It’s Back-to-School Time!
If your kids are like mine, they’ve been back to school for almost a week now. The smell of all the notebook paper and wooden pencils is in the air once again. I love it. And I hate it.
I love the school supplies (and the great sale prices on back-to-school clothes). I’ve been stocking up on 17 cent notebooks and cotton t-shirts like you can’t believe. 🙂 But I hate the fact that summer has absolutely FLOWN by (as usual).
Summer vacation is simply too short. Way too short.
My Wife and I are Veteran BTS-ers
My oldest is on his way to college in a week. (Stay tuned for that teary-eyed post coming up in a few days.)
Matt, my youngest, started the 8th grade last week. So, yeah, my wife and I have been playing the back-to-school game for quite a while now.
We’ve learned a few things over the years. While we don’t think of ourselves as know-it-alls (not by ANY stretch), we’ve gotten a lot smarter the past twelve years. I want to share some of what we’ve learned. I hope it helps!
- The school calendar. This is such an important document. Be sure to make a couple extra copies. One to take w/ you to work, one for the fridge, one for the scrapbook, etc. Take the time to enter all the upcoming events in your Outlook calendar, or in your phone, or on the calendar hanging in your kitchen (it still works for the Crafty Dad family!)
- Know what TV and radio stations to listen to for emergency school closings, weather-related closings, etc. We get a lot of snow in Northern Indiana. So weather bulletins and school closing information is important. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but ask your kids: snow days are like a little bit of heaven on earth.
- Get teacher, staff, and administrative contact information and keep it handy. You never know when you might need it. Keep a copy in your purse, briefcase, backpack, etc. Crazy things happen at crazy times; it’s nice to have this information at your fingertips. I’m talking about things like email addresses and phone numbers. Enter this info in your phone (and you might want to keep a copy in the glove box. Because you NEVER know when you’re going to need it. (Ask me how I know!)
- Be sure to introduce yourself to your student’s teacher(s). I can’t stress this enough. FACE TIME is important. Tell the teacher(s) you’re very much engaged in your child’s learning experience and you want to know of any sign of trouble. Early on. Give teachers your email and cell phone number in case they need to get in touch with you. Most schools have back-to-school night. Do EVERYTHING you can to be there. Getting in front of your child’s teacher(s) is really important. Same goes for parent teacher conferences: be there!
- Don’t be afraid to touch base with teachers throughout the year. If you sense there’s something going on with your student, don’t wait! Contact the teacher and share your concerns. In our experience, my wife and I have found that teachers WELCOME this communication and want to help in any way they can. Just because your son or daughter is having some trouble does not mean he’s ‘dumb’ or a ‘trouble maker’. Remember your childhood? There were probably a few bumps in the road, right? Okay. Just making sure we’re on the same page.
- Be a part of your student’s school experience. I know it’s not always possible to attend every classroom party, music program, soccer game, and all. But…try to do what you can. Blessed with a flexible work-schedule, my wife has been able to go see lots of activities that the boys have been in over the years. That makes me really happy — since I work forty-five minutes away from home and it is VERY tough for me to get away for those events. It can be a struggle, but do what you can do. Perhaps a grandparent or aunt or uncle can help out here. The kids really eat it up when mom or dad can be there.
- At the beginning of each school year, start a new file folder for each or your kiddos. We’ve been doing this for a long time and it REALLY comes in handy. What’s inside the folder? School handbook, calendar, teachers’ contact info. The phone number to call to report an absence. Class expectations from each teacher (trust me: keeping a copy of this stuff has come in handy more than once in our household.)
- Use a storage box to keep all the graded homework assignments, tests, and other paperwork that comes home in your kiddo’s backpack. If there’s ever a question at the end of a grading period, you can go back thru the paperwork. This has been a lifesaver for us too. When a teacher says, “Matt never turned in that work.” We’ve been able to find the graded assignment in the box so we could send it back to the teacher to give Matt the credit he earned. Be smart: find a box (an old shoe box is fine) and keep ALL the papers.
- Stay on top of your scrap-booking projects by storing artwork, athletic event programs, concert programs, etc., etc. Start a new box each year, or CLEARLY divide the items by grade so you won’t freak out when it’s time to glue all those special papers in the memory book. We learned this the hard way. (My wife will call you and tell you all about it. There were several tearful moments as she though she’d never get Nate’s graduation open house scrapbooks done.) Do yourself a favor and keep these precious papers well-organized.
- Help your kids with their homework – but don’t do the work for them. Sometimes it’s easier for us parent to just do it, or tell them the answers so they can get the work done before it’s time for bed. Hey, I’ve been there and done that. But I didn’t feel good about it. There were times when Matt and Nate struggled with some concepts. Especially in math. There’s ‘new math’ and then there’s whatever math they teach today. (It’s crazy and I could write an entire series of blog posts about it. But I won’t.)
- If your student is struggling, contact the teacher and get whatever help you can. We’ve always had good luck with this. The math teacher had specific after-school hours where she would spend time with kids that needed some extra help. Trust me: your kid isn’t the only one struggling. So don’t feel bad! Both my boys have benefited greatly with just one or two days of this kind of one-on-one help. Teachers need to know that your child is having a tough time. Contact him/her early-on so your student doesn’t get left behind. THAT is a horrible place to be!
- Our school system uses an online system called PowerSchool. If you have access to a similar system, please: use it! It is a great way to keep tabs on your student’s progress. There’s a login for the student and a separate one for the parents. Each class/subject is listed, the teacher for the class is listed (and his/her e-mail address is hyper-linked). There’s even a section that keeps track of the lunch money account. Since Matt knows we can see all the homework assignments, quizzes, and tests, it serves as a motivator for him. I check the system at least a couple times a week during the school year. My wife and I still go through Matt’s backpack and review all the papers that come home. Like any kid, Matt might ‘forget to bring home’ an assignment or test that he scored poorly on. (I probably did that when I was a kid, too.) And hey, just so you know, we’re not the kind of parents that punish our kids for a bad test grade. No. Way. Having said that, it’s nice to know that we can see ALL the grades for each of classes in the PowerSchool system. And, we all know that mistakes happen: we’ve seen (and had corrected) some errors that teachers have made on the official system. PowerSchool also keeps track of absences and tardiness. We’ve never had an issue with either of those, but it’s good to know that the information is there to track.
Your Turn: So…did any of these help you? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
Hey! Just a reminder, the Wondershare Video Editor software giveaway is STILL going on. Jump over to the post and leave a comment. You might just win a free copy of this super-cool program!