EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
The countdown is on to the first day of school, so don’t wait until the last minute to prepare your elementary-age children for classes.
“Though we’re still several weeks, even a month, out, the most important thing (parents can do) is get their kids in a routine,” said Leslie Baty, executive director of Elementary Education for Marble Falls Independent School District.
Baty has experience in central administration, campus administration, and the classroom to back up her back-to-school preparation recommendation.
The first thing parents should do is start putting their kids to bed at a regular time, making sure it’s early enough so they get plenty of rest.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends children ages 6-12 get nine to 12 hours of sleep a night. Those ages 13-18 should get eight to 10 hours each night. These guidelines are supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“One of the things we find the first week (of school) is the kids are so tired,” Baty said.
Parents should also encourage their children to read, at least 20 minutes a day, at home or in a public library, where there are a variety of books to spark a kid’s interest.
Baty said reading with or to your child is one of the best ways to help them be successful in school.
“It could be the parent reading to the child, the parent and child reading together, or the child reading to the parent,” she said. “It doesn’t matter, as long as they’re reading.”
She added that, along with reading, parents should have regular conversations with their children. At younger ages, these conversations can help children develop their vocabularies as well as build up their social skills.
Regular talks also benefit older students by reinforcing social skills and offering a glimpse into what’s going on in the child’s life. Ask questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer.
And, stay positive. A big factor in a child’s attitude toward school is their parents’ attitude toward it.
Baty said parents should talk positively about school.
“Kids tend to take on the attitude of adults, so if the parents are positive and excited about school, the kids are going to be more excited and positive about it,” she said.
Parents should also take steps to reduce their stress levels as the first day nears. Kids pick up on that, and can begin to feel stressed themselves.
To reduce that anxiety, take care of things such as school registration and vaccinations well ahead of the first day.
Baty said MFISD provides student registration information on the district’s website.
Once classes start, Baty stressed the importance of sticking to a routine. She said parents should also consider setting up a homework space at home for their kids.
“And read every day,” she reiterated. “I cannot stress reading enough.”