Start the School Year Right

Boy with September calendar

Since school is about to begin, we have to help our children develop a predictable schedule for school, social activities, and homework. Don’t presume that they will do it on their own. They are coming from a summer full of fun and very few if any limits on behavior.

Set your child up for success

You will need to pace your child with a large calendar and daily check-off sheet to make sure they meet their school’s deadlines and assignments. On the calendar, be sure to include all activities, sports, music, etc. For assignments due in the next day or two—or even in a week, use the planning device shown below:

Planning device

This chart helps track school assignments but also helps your child learn time awareness and how efficient or inefficient they are in their working style. Day dreaming during homework time will be apparent. Be sure to have a working timer at their side. If needed, you can operate the timer and have your child tell you when they start and when they finish. This approach may “hold the fire to their feet” more deliberately if their attention wanders.

If you have time, have your child help you create the schedule. This will help them feel some ownership. And, you can let your child decide where to put some optional activities. Do you like to go to a local park together once a week? Great! Decide together where to put it on the calendar.

Establish a routine for weekday mornings

In the morning, be prepared to be a drill sergeant (a nice one) for at least two or three weeks.

If your child questions your methods, tell them that you are helping them make the transition from their summer schedule to their school schedule.

If there is a specific routine they follow every morning, make sure they can paraphrase the sequence of actions, perhaps using a timer to help keep them on track and build time awareness.

If your child takes medication, prepare it at the breakfast table in a pill dispenser arranged according to the day of the week. When things are rushed in the morning, it is easy to forget medication when it is not right in front of you.

What you are doing is helping your child learn organization skills by doing them.

If/when you see them organize their morning on their own—or even parts of it, be sure to make some kind of positive remark. It means you are paying attention to the good stuff too and not just criticizing them.

Check in at the end of the week

How did the week go? Were mornings smooth and organized or more like a wild adventure? Is the schedule working for you and your child? It’s okay to make some adjustments, if you need to. Maybe you scheduled too many activities, and your child needs some more time for homework. Or, maybe the opposite is true, and it’s time to find a new sport or hobby. Remember to reward your child for successes during the week… both large and small.

Good luck as you start the new school year and if you hear the kids tell you that no other parent does what you do, you are on the right path. : )

– Markus

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