On Opening Day at Topanga Elementary in 2009, teacher Devon Chatham made it easy for her First Grade students to settle in by bringing them together for storytime.
With August coming to a close and September just days away, most of us are thinking about summer vacation winding down and the beginning of the school year. This is a great time to create a system to keep everyone organized for the busy months ahead. Each family is different, so consider your familys personality when creating a system that will work for all of you.
Starting off the school year with a family calendar, clear expectations, a dedicated space for studying and the necessary materials will set your child up for success.
The Family CalendarHaving a family calendar is great for developing responsibility, for ending the question, What are we doing today? and encourages family team building and bonding.
A family calendar shows all of the activities for each family member. Some things to include might be: doctors appointments, school activities, play dates, sports and arts activities and birthdays.
For younger children, parents can use a picture with the activity name to encourage responsibility and literacy development.
Older children can write their own activities on the calendar and perhaps each family member can write their activities in a different color.
Calendars can be hung on the kitchen wall, bulletin board or refrigerator.
Some families might choose to set up a shared Google calendar online, that all family members can edit.
Set Clear ExpectationsSetting up family time to talk about school activities, extracurricular activities and grade-level expectations can help to develop open communication and lines of conversation that can continue throughout the school year. Parents can be easily involved in the childrens activities and help teach children to initiate conversations about what is going on at school without seeming to be controlling or being the dreaded helicopter parent. Children can learn to share without being judged and can feel independent. Some things to consider when starting this conversation are the school, grade or class expectations, allowing children to express their own hopes and desires for the school year and creating a family schedule that allows for time to relax and spend time together.
Create a Study SpaceThis is a dedicated space for children to complete homework. While it is a parents responsibility to set up the space, children should be part of the process so they can create a comfortable place that will feel special and welcoming to them. Some children, for example, like a private space in their room, while others like to be closer to parents for homework help or comfort. A study space can be a corner of the kitchen or the family room but wherever it is, it must have: a desk or table, clear of clutter; a comfortable chair, preferably one that allows the childs feet to comfortably rest on the floor; a desk lamp or other good lighting; and limited distractions. This space is sacred because it is dedicated to your childs learning and creating.
Stock Up NowBack-to-school sales are going on in most stores now and it is a great time to stock up on school supplies. Having these supplies in the house can help your child feel prepared for assignments and reduce stress for parents.
Basic materials needed for regular school assignments can be kept in a container and include: pencils, pencil sharpener, crayons, colored pencils, markers, glue/glue sticks, tape, staples and a stapler, paper (lined, unlined and construction), hole punch, scissors and a ruler. Projects are a part of school life and having special materials at home can take the stress out of preparing for these special activities. Who wants to run to the store late at night to buy a presentation board? Some items you might need are: poster board, display boards, glitter, paint (poster, watercolor, tempera), stickers and die-cut shapes. This is a great time to prepare for the school year ahead and taking the time to set the stage for success will bring the rewards of children who feel in control of their learning and activities and a more calm, peaceful home.
There are many activities for children and parents in the area. Topanga Elementary Charter School will host the following:
Back-to-School NightAug. 27, 6 p.m. (adults only please)
Back-to-School PicnicSept. 21, time and location to be announced
New Parent Volunteer Training and Art Trek Parent Docent TrainingPlease see the online school calendar for dates/times: www.topangaelementary.org.
Are you looking for fun after-school activities? How about some art classes?
Topanga Creates with Sandy Savaswww.topangacreates.com
Topanga Art Imaginariumwww.TopangaArtImaginarium.com
Kirsty Iredale, Potterwww.KirstyIredale.com
To include upcoming activities for kids and/or parents at your school or business, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy K. Weisberg, M.Ed., has been a teacher for 35 years and has been teaching at Topanga Elementary Charter School for 19 years. Her business, CompleteTeach, provides support for students, parents and teachers. Her book, How to Have the Best Super-Duper School Year Ever! is available on Amazon.com.