Staging a Successful Start to the School Year

For children, summertime means longer days, more freedom, and later bed times. This span of carefree weeks is a rite of youthful passage, but without a little planning this liberty can spell trouble once school begins.  Website Sleep.org notes, “Preschoolers need 11-13 hours of sleep and school age kids need 10.5-12 hours.” However, during the summer children may be staying up later without sleeping in to compensate, leading to what the article terms a “sleep debt,” which can affect alertness, performance, mood, memory, and even metabolism. Beginning at least a week before school starts, begin to ease your student back into a school year schedule by gradually changing their bed and rising times by no more than thirty minutes per night until the desired hours are reached. According to an article by Sealy and the University of North Carolina School of Medicine’s Neurodiagnostics and Sleep Science Program, it takes approximately one day for an individual to adjust for each hour of time shift, meaning a night owl teen will need to start changing his or her sleep patterns sooner than an elementary student allowed to stay up just one hour later in the summer. For a student with a sleep debt, this regulation may need to be implemented earlier so he can “catch up” on his rest and start the process of being refreshed for the school year. Systematically regulating your child’s schedule will prepare him or her to begin the first school week with less risk of fatigue-induced meltdowns or classroom dozing. In a similar vein, setting meal schedules to better correspond with the school’s dining times will also help get your child’s stomach in tune with its old routine and stave off morning hunger pangs.

For those who do not enjoy the last minute shopping rush, gathering materials early may ease the stress of getting supplies-and may very well save money. Stores begin advertising back-to-school sales almost the minute summer break starts. Watching for sales ads in the paper will alert you to the latest deals. Be sure to check your school’s supply list and buy your child the items required by his or her teacher. For back-to-school fashion, taking advantage of summer clothing clearances will stretch your budget further than purchasing fall clothing that won’t be needed until chilly weather sets in later on, suggests internet savings site dealseekingmom.com. To add to your savings, the second Sunday in August through the following Saturday is always tax free school shopping week in Maryland. Be aware, however, of the school dress code, including whether or not your child’s school and grade are participating in a uniform or consistent attire program. Be sure to check your board of education website if you are unsure what your child is to wear to school.

In addition to adjusting schedules and stocking up on essentials, it is also a good idea to check in on your student’s summer workload progress if you haven’t already. Are all required reading and math assignments completed? Does your child need a refresher on any of the skills learned the year before? Play some games with your child that will help dust off the cobwebs from the previous year’s cache of knowledge. While working with your child it is a good time to get a sense of their comfort level in starting a new grade. Ask them questions about how they feel and do your best to alleviate any concerns they might have.

Be sure to set goals for the school year for the both of you. If spelling is a sticking point with your child, make a deal to learn a new word from the dictionary together every week. Encourage them to identify what they want to achieve in this grade and what milestones throughout the year will mean success to them. For you, joining the PTA, deciding to become more active in your child’s classroom, or volunteering to teach a program such as Junior Achievement will be a way to monitor your child’s progress, become more involved with their school life, and even help them succeed more. According to the Center for Public Education report, Back to School: How Parent Involvement Affects Student Achievement, students whose parents were active in their school were more likely to score higher on tests and earn higher grades, and enroll in higher-level programs.

Starting a new year can be a daunting task for students of any age, and their parents. With a little planning and forethought, though, your child’s “summer brain” can be packed away with the swimsuits and pool toys, and a new, successful school year can begin.

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Christina Williams is the Marketing and P.R. director at Junior Achievement of the Eastern Shore (JAES), a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to teaching age-appropriate financial literacy, workforce readiness, and entrepreneurship programs. Once such program, JA Career Success, is a high school program that equips students with the tools and skills required to earn and keep a job. Through enthusiastic volunteers and charitable donations from individuals and businesses, JAES continues its mission to making a difference in our future communities today. This year JAES has reached over 6,000 students across the shore. www.easternshoreja.org

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