Organizing Your Child

My Academic Game Plan

As the new school year approaches, spend some time thinking about last year. Here, six ways to start off the new school year on a positive note.

Academic gameplan is necessary to stay on the right track
Academic gameplan is necessary to stay on the right track

As the new school year approaches, spend some time thinking about last year. What was good about it? What came easily for your child? What was difficult? Odds are, this year’s trouble spots will be much like last year’s.

Ask your child if he has any ideas about how to fix the problems that are likely to arise
(Children often provide their own solutions if we take the time to ask.) Offer ideas of your own, then compare notes with your child and brainstorm together to make a written list of possible solutions. If your child is involved in the plan, he is more likely to be invested in its success.

Review your list carefully
Ask your child what he expects from the coming school year — and let him know what you expect. This will help to eliminate some of the unknowns for your child.

If your child will be attending a new school, spend time together getting familiar with the school. If possible, visit the school more than once with your child. Find out where his classroom will be, where the bathroom is, and where he will keep his things. Talk about any systems or rules that will be different this year. This will go a long way toward reducing the anxiety that often arises as the first day of school draws near.

Post a weekly schedule in your child’s bedroom
Include all family events as well as every part of your child’s day: wake-up time, breakfast, school bus, arrival at home, “down time,” homework time, music lesson, and so on. Make sure the schedule is prominently displayed and easy to read — use bright colors, bold letters, and stickers. This schedule should help provide your child with the structure he needs for a successful school year.

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Review the schedule with your child at the beginning of each week
Be consistent. Once a task becomes automatic, eliminate it from the posted schedule (being careful not to do so prematurely). Doing so will place more emphasis on tasks that your child hasn’t yet mastered.

Check in with your child each school night
This will encourage him to plan ahead for the following school day. Have all homework assignments been completed? Is the knapsack or book bag packed and ready to go? Have tomorrow’s clothes been laid out?

Writing out a daily to-do list for your child can be extremely helpful. Just make sure that each item on the list is important (nothing trivial) and specific (no generalities or vagueness). Big tasks should be broken down into smaller, manageable sub-tasks. And the tasks should be prioritized.

At first your child will probably need reminders to stick to the schedule and complete his to-do lists. As the school year progresses and your child matures, he should take on greater responsibility. Older children often resist a parent’s hands-on involvement in daily activities, and parents may be tempted to allow the child to figure it out on his own. Just remember that your child must be taught these skills. They are not intuitive.

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Don’t sweat the small stuff
Stay focused on the important goals for this academic year, and you’ll find it easier to overlook small things, like a messy room or an overdue library book.

Praise your child as often as possible. Remember to celebrate minor, as well as major, accomplishments. Above all, do your best to notice those special moments that make parenthood so rewarding.