Happy Back to School 2019!
Sixteen years ago my then two-and-a-half-year-old daughter marched independently into her first classroom at a Montessori school, not even glancing back over her shoulder at her parents and auntie, who watched through tear-filled eyes as she made her way into her future.
This year as the beginning of school approaches, I am once again tearing up. I have an eighteen-year-old child. Is that an oxymoron? Perhaps. Yet, this now young adult, my only child, has taught me more about commitment, patience, perseverance and resilience than I ever imagined.
As a parent, in many ways, it seems that the childhood of your little one is going to last forever. Your role as a mom (or dad) is a never-ending, heart wrenching, often thankless, most difficult, more-than-full-time job ever. As children grow, evolve and change, it literally seems as if time flies faster and faster with each passing day. Suddenly, they have graduated from high school and are taking off to start their own independent lives. That just happened to me. My “child” is about to leave for college.
In looking back over the years, getting ready to go back to school, was always exciting and special. The experience evolves and changes from grade to grade, and as children begin elementary school, than transition to middle and high schools. This year for my daughter and me is very different. We are preparing for dorm rooms, independence, meal cards, brand-new experiences, and far fewer days together. It is exciting indeed, but for me it will NOT be easy. Once again, my eyes will be filled with tears. That being said, here is what I have learned after 16 years of back to school!
• If your child is attending a school for the first time, if possible take them in advance to visit, become familiar with the campus, meet the teachers and hopefully some of the students too.
• Find out as much as you can about what the format, approach and experience at the school will be like for your child, so that they feel comfortable and prepared.
• A summertime schedule is important, so that your kids maintain structure between the last and the first day of school. While downtime is necessary, it is also important to maintain momentum and good daily habits. Keep this going until school starts.
• When preparing to transition from the summertime schedule to the school schedule, establish the school schedule (in terms of when to wind down at night, appropriate bedtime, and when to wake up) at least a couple of weeks before the first day of school.
• Talk to other parents or guardians, particularly those who have already had a child in a particular teacher’s class, about their experiences. It is often helpful to know what to expect as a parent. I have gained countless tips and lots of advice from parents who have gone through it before.
• Trust your child’s teachers. Your child is there to learn, and the educators are the pros.
• Either before school begins, or as soon as possible after your child settles in, make an effort to meet other families and parents—especially parents of friends of your child. Some of my very best and closest friends are people that I have met through my daughter’s schools.
• School supplies, books and any tech items are important and fun to shop for, label with names, gather up and prepare. If your school distributes lists of needed supplies, go out early to shop so that your student is confident and fully prepared. Plus, searching early means that you will find some really cool stuff!
• Same for school clothes and uniforms. Lots of things can rapidly sell out, so do not delay.
• Plan to make nutritious, energy-providing lunches and snacks. Test run any new items before school starts to make sure that kids have what they need and enjoy throughout the day.
• Make appointments for any necessary vaccinations and sports physicals well in advance so that your child is up to date. Keep documents such as vaccination records organized and available. It seems that they are always needed with very little notice.
• Get involved with your student’s school. Whether it is through the parent teacher association, or through volunteering through various opportunities at their school.
• Establish steady and regular times for studying and homework sessions. If these practices begin early, they will last throughout their education.
• Always attend “Back to School” night, do not miss it. It is important for you and your child. Listen, take notes and ask questions. Introduce yourself to teachers and administrators. If you haven’t yet had a chance to meet other parents, this is a great time to do so.
• Throughout the school years, be an involved and caring parent. It is one more way for you to show that you care.
• When your child, like mine, is heading off to college. Do your best to support them, but let them make decisions—even if you fear that the decisions may lead to a mistake. Life lessons are as important as lessons learned in the classroom. Now is the time for them to build upon the many years of education that you have supported, and apply it to real life.