Back to school brings the newest to do lists – school shopping, haircuts, groceries, paperwork, etc. I would offer a thought on some alternate items to put on your to do list.
1. Talk about upcoming academics and prepare BEFORE school starts. This doesn’t mean to do a worksheet book through the summer, although that is fine to do. Just have a lighthearted conversation with your child about what they expect will happen in the upcoming school year. Are they excited about learning to read? Do they hope that they will get to use real money in math class? Are they bummed that they have teacher so-and-so because their classes are supposed to be boring? Are they scared of a higher math class? Take these conversations and then think about how you can mitigate and supplement through the year. Perhaps you can let your child use money to make change for your morning coffee run. Maybe the teacher isn’t so exciting, but you can find out what subject they teach and bring in some interesting books, audio books or other resources that will capture your child’s attention more about the subject. Maybe you can set aside 10 minutes each evening to work one or two math problems with your child – to actually do it yourself with slow steps and show your child how to do the work (make sure to let the teacher know so that it isn’t cheating, but if you are honest about it, they are unlikely to mind). If you have a plan before school even starts, any supplementation you do at home won’t be punitive, but just a part of the original plan.
2. Talk about upcoming extracurriculars and prepare BEFORE school starts. Know what type of gear you will need or at least the budget you may need for the gear. Talk through with your family what transportation will look like, and how meals, etc., will be planned around the extracurriculars. Divvy up tasks that will need to be done each week so that the children have ways that they can help their family, especially when things are busy.
3. Plan in free time. Every child needs to just be a kid. In their play, they assimilate the ideas and thoughts of education that have been presented to them. Even if you have to put it on the calendar – make an effort to spend as much time in the outdoors as possible having unstructured play time.
4. Talk about your family goals. To quote Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Look around with your family. What are some of the truths of your family that you want to keep upmost in your mind? This will be different for every family. Our family goal is, “To Glorify God”. That is it. It reflects our family worldview and our values. And we can reach back to it when we are making decisions about what is best for our family in after school activities, school questions and all of the interlay on the things that mom and dad have going on. Be careful in your choice, and make sure that if your kid invokes the family goal, you can be ready to consider it.
5. Take a deep breath. Be flexible, be smart and be patient! You can do this.
Katie Jackson, M.D., is a pediatrician at Utica Park Clinic Claremore.