Tag Archives: first day of school

School Tips

5 Tips to Help Your Child Start School Off On the Right Foot

The first day of school is just around the corner. After an entire summer of first day of schoollazy days and endless nights, how can you help your LD child - who hates change- get back into the swing of things?

Here is a list of practical step you can take to make sure the first day of school goes off smoothly:

1. Get your child back on a normal schedule about a week before school starts. It's natural to let things slide a bit during vacation-heck, that's part of the fun. But if you want your child to be functional during the first few days back, then you'll need to make sure that they go to sleep on time, and wake up on time.

In order to do this as painlessly as possible, try pushing back your child's bedtime to about 15 minutes earlier, every evening for one week. By the second day you can also start pushing back morning wake-ups by about the same amount of time. Your child will be more rested and you will feel less stressed, (hopefully) not having to wake up exhausted kids.

2. Buy everything they need BEFORE school starts. Okay, this one seems obvious, but how many of you have pushed off getting an item from the school supply list, either because didn't have time to buy it, thought it wasn't so important, or had no clue what the teacher really wanted?

Not only is this stressful to children, but unfortunately some teachers get really annoyed at your child because they are not prepared. Do yourself and your child, do whatever it takes, but get everything your child needs, and put it away until school starts. Your child and his teacher will thank you for it.

3. Talk to your child about what the new year will be like. Every child has concerns and fears about what the new year will bring. Sometimes children might not speak directly about how they are feeling, but you might notice your child becomes more hyper, moody, or quiet as the first school day approaches.

Try and find a peaceful venue alone with your child, and try and bring up the subject.Your child may or may not admit to having worries. That's okay; you can still make this a "bonding moment" by sharing some of your best or worst first day of school experiences.

4. Talk to your child about what your expectations are for the year. You probably remember getting this talk from your parents - uggh! But there are ways to present this that are positive, hopeful, and not preachy.

Why not focus first on specific goals that you know your child wants to work on? For example, if this is the year your daughter gets to try out for the soccer team, you can show your support and interest in this new step. At the same time, you can bring up your expectation that she maintain good grades, and continue to help out at home.

5. Send something small but special with them for the first day. In this case, smaller is better. A short note on a napkin in his lunchbox, a cute drawing on a stick-um on the first page of one of her notebooks; these are easy to do, and a prime example of actions speaking louder than words.

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Parenting children

N.’s First Day of School


Today was N.’s first day of school! In our part of the world, school starts at the end of October.

Also, since kindergarten here isn’t considered real school (although they do learn their letters), their first real day of school is first grade.

N. was pretty excited, and I have to admit – so was I! She had a great time picking out her Strawberry Shortcake backpack, and she was over the moon about the matching water bottle. She’s so happy about the smallest things: her new crayons, eraser, pencils, and pencil sharpener were precious even though they weren’t especially fancy.

She’s always happy with even the plainest things. She spent the next hour saying “Thank you Mommy for the new school things!” and giving me kisses.

I couldn’t help looking at her hefting that weighty backpack on those thin shoulders without thinking about how much she’s been through, and how far she’s come.  I kept glancing at her, thinking, “Could this be the same girl who 2 years ago didn’t even know what a slide, or a bathtub, or a cat, or a tree looked like?”

And even though we still have a ways to go, I’m so thankful at how much her determination and will to succeed have brought her to where she is now.

I’ll of course continue to work with her, since I know she’ll need help. But sometimes she surprises me. When she came home from school, she already knew all of her letter sounds. She’d learned the names of the letters in kindergarten (I personally don’t like that method, because it’s often harder for kids with LD to learn the alphabet that way), but I didn’t imagine she’d catch on so quickly with the sounds.

Mainly my job now is to get her used to doing homework at a regular time, and to teach her how to unpack and pack her backpack, so it will be ready to take back to school after she finishes homework. Right now she can’t wait to do homework – she’s actually been “finding” homework to do just for the fun of it. That won’t last long, I’m sure J.

The other thing I’m working with her on is teaching her to walk to school with her little sister without me.  Where we live it’s the standard that any child over the age of 4 goes to school by themselves. Last year all of her friends went to school by themselves, or with an older sister. It’s safe, and they generally ask someone to cross them.

Still, being an American, I can’t possibly fathom letting her go alone. She seems- is!-so young. But I recognize that it would be good for her to be more independent, so we’ve reached a compromise of sorts. For now, I let her pick up her sister from her classroom, and walk one block (which is a closed street). I’ll meet her at the end of the block, and take them the rest of the way home.

Little by little, I’ll use backwards chaining to teach her how to go to school on her own, though I’ll probably insist that she walk with a group of girls. And maybe I’ll walk secretly behind…

Here’s how it works:

First, I’ll let her walk one block on her own. That means that I’ll walk her most of the way, then watch her walk that last block on her own. BTW, if you’re also teaching an older child (or even special needs teenager) how to travel on their own, you should always work backwards, gradually increasing the distance they go as time goes on, and you see they’re more proficient.

