Back To School
by Jay Davidson
Itís time to get ready to return to school. Within a few weeks, the lives of your family members will change drastically. A little preparation among the members of the family can help to make the transition smooth.
If you do not currently have family meetings, this is a good time to establish them. They are an excellent means of keeping everyone informed of activities and goals for all family members. It can also be a means by which family members help each other with problems that individuals may have. Youíve got your own home-grown support group, so get into the swing of using it!
Set up a regular time and enlist everyoneís agreement not to violate it. Start with your own "happy hour," with everyone pitching in to prepare snacks for the whole family. This can also ensure that nobody is going to be hungry. Or schedule the meeting to coincide with a meal when all family members will be there.
Family history lesson
We learn from history that we donít learn from history. Make your family an exception. Your first family meeting can focus on situations that caused people problems during the previous school year.
Put your heads together and see what you can do to come up with solutions. Each person needs to take responsibility for generating solutions to his or her own situations. Help the little ones by writing down some of the solutions they suggest. After you make the list, choose the ones most likely to work and give them a try. Children are more likely to make a change in their behavior if they have had a say in coming up with possible courses of action for making improvements.
Establish one centralized place where all family members will list their activities. Make sure that all events are recorded: vacations, games, after-school activities, friendsí parties, school field trips, and visits to or from friends and extended family members.
Colored pencils can help to keep track of each family memberís activities. (Markers may be easier to read, but are not erasable.)
Many parents are particularly frazzled when it comes to kidsí activities because the adults take on too much of the responsibility for getting things done.
An important job of parenting is to prepare children for independence. In my experience working with parents, the most frequent comment I hear goes something like this: "She doesnít do it right, so I might as well do it myself."
Yes, your child will make a bigger mess pouring juice than you will. Not only that, but she will not clean it up nearly as well. In denying her the opportunity to do it herself, however, you are hampering her growth.
Many parents, then, need to give up on the thoughts of perfection. The chores will not be done to your standards, but they will be done. And continual practice with serving oneself breakfast, making beds, and following through on assignments will help move children closer to the independence they will need as they work their way through middle and high school.
Planning the night before
Work with your family members to see which jobs can be done in the evening, before going to bed, rather than in the morning. Since the morning rush is a huge contributor to family stress, there are many activities you may choose to do the night before. Among them are: bath or shower, setting out clothing, and making lunch and putting it in the refrigerator. Most of all, be sure that backpacks are packed with all homework and papers that have to be returned to school. Designate a place near the door for all these materials to be placed so that all you have to do is grab them and go.
Keeping these principles in mind, consider working with your children to set up practice days before school starts. It need not be every day until school starts, but in family meetings you may decide to designate certain days as practice so that you can test the ideas.
Procedure for papers into and out of the house
Designate a place for all children to put papers that parents have to see. It can be a folder, box, or basket. Parents train their children that they will look only in this one spot -- no rifling through backpacks or looking under beds!
Then, each child has a folder, also in a designated place, where the parent places the signed papers and permission slips. Itís the childís responsibility to check the folder for papers returned to it.
Procedures for homework and study
The most common advice is that children should have a quiet place, away from the hubbub of family life, in order to do their assignments. But this may not be the best solution for children who may not have had free time in their own home, in their room, or with their parents. This time is important to children and it gives them a sense of well-being and comfort.
Furthermore, it is very likely that he is going to want nothing more than to be near a caring parent - probably mom - during the time he gets home from school. Sending him to his room to do his homework by himself may be construed as a punishment.
Parents need to recognize and provide for this. The best way to be sure that homework is completed is by providing an area that has all the paper, pencils, erasers, crayons, rulers, and other supplies needed to complete homework. But instead of having this in childrenís bedrooms, or in a playroom located in another part of the house, consider placing this in the dining room or kitchen, close to the parent who is preparing the familyís dinner.
Your child - or several children, as the case may be - may take an hour to complete a ten-minute assignment. But the socialization with siblings and parents is a necessary part of his day.
Jay Davidson has been teaching in San Francisco for 31 years; he teaches first grade. He is the author of Teach Your Children Well: A First Grade Teacher s Advice for Parents, which is available for $12.95 from Amazon.com. He can be reached through his Web site at http://www.jaydavidson.com.
Jay Davidson the Speaker...
(From Jay Davidson's website....)
Once a teacher, always a teacher! Jay doesn't have to have a classroom full of wiggly first-graders to get on his soap-box. Their parents will do just as well - and usually pay better attention.
Following are examples of his topics:
- Easy ways to boost literacy in your family The need for greater parent involvement in education
- Creating a family mission statement
- Kindergarten readiness
- First grade readiness
- Parent-school relations
- Developing a sense of responsibility in children
- Time management and organizing at home
- The organized classroom - presentation for elementary school teachers
Comments from participants at Jay's workshops
- "Very inspirational and thought-provoking."
- "What a magnificent teacher!"
- "Clear presentation; an enthusiastic, caring speaker. I bet he is a great teacher - the kind we hope stay in the profession."
- "Great insight, motivating."
- "Well put-together - prepared with lots of thought and
delivered with lots of heart."
Jay has made presentations to:
- California Reading Association
- National Association of Professional Organizers -San Francisco Bay Area chapter
- California Agricultural Teachers Association
- Parenting groups in San Francisco Unified School District and San Mateo-Foster City School District
Jay Davidson is also the author of "Teach Your Children Well: A First Grade Teacher's Advice for Parents"
(available at amazon.com)
Visit www.jaydavidson.com for more information about Jay Davidson.