by Jennifer Yarbrough
Walt Disney once said, “Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children,” and Nelson Mandela asserted that, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Looking around at the world right now, I worry sometimes about my own children. But then I look in their eyes when they discover new things and marvel at how much love they have for each other and others and I am given hope. To this end, I want them to have every opportunity in the world to be the best they can be, to realize their potential, and to affect their little piece of the planet. Education is the key to unlocking all of these things, so as we enter another school year, how can we help our children have a successful school year so they become all they are meant to be? I put that question to local parents and teachers. Here are their tips.
My first stop was Mrs. Beverly Slough our District 1 School Board Representative and longtime St. Johns resident, here’s what she had to say:
"We are looking forward to another successful school year in St. Johns County schools. Prepared and engaged students, along with excellent teaching are the keys to our success. I would encourage students and their parents to set goals for the new school year which include working hard to achieve to their highest potential. The school year can be stressful, but a regular schedule, adequate rest, and the realization that school is the child's job, just as Dad and Mom have jobs, help children to stay focused in the classroom. I would encourage parents to help their children select one or two extracurricular activities to keep them balanced and engaged. I would also urge parents not to overschedule their children. Many times, a child has activities four or five days a week, leaving no time to just be a kid. Balance is just as important in a child's life as it is in an adult's. Give your child the gift of time to imagine, explore, and just be a kid!"
Before Going Back to School
A little planning goes a long way in ensuring that your child’s school year starts off and continues well. Here are ways to get the school year off right!
“We read back to school books like the "Night Before Kindergarten" or "Night Before First Grade" by Natasha Wing and talk about our excitement and fear. We love the "Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn, it is such a sweet one to help with separation anxiety. When Sydney was in Kindergarten every morning we had a ritual where I would kiss her hands like in the book.” Jenn H.
“I talk up school all summer for my new kindergartener. I also have a countdown poster in the house to countdown the days until school starts, this keeps them engaged in reading and gets them excited about school.” Bethany L.
“We make sure to find out our class/teachers ahead of time (we look up their pictures in the yearbook if she doesn't know who they are), we go to orientation, and tour the school.” Jenn H.
“A few days before school starts we set goals for the upcoming school year. Goals (academic and social) might include being able to make new friends, do an after school activity, read higher level books, add bigger numbers (use specifics though like read 5th grade books, add numbers in the hundreds).” Jenn H.
Get into a Routine!
“A few days (or sometimes up to a week) before school starts we adjust our schedules, we go to bed earlier, cut down on nightly tv/device time, read back to school books before bed, and set out our clothes.” Jenn H.
“I engage my kids in the school supply shopping which gets them excited! We also go clothes shopping together and they help me pick out their new clothes.” Bethany L.
During the School Year
As the year continues on, having consistent routines at home sets the stage for success and makes children eager to learn at school!
Encourage them to do these in class!
“Ask questions and participate in class discussions.” Mrs. Zentz
Approach everything with a “Can Do!” attitude! Mrs. Zentz
“Sign up for all means of communication with your school and teachers.” Mrs. Zentz
“It is important for student-teacher-parent to work together as a team to guide the child on a positive academic and social journey through their education. It is very important to be sure to guide your child at home with reading and to monitor their progress hands on. I believe that ‘First we love them, then we teach them.’” Mrs. Neel
Encourage good study habits!
“Set up a homework/practice area and develop a daily routine.” Mrs. Zentz
“Help your students be organized with materials and time management. Have a set and separate place for homework time- NOT their bedrooms. Unplug for a time- there's something to be said for pencil/pen to paper!” Mrs. Carney
“This year I'm setting up a study center. Kids enjoy this project because they can personalize it and you can customize one yourself inexpensively.” Laurel M.
“We talk about our day. We have a nightly ritual where we have 4 questions..."What was your favorite part of the day?", "What was something that made you sad?", "What is something new that you learned?" (doesn't have to be academic), and "What is a goal you have?" (can be anything...Sydney loves to say her goal is going to Paris one day). Even if it's only one or two questions it opens the lines of communication as they get older they'll be more willing to talk to you and express their joys and frustrations.” Jenn H.
“Stay organized! Get everything ready the night before.” Mrs. Zentz
“Keep a family calendar on display so no one forgets important events.” Mrs. Zentz
“Preplan menus for school lunches and make some weeknight meals that you can freeze ahead!” Laurel M.
Sleep ‘technology free’ every night and stick to a regular bedtime. Mrs. Zentz
Outside of School
Allowing your children time outside of school and extracurricular activities to simply relax and have self-guided fun is important to their overall well-being and growth.
“Make sure to keep downtime and fun in the mix. Unscheduled outdoor time is so important for their development!” Carrie P.
Local mom Laurel wrapped it up by saying, “Most importantly, save some time to relish these last few weeks before summer is gone and school begins. Our babies are growing up! Have fun!” Enjoy this time, get prepared, and start the year off right with these tips!
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