August 13, 2014

Students need help getting year off to a good start

Some children get excited about a new school year beginning, while others seem to dread the end of summer vacation. Either way, parents have an important role in preparing children for a smooth start of the school routine.

There is a requirement for a whooping cough vaccine booster, “Tdap,” for seventh- through 12th-graders. Older children benefit from a reminder about the rigors of homework and class work, and the need to get organized. For first-time students, it’s important to make sure all the proper immunizations have been given. For students of all ages, parents can play an important role to support school achievement throughout the year. This is a good checklist to repeat:

Breakfast: Children should begin each day with a good breakfast, followed by healthy snacks and other meals at regularly scheduled times. This helps small bodies maintain maximum capacity throughout the day.

Schedules: Children should know their parents’ or caregivers’ schedules at home and on the job. This helps establish a sense of time, but also reassures children about accessibility, consistency and order.

Reading: Parents should read to their children every day, if possible. Newspapers, short stories, books, and poetry can all be the basis of enjoyable shared experiences.

Homework: If possible, a specific time each day should be scheduled for homework and study. Children should know that homework is a number one priority, yet they should also be granted flexibility if soccer practice or band tryouts fall during homework time. Working together to manage daily and weekly schedules becomes a good lesson in the budgeting of time and energy.

Adults should resist the temptation to do children's homework for them, yet it’s important that children know an adult is available for help. If children seem to be asking for help because they want someone else to do the thinking, a good response is: “I think you can figure this out on your own. You try first.”

Tests: When children are studying for a test, they should be discouraged from “cramming” the night before. Instead, ask your children to bring their notes and books home every night so they can teach you what they have learned in school. These discussions could be held at the dinner table for everyone's benefit.

When children are preparing for a test, help them avoid panic. Advise them to study one section at a time, and use several sessions to review the material. Encourage a good night's sleep and a nutritious meal before the test.

If children are procrastinators and seem to do everything but homework, it might help to set up a reward system. Also, let children take homework breaks every half hour to refresh their minds.

A voice recorder is a great study aid for children whose parents are short on time. One technique is to record a definition or question, pause for about five seconds, and then record the answer. Children can then play it back, have a chance to test their knowledge, and get immediate feedback.

If children are having trouble with an assignment, be careful not to criticize. Find out what the problem is and work with children to address or solve it.

The most important point for adults to remember, at all times, is that their positive attitude toward homework, teachers, and school can have great influence on a child's success. That's the bottom line for all of us, and it reaps great rewards in the future.