Back-to-school in the new year!

For most students, January means a return to school after a winter vacation. Because there are few three-day weekends or other interruptions, the months between winter and spring breaks are the time when teachers plan to put the pedal to the metal.

“I consider it the push time because I can really get kids to make progress in these weeks,” says Dawn Christiana, a veteran elementary teacher and national educational consultant. “But it means I need to have kids who are ready to get back into our routines quickly and work harder than they did before break.”   

With holiday festivities, late movie nights and sleeping in behind you, it is time to get down to business this month. These tips will help you get your family in the back-to-school mode and give your kids the tools they need to have a “ready, set, go” attitude in the New Year.

Unplug and Get those ZZZs  
Much like summer, winter break brings loosened reins on TV, computer and other media. It’s easy for kids to become night owls when they know they can sleep in the next morning. Both of these habits can make the first week back to school challenging, even for the most motivated student. Before sending him back to the grind, taper back on screen time and ease back to a reasonable bedtime.

Remember Breakfast
If your family adopts a “fend-for-yourself” attitude about breakfast during vacations, it’s time to change gears. Healthy, filling breakfasts are one of the most important factors in a child’s ability to focus in class. If he arrives at school hungry, he will likely be sluggish and distracted from the get-go. If the breakfast he did eat consisted of sugary cereal or doughnuts on the fly, he will often experience an energy decline an hour into the day. Start his day off right with a nutritious and filling breakfast, such as oatmeal or toast with peanut butter.

Get Organized  
Take inventory of your child’s school supplies. Does he need refills on paper or pencils? Is his binder exploding with old papers and pages of doodles? Does his backpack have granola bar wrappers crumpled at the bottom? Help him return to school with pencils sharpened and notebook organized. His teacher will thank you!

and not just with your child. Get back into the habit of scanning the notes that come home from school. For many kids, their initial enthusiasm for filing these notes in an organized way will have waned. Take the time each day to check for letters and flyers from the school. Though some of it may not be pertinent, this habit will make life much easier for everyone when the time comes for permission slips to be turned in or conferences to be scheduled.

Check In 
You may have had a parent-teacher conference just before the holiday season. If not, take a moment this month to check in with the teacher about your child’s progress, especially if you have concerns. It is still early enough in the year to work on behavior or skills that are holding him back from reaching his full potential in his current grade. If you are confident your child is cruising along quite nicely, a quick email to ask his teacher if there is anything you need to know or can do at home will help keep the lines of communication open.

Back to Homework  
Just like at the start of the year, your child will have to get back into the habit of regular homework. So will you. Decide if what you were doing in the fall was the best schedule for fitting in homework, and reconfigure it if necessary. The more often you can make yourself available to help your child, the better.

Stephanie Dethlefs is a freelance writer.

Published: January 2010

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