A lot of kids get excited about new backpacks and fresh notebooks—and school supplies are fun, don’t get us wrong. (Although you don’t have to go overboard; last year’s backpack can go through the washing machine and come out looking good as new!) But our Navigators recommend a slightly different set of back-to-school strategies for families to set your child up for a successful year.
- Know what your child should be learning this year. It isn’t always obvious what your kid is supposed to be doing in school in every grade. But the more you know, the more easily you can identify how your child is doing in school and where they might be struggling. The National PTA offers these helpful grade-by-grade breakdowns that explain what your child should be learning every year. Before school kicks off, familiarize yourself with the learning goals (also known as “standards”) for the grade they’re heading into. And of course, right here at The Busy Family’s Guide to School, we’ve highlighted some of the most important things to focus on for your child’s age group, so check those out, too.
- Connect early with their teacher. This is especially important if your child is in elementary school, just starting middle school, or you’ve moved to a new school this year. When you introduce yourself to your child’s teacher, share a little bit about your child and your goals for their year. (Here’s a quick form you can fill out to give your child’s teacher some helpful information about how to help them thrive in school.) Make sure to let the teacher know the best way to reach you, too.
- Get organized at home. Your child doesn’t need a home office of their own to do homework. But it’s helpful to create some kind of quiet space where they can focus, away from screens (except any they need for their assignments) and siblings. (Here’s a handy checklist for making a cozy study space at home.) Besides their learning space, consider designating a “drop zone” near the front door where they can keep their school stuff organized when they come home and easily find it the next morning.
- Make a plan to get enough sleep and get to school on time. We all know what it’s like to try to get a tired kid out the door to school on time. (The worst, right?) Plus, a good night’s sleep is an important part of success in school: Research shows that kids who sleep well do better in language arts and math, and they’re able to focus more easily, too. Before the school year starts, think through your morning routine—what needs to get done and when, so you can be out the door on time. Then work backward to figure out what time your kid needs to be asleep to be well rested for the next day. If bedtime has inched later during summer vacation, start walking it back in the week or two before school starts so it isn’t an abrupt adjustment. Here are a few more tips for making sure your kid gets good zzz’s and starts school ready to learn.
A solid place to start when you're exploring school options. We especially appreciate GreatSchools.org's thoughtful approach to school ratings.
National PTA Parents' Guide to Success
The National PTA offers these year-by-year guides to help parents understand what their kids should be working on in school.