One or two walkthroughs is certainly not enough, and I wouldn’t let a child go on their own anywhere (putting aside the problem of kidnappers, molesters, and other hazards) until your child has made several runs with a “tail” checking out how they do.

Then we’ll work on crossing the street. Since I’m not letting her cross the street on her own, this means that she has to ask an older student or an adult to help her cross. I want to make sure she asks, and doesn’t assume she can make it without help, and I want to review stranger-danger rules as well. She still has boundary issues, and is sometimes too friendly.

At that time of day it’s fairly safe, since there are hundreds of girls going by at the same time, and the older children naturally watch after the younger ones. Still, I’m not taking any chances.

After that, I’ll add on a half a block at a time, until we cover the whole distance from home to school. Once she can do that well, I’ll do a few dry runs, where she’ll walk to school with me a good distance behind her (but within shouting distance).

As I said before, she’s only 6, so I’m not letting her go by herself, yet. But I do feel it’s important for her to at least know how to walk to school on her own.

How are you helping your child become more independent? Share with me in the comments below.




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School Tips

What NOT to Tell the Teacher on the First Day of School

Be prepared - not.

Perhaps you believe in the old Scout motto “be prepared.”

So you’ve tacked together a 27 page manifesto on the care and handling of junior, complete with cell phone numbers of everyone from your next door neighbor to the stock boy at the  local produce store (just in case you happen to be out choosing a watermelon when World War III starts).

And while you probably spent a good deal of blood, sweat, and tears – not to mention time – on the Great American Novel, let me give you a piece of good advice: pack it away for a good long time.

Like forever.

"I love your kid, but can't you see I've got something good going on here?"

What it comes down to is this: in the first week or two of school, most teachers are busy enough trying to get their class used to being a class. They spend their time on getting to know the kids, helping everyone adjust to being in school again, and basically trying to make sure that the year gets off to a good start.

I’ve been on both sides of the fence, both as a principal and as a private consultant. And no matter what the age, culture, or creed, one thing holds true for almost every situation: never bother the teacher the first week of school unless it’s a medical issue, or a very practical one (like, Jimmie hates to use other people’s bathrooms).

Why, you ask? Well, although it might seem like a great idea to make sure your child’s teacher knows everything there is to know about your child, the last thing a teacher wants is to receive a manual the size of War and Peace.

Lots of instructions=lots of work

I mean think about it. Ever bought a gadget, only to take out an instruction manual thicker than the packaging the thing came in? How did that make you feel? Did that make you feel like running to the nearest table so you could dive right in and start using your expensive, I –bought-it –because-I –really-need-it thingamabob?

Or did you groan, and put it away until you had more time – like maybe during the next power blackout?

Of course it’s important that your child’s teacher know how your child learns best. I’m all for that- heck, that’s what I do (and I absolutely love it too).

But there’s a time and a place for everything. You’ll have plenty of time in a few weeks to tell the teacher all kinds of good (and not so good) stuff. But when that time comes, you’ll want to do it in a way that builds a good relationship with your child’s teacher. That could mean volunteering your time in the classroom, offering to help cut out turkey feathers for 27 turkeys, or simply catching the teacher during a quiet moment.  There are numerous ways to show gain even the most reluctant teacher’s cooperation (I’ll be writing a post about it in a week or so, so keep your head up).

But for now, take a deep breath, and have a little faith that things will go okay.

And if you absolutely must let the teacher know some important bit of info, jot down a quick note to the teacher. Start off with a friendly greeting and end off with a wish for a great year, and keep the middle short, sweet, and to the point.

And hey, look on the bright side: now your kids won’t have to steal your good printer paper to color on.

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Parenting children

Facing the First Day of School As a Parent of a Child With Special Needs

I can't believe another year is beginning.

I guess if I were like some parents of neurotypical children, I'd be a bit worried about the new school year. Perhaps concerned over whether Cassie or Carson will have an easier time of making friends this year. Dreading math - this year is times tables and that's sure to be hard for Jani.

But since I'm the mom of 3 very definitely atypical children, the new school year brings more than its share of dread and worry along with the sharpened no. 2 pencils and colorful new backpacks:

C. is supposed to start first grade next year. Can she handle it? She often doesn't understand what the teacher says during story time: how will she manage when the teacher explains a whole new unit? But she can't do a "developmental kindergarten": there would be nothing for her to gain there.

And S. will start learning his letters this year in earnest. I know he'll have trouble, and I know why. Unfortunately I've been so busy with life, I haven't been able to do everything I want to do to bring him up to par.

And Y.? He'll be starting junior high. On the one hand he feels proud of himself for having made it this far in one piece. He's in a special program geared to boys with reading issues like himself, and so this year he has a level playing field.  But will it really help him? Will the staff really feel driven to make sure he goes as far as he should?

And for all of them: a year where we as parents will need to step up to the plate, not just once or twice, but constantly. Advocating for your child is a full-time job, even if you're lucky to have sympathetic staff. It can get tiring sometimes.

So at first glance, the new school year seems as bright and cheery and hopeful as a brand new copper penny: looks all nice and fancy in it's paper wrapping but...it isn't worth much.

