We've all had a no good very bad school year. For me that year was 3rd grade. It was so bad that I blocked it out of my memory until I recently tutored a student having their very own nightmare 3rd grade year.
3rd grade is a commonly traumatic year in elementary school. When I was in school, that was the year we were expected to memorize multiplication tables, learn about fractions, learn (and solely write in) cursive, and perform the universally dreaded long division. With all this academic content came a truck load of homework that would often take me hours to finish. I often felt like I had homework piled so high I couldn't see over it. Add this to social and personal difficulties and it was pretty terrible. I would probably have to count this as the "Brittany Spears year" of my childhood. If I could have shaved my head, I probably would have.
As we begin another school year, we look forward to what it might hold. We hope that it will be the best year yet, but it is also possible that things out of our control could turn it into a difficult year for all. No matter what happens this school year, there are a few things we can do at the beginning to help it go as smoothly as possible for everyone. Try these five things in the weeks leading up to the first day of school:
1. Get organized
Try to organize a few areas that gave you or your child trouble last year. This could be as simple as putting subject dividers in a binder, or as complex as crafting a shelf that holds each week's outfits. Take a little time before school begins to put a few systems in place, and don't be afraid to adjust as needed during the school year. Need a little inspiration? Here are a few areas that commonly need a little re-vamp:
Binder and folder organization- my biggest advice with these is to color code EVERYTHING
Before school routines
After school routines- Where will the backpack go? When will the homework be done?
The managing and signing of papers- Things for you to sign are usually coming home in stacks during the first few weeks of school. This is a great time to get a system going.
Homework Supplies- Create a homework basket that has all supplies needed for homework to reduce distractions.
2. Open the lines of communication
It's important to open the lines of communication with your child's teacher and support staff early so that when there is an urgent issue you already have a rapport. As soon as you are able, find out which communication method your child's teacher prefers. If needed, also gather the preferred contact method for their counselor, principal, nurse and any other important school staff. Make a short list of names, positions, emails, and phone numbers for these important staff members noting their preferred way to be contacted. Post this list on your fridge and put it in your phone. Though you may not need it now, there may be a time when you are glad you have these contacts handy.
Just as you don't want the only communication from your child's teacher to be negative, your child's teacher feels the same way. If your child really loves something their teacher did, or if you notice extra effort, try to make a point to drop them a kind note. This will build your relationship and make it easier if you need to communicate a complaint or concern.
Want more information on how to effectively communicate with your child's teacher? Check out this great Do and Don't post by Milkids Education Consulting
3. Use growth mindset strategies
Your child getting stuck on a concept, or freezing up after receiving a bad grade can make the school year grow sour quickly. Reduce meltdowns over grades by changing the language you use around school work and effort. Focusing on how much your child is learning and how hard they are working, instead of focusing on grades, can help them stress less and learn more. Want to learn more about growth mindset and how to easily foster it at home? Click here.
4. Pull a list of resources
Just as it's important to have a list of important school contacts ready before you need them, it's also a great idea to have a list of academic resources at hand. Pull together a list of websites, books, and people that can be of help if your child is having difficulty academically. Having this list ready can be extremely helpful when experiencing stressful homework meltdowns, or when dealing with grades that are concerning. Instead of having to search during an already hectic time, you can just pull out your list of resources and pick which one you need. Below are a few resources I suggest having on your list:
Khan Academy- This is a free site that has great videos and resources explaining basically any math concept you can think of. Many of their videos focus on common core methods of math learning, and they do a great job of explaining all concepts. Bonus- they have videos and resources on other subjects too!
The school website- This may be a no-brainer, but when experiencing academic difficulty, or dealing with missing assignments, it's always helpful to look at the school website to see what resources are already gathered there for you.
Teachers Pay Teachers- If you need resources to help your child fill in academic gaps or get more practice with a concept, this is a great site for free and paid resources.
Contact information for a tutor- Research and find a tutor that you would feel comfortable with using if needed. Have their information at the ready just in case. Not wanting to research? Give us a call and we can match your child with one of our awesome tutors.
Milkids Education Consulting- If you are having trouble navigating your child's education and school environment, this site has really great resources and printables to help you.
5. Try not to sweat the small stuff
Didn't get the right glue, or didn't get off on the right foot with the school nurse? Try not to sweat it. It's more easily said than done, but try not to let the little things weigh you down at the beginning of the school year. This year will pass, and your child will likely forget it or block it out of their memory, even if it was a Brittany Spears shave your head type of year.
This is not to say that you shouldn't take action if your child isn't getting what they need at school. If this is the case, know that we are on your side. You're always welcome to give us a call if you are concerned, or just don't know where to start when getting your child what they need. Feel free to put our number on your contact or resource list (208-996-0497)- we're always here to chat.
What are you planning to do to prepare for the school year? What is something you feel has been a game changer when it comes to getting organized? I would love to hear in the comments!