First Day of School

Yesterday I posted some thoughts about College Drop Off Day.  Today, I’m looking at the other end of the spectrum – First Day of School (especially first graders).

The first day of First Grade is an exciting time for students and overwhelming moment for parents.  Two decades later, I still have part of a lump in my throat from my oldest son’s first day.  Here’s a short video documenting the day.  (Please forgive the hairstyles and fashion disasters!)

If you are one of those parents about to introduce a first grader to school life, there’s hope.  You will get them back at the end of the day!  I asked a good friend of mine, Marsha Butler, to share some thoughts about getting your child ready for that big first day at school.  Marsha has been teaching elementary school in Kansas for 35 years.  (She started at age 9, I guess.)  I asked Marsha about teaching awards she’s received.  Her response: “Hugs are the best rewards.”butler

Thanks Marsha!  Great advice that I know will help parents and students alike.  I want to add a thought… I got kind of choked up when Marsha asked us to be an encourager to the teacher.  My mom was an elementary teacher and our family has also homeschooled with my wife doing the heavy lifting of teaching.  I whole-heartedly agree that teachers need – and deserve – encouragement.  I hope that all my readers will make a point of being a most encouraging parent this school year.  Who knows, maybe the teacher will give you an apple!There are lots of great things to do to prepare both parents and beginning kindergartners or first graders the summer before the year begins.

As you approach the first day of school, talk about school in a positive light. Talk about how they will be away from home without a parent.  Discuss how much fun it will be learning new things.  During the summer, plan play dates with children that are the same age and may be in the same class.  Invite children to your house, but also be sure they have time away from you, too.  Discuss sharing, manners, being helpful, and be a good friend. Two to three weeks before the beginning of school, walk to the school and play on the playground.   Get the school supply list and let your child help pick out the supplies they need.  Maybe talk about the clothes that they will be wearing and pick out a new shirt or outfit.  If the child is riding a bus to or from school, talk about what that will be like and find an older child to help them at first.

Before school begins, establish a schedule at home and especially a bedtime.  Children need about ten hours of sleep.  Be sure they are eating a healthy breakfast.  Talk about the lunch that they will have at school or if they take their lunch, what choices they will have.  This is a good time to talk about good nutrition. The week before schools starts, do a dress rehearsal of the first day of school.  Be sure they have plenty of time so that you are not rushing out the door.  Most schools have an evening before school starts that families can tour the building, meet the teacher, and see the room.  Be sure you go and meet the teacher.  This may be a time for parents to sign-up to volunteer or be a part of PTA or PTO.  Children that see their parents involved in school will understand the importance of school.   Always be an encourager to the teacher… they need your support!  That week before, have your child write a little note or picture for the teacher. The night before, everybody as an early bedtime.  After a good breakfast, parents take your child to school and say good bye at the door.  (If you are going to cry, hold it until after they are in the room).  Do not make the good-bye long.  Reassure the child you will see them after school is out.  If this is an emotional time, plan to meet other parents at a local coffee shop to talk about it.   After school is out, be excited to hear about your child’s day and what they did.  Plan a celebration – a favorite dinner or dessert.   Be consistent with the schedule, reading, and homework.