Sunday, August 24, 2014

Prepare for a Healthy, Happy School Year

It's that time when students, teachers, and parents are thinking about school preparation and start. How can you make multiple hours in the same classroom a comfortable, happy, healthy place to be?

Comfortable Clothes and Shoes
First, comfortable clothes. It's important that educators and their students wear comfortable, playful clothes because the business of learning today is active. Students learn at desks, on the floor, in the fields, and with multiple hands-on tools. Clothes that are too tight, hot, and constricting limit the learning. Similarly clothes that don't fit well create discomfort and even teasing. Too often new pants slide down too far making a child the object of teasing. Also many "stylish" clothes constrict students, mainly girls, from the playful jumping, running, and sports or outdoor play. Teachers too need to dress comfortably in ways that allow them to kneel down next to a desk, run outside, and play a game of kickball if that's their desire.

Also remember dressing in layers is usually the best choice in most schools as the temperatures inside often change as does the weather outside. When children can quickly layer up or down, this ensures comfort.

Healthy Snacks and Water
Next, lots of water and healthy snacks. Hungry children are too distracted to learn. Making sure your child has a water bottle and nutritious snacks that include protein will give them the energy they need to learn, and learning does take energy. I read recently that when the brain is doing intense intellectual work, the body actually responds like it's running a marathon, hence you get very hungry.  In lots of homes, family members forget to pack the snacks and water. To avoid this, you can make it part of your weekly routine to put a snack box in the backpack and a water bottle--enough to last a week.

School Supplies
Check your child's supply list so that you make sure he/she has the supplies needed. Often a quick trip around the house will find that you may already have a lot of the supplies required. If you don't know what your child needs, call the school and find out. If you can't afford the supplies requested, also notify the school so that teachers can prepare to have your child outfitted with supplies before the school year starts. Many schools have extra supplies for those situations.

WIFI and Computers
It's a great advantage today to have a computer to assist with your child's learning. The Chromebook is a very affordable way to get a computer for your household. If this is not affordable, then seek out local places where computers are available such as your local library and include regular visits to the library to use the computer. Also, if a computer is required for homework, talk to school personnel about access.  Affordable WIFI has been identified by the U.S. Department of Education. Watch this video to find out more:

Study Station and Home Protocols
The way we spend our time and use our spaces at home exemplify our priorities. Typically making some firm decisions about this prior to the start of the school year leads to greater success. For example the years we've made decisions about no TV during the weekdays, our children have done better in school. We're going to embrace a no TV before 9pm rule in our house to foster greater reading and home study for our high schooler this year. Also making the time to clean up and supply the at-home study station helps too. Whether the study space is the kitchen table, a desk in your child's room, or a family study space, make the time to clean it up and ready it for the school year with a collection of paper, pens, art supplies, and a computer and printer if possible.

School Year Calendar
Take a look at the school year calendar ahead of time, and plan vacations and family events on days away from school. Missing school for most students puts them several days behind. Student success depends on good attendance. Yet, it's also great to make use of school vacations to have fun as a family and knowing those dates ahead of time and making plans early can save you money and give you something to look forward to.

The Family Schedule, Meetings, and Priorities. 
Most American homes are busy hence it's important to meet as a family and lay out the school year schedule as well as who will do what. In the early years, my husband typically dropped the children off at day care and I picked them up. Later, as schedules got more complicated, we met as a family each week to look over the week's requirements and scheduled accordingly. Some families even plan their meals in advance so cooking is easier and healthier during the work week. The weekly meeting is also a good time to set priorities for the week and know which children need what kind of support. This is much better than last minute arguments and rushing to get things done. Trying to finish big projects two to three days before the due date is a great goal too--one that makes the projects better as there's time for error and last minute changes, and one that keeps the stress low too.

Communication and Asking Questions
If you're not sure about school procedures and policies, ask. Too often families and students fear asking when the question is the right thing to do. It's the job of teachers and schools to serve students well, and if we understand students' and families' needs with detail, it's easier to meet that goal.

Making the time to prepare and plan for a successful school year will support teachers, families, and students.