Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Staples Commercial or... It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like School

Like it or not, summer is over and school is here.  I always think of an old Staples commercial where you hear the song, "It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas" playing while Dad clicks his heels up as he merrily shops with his kids for school supplies.

Whether this is a happy, sad or anxious time of year for you and your child, here are some suggestions to help effectively deal with the summer/school transition:  

1) Keep your child smiling.  This may mean funky erasers, decorated notebooks, dividers, school bags or pencil holders.  It may involve stickers or painting a smiley face in your child's homework pad or  lunch bag. 

2) Keep your child organized.  When organized, your child can more efficiently tackle school's cognitive and social issues.  Organization is a skill.  For some of us it comes naturally, for others it must be painstakingly learned. 

For your young child: model executive skills and set up their workspace and book bags, giving them some decision making power (color of notebook, pens, pen/pencil holders, folders, etc.) you can both live with. 

For your older child:  Brainstorm on materials needed given the subject requirements, the space available (in the desk, locker, book bag, at home), and the budget available.  Consider weight and durability of materials along with prioritizing needs and likes.  Tweak and compromise suggestions.  By working together, you are teaching your child to recognize and weigh multiple aspects of a problem, you are teaching problem solving skills, budgeting and math skills and by involving them you are providing greater 'executive' experience.

3) Set up Routines keeping in mind what you can and cannot control. 

Set up calendars so you and your child can keep track of what is happening that day / week.  Set up homework and play schedules.  This will help them develop a more effective and efficient sense of time.

Note that play/down time are as important as homework time.  Some kids can sit for hours doing productive work (and have 'play' time before and/or after their homework time).  Others have shorter spans of attention and 'productive' homework time.  For these kids schedule many mini homework breaks (which can include snack time, dinner, a short game, sms'ing and/or television time).

4) Establish bedtimes and sleep routines making sure your child gets a good night's sleep.  Set up 'going to sleep routines'- especially for the kids who resist going to sleep and/or who have trouble slowing down.  Routines can include quiet music, quiet reading, washing up, reading aloud, bed tuck ins and saying prayers and/or thinking about wishes for what tomorrow may bring.

5) Set up play dates (especially for children beginning new schools).  Ask the school for a list of kids near you or a list of other new kids entering your child's class.  Set up play and/or homework dates with them.  Help ease the 'feeling alone' jitters. 

6) Review what your child did in school that day.  This will help with memory and keep up the classroom excitement.  Watch related movies together about those topics or go visit local historical and cultural sites that relate to the topic. 

7) Preview what the next day will bring [before (not at) bedtime - no need to get them anxious before going to sleep].  Maybe during dinner talk about what your child may be doing the next day. You may want to do this again at breakfast.  Get her mind and imagination going, get  him thinking about what he will or might be learning.  This will also gives your child more time to think about how he or she might contribute to class discussion or writing assignments and provides additional memory paths.

In short, keep school and learning alive and exciting.  Empower your child to take command and assume growing responsibility for his and her space and domains. 

I would love to hear what you are doing to help with your child's school transitions.  We can all learn from each other. 

In the meantime, may this be a happy, productive 2010-2011 academic year!


  1. Hey, Meryl! Congratulations on the new blog!

    My mom is a former 2nd grade teacher. I helped her sub on the first day of school this week, a first grade class. Holy cow. I think information helping parents understand the importance of structure and schedule on students' mental health, school success, and future work success is invaluable. The kids that seem the happiest and most engaged understand how to work within the structure of school...

    I think educating parents about how BIG the teachers' jobs are (now more than ever) is helpful, too. This first grade class has 23 students in it... way too big! But schools are operating on a lean budget, and parental understanding of the teachers' overwhelming job descriptions would be useful.

    Thanks for the writing and for reading my (overlong) comment!

    Keep it up!

  2. With twin daughters in middle school (6th grade) and a son who is a high school senior it gets tricky trying to keep up with everyone's homework. One thing I've always done for my own sanity is to make copies of all the course requirements, syllabi, etc. Having a "home copy" of the essential handouts decreases last minute rushes to complete assignments, especially long-term assignments.

    Looking forward to following your blog.

  3. What a great idea to copy the syllabus and keep a copy of handouts!

  4. Great blog! I know what you mean about it being that Staples time of year. I've got one that just left for college (my first one). We spent lots of time in Staples, BBBeyond, Target to name a few. It gets a bit expanded as they get ready to furnish a dorm room!
    I love the layout of your blog. The pictures are great. I would like to use more pictures in my blog but I can never find ones that seem to go with the dream I am writing about. I have an image in my mind and it just doesn't fit. I guess that is why a lot of people paint their dreams.
    Thanks for coming by to visit my blog. I'll be checking in on yours as well!

  5. Meryl,
    I have a 6th grade daughter who struggles with spelling. She does well on spelling tests and well in reading. When she is writing, particularly longer pieces she has many spelling errors where she spells phonetically instead of remembering the rules. Any suggestions?

  6. I do!

    Writing is probably one of the most challenging activities any of us face.

    My comments are two-fold:
    1) Writing is so challenging because it relies on attention, memory, sequencing (knowing the order of letters in a word and how to organize words in a sentence), cognition (knowing what to say), language (how to best express what you want to say). The longer a piece of writing is, the more you have to juggle and keep track of. As a result, spelling is often one of the first things to go.

    So, first of all don't worry about your daughter (at least not yet). The most important thing when writing is expressing ideas accurately and succinctly. Then, EDIT.

    Most kids HATE going over work and editing. So, for you the job is to get her into that wonderful habit. If you need encouragement ideas let me know.

    2) I would love to write a blog around your question and would appreciate your permission to use your question as the prompt. Please let me know.

    Thanks for your question I look forward to more!

    Good luck and let me know how this works.

  7. Dear Alwaysmomof4,

    One more thing. It is really good that you notice her spelling, while inaccurate, is phonetic. Spelling phonetically means she 'gets' how to structure and spell. It just means that when writing, she is focusing her attention and memory and structuring her writing and not on spelling - hence the editing!

    Talk to you soon and all the best,