On Your Mark…

The Olympics: what a breathtaking opening ceremony! At this moment, I am moving back and forth between my computer and the TV screen as Michael Phelps is preparing to soar to another record and another gold medal. While the opening of the school year is not the opening of the Olympics, all of our students—your children—may be readying themselves to soar too. Even so, we do not necessarily slip into the new academic year as easily as Phelps slips into the water. He has trained, practiced self-discipline and selfdenial, worked on his take-off, his timing, his stamina, his turns, and his finish. He has made sure to monitor his nutrition and his sleep. He has looked to his coaches to point the way and to his family for support

How can we, as “coaches” and family working together, support the children and point the way? Not surprisingly, it is important for us to help them develop skills in many of the areas where Phelps excels. Transitioning from the “lazy, hazy days of summer” to the tasks and demands of fall requires preparation. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has published on its website ( resources/ home_school/b2shandout.aspx)  suggestions in an article written by Ted Feinberg, EdD, NCSP, and Katherine C. Cowan entitled “Back-to-School Transitions: Tips for Parents.” The article presents  many of the ideas we have talked about together in past years. It stresses physical and mental health, including following a schedule for well-child checks and tracking the social and emotional development that occurred over the summer. Of course, once school begins, breakfast, no matter how small, is as important as our mothers used to tell us it is! The same is true of enough sleep. Setting a schedule that includes a supportive bed-time ritual and reasonable bed time hour is a detail we all know not to overlook. Sometimes easier said than done! We all know (and didn’t need to learn it from research) that scheduled mealtimes and family dinners go a long way to support children. The article also suggests a visit to school. We are looking forward to the K-1-2 family picnic and were delighted to see so many of you at the Ice Cream Social. We are also looking forward to welcoming those children whose parents will arrange a classroom visit with the new teacher as well as those who will just meander through the building before school formally begins. NASP also suggests that we allow plenty of time in the morning so the children (and we) will not feel rushed; having children learn to set their own alarm clocks, and making lunches the night before (it couldn’t hurt to choose clothes the night before, either. It gives children the time to choose between reasonable options, which may  be limited for younger children to two or three parental suggestions). Last, extracurricular activities should focus on quality and enrich the lives of the children engaging in them. Too many activities can be overwhelming for students as well as parents.

NASP encourages parents to choose a place for their children to do homework where it is quiet but where younger children, and older ones if appropriate, can be monitored without feeling intrusion. “Turn off the TV,” NASP recommends, whether it be in the evening before homework is completed or in the morning, when children do better if they focus on the tasks necessary to help them get to school on time. We have also found that a list, whether written or pictorial, helps children follow routines and check themselves on task completion. (If  you would like a sample or would like us to help you develop one of your own, please let me know.) 

Donna Goldberg, author of The Organized Student:Teaching Children the Skills for

Success in School and Beyond, asserts that strong organizational and time- management skills are building blocks to academic success and to success in life beyond the classroom. It is never too late to help children follow, recognize, and create their own routines or establish their own organizational systems. Helping with household chores, learning to ask themselves, “How am I doing?” filling backpacks at night while double checking what goes in, and emptying backpacks completely each day after school all facilitate organization. Of course, younger children need first to watch a parent, talk through the task with the parent, and then work toward independence. It is not ever too late to go through such steps if a student continues to have difficulty.

In addition to  the suggestions that NASP offers parents to help their children, it also suggests that parents be mindful of their own needs, take good care of themselves, and allow their presence to be felt by their children. Certainly, the Day School must be at the top of some list in that regard. For all of you who bring your smiles daily, for your volunteer efforts, for your kindnesses to faculty and staff, we thank you. We can barely wait to open the north and south doors and say, “Welcome back! We are so happy to see you!.” And we hope that you will allow time for coffee and socializing in the dining room after you have dropped your children at their rooms and seen them well off to a successful first day. We are looking forward to it! As we do so, we pray not only for a great take off, but for good timing, stamina, and an equally great finish!