The first day of school for Newark Public Schools is Tuesday, so here are 6 back to school tips for the Labor Day Weekend and next week...
Get to know your child's teacher. This can be the most important thing you do to prepare for back to school. It reinforces to your child that school is part of the ongoing process of education that includes the home, school and everywhere else your child goes. Show up for registration day on Tuesday. If you haven't yet, join the PTA too. Even if you can't be at all of the meetings, you ought to be part of the process. There are a lot of reasons not to have time to check in with the teacher during the school year related to working class concerns. But they're not excuses. Your child's education is an investment. Taking a day off from work may be a short-term loss, but in the long term you are ensuring that your child gets every dollar of the education to which they are entitled.
Sit down with your child and come up with a list of goals for the first week. Finding out how much homework there will be, for example, completing every assignment on time or finding a book they encounter in school they're interested in reading on their own. Some goals can be social as well; reconnecting with friends from the previous grade (this is a good time to get to know who your child's friends are, if you don't already), joining a school club, or finding a volunteer project for the school year. Revisit the goals at the end of the week and ask your child how they did. You can repeat this every week and continue through the school year. Your child's education is a process.
The transition from summer to school doesn't have to be an abrupt one. In fact, it is a good time to adopt good practices for your child's schooling. Set aside time in your schedule to check in daily with your child about their day at school and their homework (meeting with your child's teacher, Tip #1, will give you a sense of what the homework expectations are. Your child's load should meet that. If it doesn't, do not hesitate to ask the teacher about it. If the child is not lying, it's okay to question why the homework load is not meeting the expectations set forth at the start of the year.). Encourage your child to dig deeper. Suggest or assign further reading or study. Encourage outdoor activities as well, especially organized ones. Emphasize that homework is not a chore. Because it is an investment, education can only work when the child is invested as well.
Shop for school supplies at large stores like K-Mart or even Staples. Avoid bodegas, convenience stores and pharmacies, where there is significant mark up on school supplies. Buy items that are a necessity for the pupil: pencils (get the mechanical kind to avoid the need for a pencil sharpener. There's no standardized test on the first day so a #2 pencil is not necessary), pens, single subject notebooks (it is harder for class notes to fall into disarray when there is one notebook for each class rather than a 5-subject notebook that can become a catch all for class notes, scribbles, etc) a calculator (if the child is entering middle school, junior high or high school for the first year), and a book bag if necessary. Don't buy extra classroom supplies unless directed by the teacher.
Shop for school supplies for the home too. Calendars, charts and even stickers can make your child's weekly goals, homework, and extracurricular activity at home more fun. And some study tools the child may find useful, like highlighters or markers. But they have to pass the smell test. And don't forget, you can buy books too, especially with the money you saved buying at stores with low prices and shopping only for supplies the child needs. A dollar spent on a book for your child can't be spent better at K-Mart or Staples. Thrift stores can have interesting books at low prices. Make sure to include your child in the process of shopping but emphasize that when it comes to choices on extras, to choose a book. This is a good place to re-introduce your child to the library as well!
Give your child fruit to take to school. Give an apple or an orange rather than softer fruits like pears or bananas. These fruits can withstand contact with the books in your child's book bag. School lunches often lack fruit, a reminder that schools don't always have all the answers, but you should ask questions. Get involved with your child's schooling. Understand the teaching methods used on your child, the school philosophy and culture, and the policies and procedures applied to your child. Don't hesitate to speak up and be an active participant in these things (joining the PTA, Tip #1, will help). Your child's education is an investment and both you and the school ought to treat it that way.
Clip art thanks to pdclipart.org, public domain emporium!