By Sedonna Prater, Director, Curriculum and Instruction for the Knoxville Diocese Catholic Schools
Ahhh, the hot, leisurely, delightful days of summer! Every year, when the last dismissal bell of school is heard, parents, students and teachers alike settle into the fabulous wonder of summer. You know, those days of basking in the warm rays of summer sunshine or swimming in cool waters. Time seems to slow down, and work is put aside for glorious vacations to the beach or new and exotic places! Sometimes those ‘vacations’ are simply staying home to enjoy a few additional hours of sleep and rest in the comforts of home.
As a child, I recall that summer seemed to last forever with endless possibilities. When I became a full-time school administrator several years ago, working a twelve month contract rather than a ten, what I missed most was my summer freedom. I immediately had a new appreciation for all of the working parents who had to suddenly arrange childcare and organize or schedule summer activities during those summer months when school was not in session.
As a parent, summer flows right along from one activity, camp, or vacation right up to the summer solstice when summer officially begins. This longest day of the year, the day of endless sunlight, gently reminds one that, from this point on, the days will become shorter and that autumn is just around the corner. But, even before the season changes to fall, the more daunting reminder is that the beginning of the school year will be approaching very soon.
Encouraging students to visualize their success and helping them create a ‘can do’ mind-set will go a long way to establishing a foundation of success.
However, in spite of these tell-tale changes, there is still a great deal of summer left. After all, summer has just officially begun. Then, the fourth of July arrives with all its fanfare and fireworks! This patriotic, national holiday surely marks the countdown to the end of summer and the return to the school year, because following the fourth, school leaders really have to begin kicking it into gear as teachers and students will be returning in about a month. This is a time when schools undergo a metamorphosis. Summer cleaning, renovations or repairs are getting their final touches, new textbooks and other instructional materials are being inventoried, and final preparations are made to student and teacher schedules. All of this is to ensure that the school is ready for a successful academic year! There is a fevered excitement that builds like a snowball rolling down a mountain until that first bell rings opening the new school year.
While these many preparations are going on to prepare our schools and teachers, here are some things that need to be done to help prepare your student to return to school.
Summer Reading and Math Enrichment
If your student has done a little procrastination during the summer months, the first thing to do is to pull out those summer reading and math enrichment lists received back in the spring. Actually, whether he/she did the summer reading early in the summer or has kept it until the end, is not relevant, but it is very important for every student to complete and review the notes, projects or assignments included with the summer reading and math enrichment activities just prior to returning to school. Many teachers use the first two weeks of school to review or test over this material. Summer reading and math enrichment activities are assigned to keep students’ skills sharp and to decrease skill regression. By revisiting these tasks just before school begins, students will be cognizant of the information.
If you have not already scheduled your student’s annual check-up with a medical doctor, now is the time to get that visit on the schedule. Student immunizations can sometimes be forgotten, so it is essential your student is up to date on all immunizations. Schools cannot admit students without the appropriate immunizations, unless appropriate documentation is presented that excuses the child from the immunizations. Another important reason for the annual check-up is to ensure your student athlete can participate in school related sports teams. Don’t forget visits to the dentist and eye doctor as well.
Move into a School schedule with Sleep and Nutrition Habits
One of the hardest things to prepare for is getting back on a school schedule with regard to sleep habits. The days of sunlight are still longer, which encourages later sleep patterns. The reality is that the school schedule will be a rude awakening unless some proactive measures are started now. Begin by moving the bed time back 15-20 minutes a week so that you reach the target bedtime the week prior to school starting. Do the same with the wake up time in the morning. This will help you and your student’s internal body clock adjust to the changing schedule.
Gather school supplies and attire
Stores are already advertising that school is just around the corner with their annual ‘back-to-school’ sales, so this is the best time to take advantage when purchasing necessary school supplies, new clothes and shoes. Sunshine and fresh air are typically like growth injections for students, and parents often find that clothes that fit at the beginning of summer are now too small. Sometimes it is difficult to make clothing purchases, because the school year will begin in the hottest month of the year, August, and many parents just do not want to buy shorts again because they know they will need warmer clothing soon. It is a good idea to take advantage of clothing consignment stores and summer garage sales for gently worn items to help students get started. These clothes will be new to them.
If school supplies are an expense that stretches your household budget, please be aware that many businesses and schools provide schools with student school supplies. If you need a little assistance, don’t hesitate to contact your child’s principal. Teachers and school administrators will always make sure their students have the supplies necessary to be successful students.
Be positive and establish goals
Finally, each new school year is full of opportunities to enrich the life of your student. Help your student establish goals for the year including goals in academics, the social sphere, and in extra-curricular activities. Encouraging students to visualize their success and helping them create a ‘can do’ mind-set will go a long way to establishing a foundation of success.