3 Ways to Help Start the School Year Right

Here are some simple tips on ways parents can help their children start the school year on a positive note.
"Think back to those classic TV sitcoms - what’s the first line in every scene at the dinner table? 'What did you learn in school today?' Even in today’s world of distracting screens and increasingly chaotic schedules, that one simple question remains the cornerstone of a strong, meaningful partnership between home and school."

The return of the school year is officially upon us! That means students are back to learning in classrooms and parents are back to wondering what they can do to help from afar. If you’re looking to get your child’s school year started off in the best, most productive way, here are some simple steps you can take that will make a huge difference:

Introduce Yourself to Your Child’s Teacher(s)

Teachers and parents both understand the value of the stakeholders in a child’s education being on the same page, but sometimes it can be hard to figure out what that looks like. Too often, both sides miss the boat on opportunities to form powerful home-school partnerships early in the school year simply because they fear the awkwardness of the dialogue. Don’t wait until parent-teacher conferences to talk with your child’s teacher(s), though!

A quick conversation before or after school, or even just a brief, friendly email will go a long way to open up lines of communication and foster positive, collegial relationships. If you’re concerned about your child’s academic progress or behavior, be upfront with their teachers and let them know what you need in order to help support the learning process at home (i.e. “I’d like to know if Maria gets anything lower than a B on a quiz” or “Please contact me right away about any concerns with homework”). Many schools even host “Back to School Night” events in the opening weeks of the year to encourage these conversations to happen. Be sure to take advantage of these events if your child’s school offers them!

Debrief School Every Day

Think back to those classic TV sitcoms - what’s the first line in every scene at the dinner table? “What did you learn in school today?” Even in today’s world of distracting screens and increasingly chaotic schedules, that one simple question remains the cornerstone of a strong, meaningful partnership between home and school. If you set aside ten minutes each day to discuss and debrief school with your child, you’ll quickly discover that you’ve gained a fun and fascinating glimpse into your child’s rapidly-evolving mind.

Debriefing school is valuable on a number of levels. First of all, it’s the most direct way to keep you informed on the progress of your child’s academic experience. It keeps you updated generally on what they’re learning and also gives you a key snapshot of how your child feels about their school, teachers, peers and education. For your child, talking about their day is an important reflection. Debriefing helps students process what they learned, which is a key step in the retention and mastery process, and reflect upon their experiences, which builds self-awareness and metacognitive skills.

Establish Positive Routines

Let’s face it: No matter how much your kid loves school, they slide into totally different patterns of behavior over the summer break. Even the most studious learner can quickly become accustomed to staying up late, doing what they want all day and not having to deal with the stress of school. Allowing these normal summer habits to continue into September is counterproductive to their learning, however. Once the school year has started, it’s time for at least some sense of routine and personal discipline to return.

Establishing and reinforcing routines for the academic year helps students understand the key role of school in their lives and builds a sense of responsibility and consistency that prepares them for the adult and professional worlds. Getting to bed at a certain time, eating a healthy breakfast and completing homework before playing games are all examples of simple, actionable routines that help students get the most out of their educational experience.