A minimum of one week prior to the actual day (for all age groups) we would have an end of the summer day by going out to eat, purchasing school supplies, going to a movie, or some big fun thing that we really wanted to do all summer and never got to do it.  Then the time for bed and the wake-up time changes (just to get in the routine of early bed, early rise).

A day or two before the first day, we visit the school, find the classrooms, the office, the cafeteria and a few other important locations.  On the actual first day, have breakfast, give the "I'm proud of you " talk (very brief), and for my family have a morning prayer together.  High-schoolers don't want parents to come to the school with them - you are allowed to drop them off at the school, but not come in; middle-schoolers are generally independent enough to either ride the bus or be dropped off - parents can come to the office or speak to a principal or teacher, but don't stay around long; elementary children  (when prepared early) are excited to ride the bus or have a parent bring them to the "big" school-parents are allowed to come to the classroom, speak to the teacher and wave at the other students and then sent on our way (It is my favorite time.)

At the end of the school day, I always made sure to have a special snack ready when everyone got home and make time to listen to their day.  Because everyone got home at a different time, everyone got one-on-one time. ~Deloris Irving – 2010 Mississippi Delegate

I start preparing for the next school year the day school ends in June!  Our daughter does daily workbook pages plus reading time to keep her skills fresh.  We do some review from the grade level just completed and then work on some things she will be learning in the fall in the next grade level. 

When it is 2-3 weeks before the start of school we go school supply shopping to begin to get excited about a new year.  That is followed in the next week or two by back to school shopping.  We pick out a really special outfit for the first day.

We also get a small gift for her teacher for the first day of school, something like a notepad and pencils or an apple, etc.  This helps her get excited about meeting her new teacher.

On the first day she dresses in her special outfit and I take a bunch of pictures to create a scrapbook page that will go in her school years scrapbook.  I keep a section for each year so someday she will have a nice keepsake of her school years.  ~Lisa Falduto – 2011 Wisconsin Delegate

Here in Gardiner, Maine, I organize a "First Day of School Celebration" at one of my children's schools.  We are in our fourth year of celebrating this important day by bringing school and community together to celebrate education!  On the morning of the first day, we have a big parent event in the gym with donated breakfast food, local non-profit organizations serving our community (Library, Boys & Girls Club, Police, Fire, Health organizations, local theatre, etc.,  plus our "specials" teachers and staff who aren't so busy on the 1st Day), drawings, giveaways, and prizes.  After a grown up "meet-and-greet", the students join us in the gym with a new "Parade of Classes" using signs they have made, a group read aloud story, a special guest speaker from our community, and we finish with a group movement activity!  It is a fantastic way to start the new school year!  The principal of the school is in full support of the event and has noticed a significant increase in volunteerism and school event participation since we began welcoming families this way.

In my other child's school with a slightly older student population, we host a "School Year's Eve" Celebration in conjunction with the school open house 2 nights before the official start of school.  We have a New Year's Eve theme, decorations, giveaways, locally donated food, and a fun School Scavenger Hunt to help families learn the layout of the school.

We are fortunate to have complete support of both our school principals.  And we truly feel that both of these events go a long way toward starting the school year out on a positive, welcoming note of community supported education. ~Katherine Kollman – 2011 Maine Delegate

Back to School – The Start of a New Year              

In my opinion, the biggest favor any parent can do for their child is to build a routine or schedule and help the child stick to it.  In previous years we have prepared clothes each night for the next day of school.  This year, we are prepping the kid’s clothes ready for a week at a time.  They will be separated and ready so that the nights will flow better as well.  Other than that, we will keep our routines from years past.  All the boys gear will be assembled at night so that the mornings are easy to manage. 

So, what happens on the big day?  My kids normally eat breakfast at school, choosing to eat at home occasionally depending on what’s being served.  However, on the first day of school, we will get moving a little early and head out to a local fast food place for biscuits and gravy.  I’ll take photos of the boys in their “first-day-of-school” attire which is just a new shirt. 

I special ordered Thank You cards for the boys to give to their new teachers and I have included a photo of each child along with a note that says, “Thank you for taking the challenge of the 2011-2012.”.  Most of the boys supplies were delivered to the school last week during parent visitation but the boys will have a few items to take with them on the first day.  Once the big day arrives, the boys get dressed and I pack lunch boxes for the boys to add to their backpacks.  The, the fun begins when l break out the camera and snap, snap, snap!  ~Jerri Ann Reason – 2011 Alabama Delegate