Key word here though folks, is seems.

Yeah bob, I could choose to look at everything with a jaundiced eye, expecting the worse just to keep myself from losing the best. No one would blame me at all if I sat on my backside and complained about how hard things are.

But I'm not going to give in to that.

I'm going to think about a little girl who at four and a half, was not much more advanced than my neighbor's 18 month old. That little girl - bless her - worked her buns off, and a year and a half later is now a healthy, happy kindergartner who can talk in full sentences, knows all of her letters, and isn't afraid of flies zooming around when she goes to the bathroom.

I'm going to picture in my head the little boy who even I couldn't understand about 80% of the time. Now that same  boy is so determined to be understood, and so wittily eloquent, that he can hold his own.

And last but not least, I'll stand by - for once - and let my teenager handle the bumps and bruises and heartachingly exciting moments of junior high.


Because I refuse to focus on failure. I am absolutely unwilling to define my future by the tragedies of the past.

The days of looking for miracles, cures, or changeling children are long gone. Instead, my goal - and I hope yours will be too - is to keep putting one foot forward, and then one more, day in and day out.

I know we'll get there. Eventually.





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School Tips

Parenting Children: 3 Tips On How to Help Your Special Needs Child Get Ready for School (Painlessly)

Are you ready yet for the first day of school?

You may have already invested in half of the school supplies in Walmart, picked out an entire wardrobe of back-to-school clothing, and be waiting with baited breath for the sound of the school bus, but is your child ready?

Often we forget in the rush of buying school supplies that our children need time to prepare for school as well. Remember those days as a kid when the summer seemed to stretch on forever? Imagine how your child feels when he's suddenly hit with long rides on the school bus, homework, and lots of new faces.

In fact, some of the difficulty I see from parents who are panicking because their child seems to be drowning the first week of school, is often because they failed to take the time to help their transition from free spirit to school slave.

Here are some tips you can use to help your child make a smooth transition from summer to the first day of school:

1) Help your child get used to waking up on time.

If you're like most parents, your child has spent numerous nights jamming on the couch, and more mornings than you'd care to admit buried deep under the covers well past 8 o'clock.

While I'll be the first to admit that's the whole point of vacation, it does nothing to help your child when he suddenly has to readjust his body clockwork and get up at some previously unheard of hour.

Overtired children make for grumpy, uncooperative offspring, and unpleasant -but avoidable - morning fights. This period is especially difficult for children with special needs, who often have a desperate need for sameness, and avoid change like the plague.

You can avoid all of that by helping your child to reset their internal clock.

Your child's internal clock will need at least a week to adjust to a new schedule. Help your child get into the groove by slowly moving her bedtime back about 15 minutes, and pushing up the time she wakes up by 15 minutes.

For example, if your child has been going to bed at 9:30 p.m., the first night you need to set bedtime at 9:15. If your child has been waking up around 9 in the morning, then wake them up at 8:45 a.m.

Your child should arrive at the appropriate bedtime in a few days.

2) Get your child used to doing homework again.

Ahh, homework. It's definitely the bane of many parents. I personally can't tell you how many times I wished the teacher would die a thousand homework deaths for giving homework that took hours, or just couldn't be done. (Okay, maybe I didn't wish they were actually dead - just temporarily incapacitated).

But since most of the time homework has to be done, you need to get your child back in the habit of giving up his precious  free time to sit at the table and do boring, useless, homework. (You do know homework has been proven absolutely useless, don't you? Take a look at what Alfie Kohn says about the matter).

Forget about all the speeches about how doing homework prepares you for life and good citizenship. They weren't very convincing when your boss asked you to take some work home, now were they?

Instead, simply tell your child exactly what your plan is. Then set aside 10 minutes or so of table time where he needs to do some sort of work that you assign him.

You can find plenty of stuff online of course, and there's no need to go out of your way to make things especially boring. And while you're at it, take a look at this post on the 7 Effective Study Habits for Children with LD.

You could spend some time doing some hands on learning, or you could simply take that time to read or write a story with your child. Either way, make it clear to your child how long the session will last.

Build in a minor reward, like choosing an extra story at bedtime, or getting to use the bubbles for her bath. You can gradually wean her off of the incentive after a few days.

3) Make sure your child's backpack and notebooks are set up for success.

First of all, make sure you have exactly what you need. Parents sometimes have this habit of assuming it won't really matter if the crayons are the 32 pack instead of the 16 color.

But it really does. Sometimes there actually are some really good reasons why teachers say exactly those materials, in that quantity, from X company.

School is already hard enough without your child having to worry if the teacher will be mad at him because he didn't bring exactly what's on the list. So just do your child a favor: if you can afford it, just swallow and put it in the cart.

It's also important to make sure your child's notebooks, workbooks, and textbooks are easily locatable, and organized so that your child doesn't leave critical material at school. Here's a practical post on how to do that: Help Your ADHD Child Organize Her Backpack.

Have a question or a comment? Love to hear from you below!



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