Back to school: Make this your child's best school year yet

Posted on August 1st, 2015

It’s a brand new school year and a chance to clear the slate and make a fresh start – now’s the time to introduce positive new habits for you and your child. Sian Goodspeed, founder of Flying Start Tuition and mum of two, shares her back to school tips for making this your child’s best school year yet.

Rise and shine:

Introduce regular early bedtimes and wake-up times now and try to stick to them. Children need 10-12 hours sleep a night and teens a minimum of nine. Any less than that and it will impact on their learning, not to mention their moods! Start winding them down about 45 minutes before bedtime and remove mobile phones and screens from their bedrooms at this point.

Of course there will be the odd late night out or special occasion, but try to stick to the routine as much as possible.

Study routine

Find out how much homework your child will get and kick them off with a regular study or working routine, that also allows for their after-school activities and enough down time. Routine is the magic word – to avoid last minute homework meltdowns.

Be positive

If you’re a busy working mum, the last thing you need is spending hours arguing about homework. But, a positive approach from you will rub off on your child, saving tears and time in the process.

Is there an admin job you need to do? Sit down and work together. Throw in a plate of biscuits and homework might even become an event to look forward to!

Don’t do it for them:

By all means facilitate homework, but don’t do it for your child. If he or she is struggling to understand something, could a family visit to a museum or a book from the library help? Is there an app you can download that will enthuse him about a topic? And if he or she refuses to do the homework? Send them into school with the homework not done and remove electronic games or other treats until they change their minds.

The right supplies

Find out what your child needs at school – and ensure they have everything ready. It doesn’t have to be brand new or top of the range, but if your child feels they’ve got everything they need, it will help to boost their confidence.

Make time for your child

Whether you’re a working parent or the stay at home variety, ensure you make some time for your child every day. Even just 15 minutes of quality time before bedtime or after pick-up will help to open the channels of communication. Tell them you’re there for them and encourage them to share their expectations, worries and fears.

Meet the teacher

Your child will spend most of his or her day in the company of another adult – the teacher. Take the time to meet and get to know his or her teacher. Make the best of opening evenings, ask questions, signal your interest and share any concerns. Also ensure the teacher knows your availability if there should be any issues.

Centralised calendar

Introduce a centralised calendar somewhere in the house – maybe on the fridge or next to the phone, where everyone can list their comings and goings and you can map out school functions for the term (or even year if you’re super- organised) Having reminders on your phone is fine – but having a one-stop calendar accessible to everyone is a good way of introducing some calm into the chaos and avoiding last minute panic stations.

Encourage self-help skills

Boost your child’s confidence by encouraging him or her to take some responsibility for tasks around the house and for themselves. Could they make their own lunches or pack their own school and sports bags, organise their own afterschool schedules? Allow them to make mistakes – they’ll learn quickly this way.

Empower them

Give your child (some of) the power. Mutually agree on a time when he would most like to do homework. Some children get sleepy on a full stomach, others get a second wind. Some are natural procrastinators. If your child wants to work in their bedroom with the music full blast, agree to the bedroom, but suggest that the music should only be played after homework is done.

Paper overload

Manage paperwork from the school by having just one spot in the house – like a folder or in-tray in your study for all the letters to be dealt with and make a habit of looking at the letters and dealing with them every day or you’ll end up getting swamped and being the only parent to miss the memo about pirate dress-up day!

Don’t over-schedule

Children need down time. Of course you need to encourage them to engage in activities and they should have the space to try out new things. But in principle, don’t sign them up for activities every day of the week and if they really don’t want to do an activity any more, accept it. Encourage them to complete any pre-paid sessions, but don’t force them to continue doing something they hate just because you never had the opportunity to become a concert pianist or compete at Wimbledon.

Make learning fun

School can be a bit serious and draconian sometimes, so don’t add to the pressure. At Flying Start Tuition we believe children only do their best if they’re enjoying themselves. Try to encourage them to learn by making it fun for them.

Tips for different ages

Age 4-5: If your child doesn’t fancy reading the schoolbook, let him choose one from his own collection. Agree to read one page and take it in turns. Read in different voices.

Age 6-7: Introduce some props. Is maths a problem? Use grapes as counters and reward her for right answers by allowing her to eat some. Play counting board games, open a play shop or find a website that offers maths games for children in Key Stage One.

Age 8-10: At this age the child is usually up for a challenge. Work out a quiz and challenge them or see who can come up with the right answers first. Offer prizes for winners and best effort. Support schoolwork by looking up interesting related info on the Internet together.

Age 10-12. Suggest working outside in the garden on a nice day or pop into a local coffee shop and enjoy a hot chocolate or smoothie while you work together. Buy a pretty notebook to encourage writing and encourage them to enter online writing or maths competitions for children their age.

Teenagers: At this age just try to blend into the background and set a positive example. Maybe talk to them (casually) about rewarding careers and encourage them to find part-time work or to babysit for friends to make them feel more independent. Discuss positive role models and encourage them to bring friends around for study dates or to hang out. Keep the communication going – that’s the best you can hope for. Good luck!

Sian is the founder of Flying Start Tuition in Chesham, Little Chalfont and Aylesbury, offering support in preparation for exams, including eleven plus, primary tuition in English, Maths and Secondary tuition in English, Maths and French.

Contact us for tips or information about courses and support for your child and we’d love to hear your views and back to school tips.

Photo credit: Free digital by samarttiw