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Back to school time is here. If you’re the main “mover and shaker” of the family and you have the opportunity and the time, do what you can to ease the family into the new schedule. If it has already begun, there are still steps that can be taken to make mornings run smoother and homework run easier.

Goodbye Summer

The rigidity of school schedules is a drastic change from how most of us spend summer. New wake-up times (and bedtimes) are better eased into than thrust upon “cold turkey.” There are various strategies to combat morning madness and a lot of them start the night before. Planning tomorrow’s wardrobe before bed is both a morning time-saver and an opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with your kids. If you set up for breakfast right after you clear away dinner dishes you can gain a few more minutes. Before you shut out the light, try to make sure everything everyone will need for the next morning is available. Are musical instruments, sports bags and backpacks ready to go? Is homework, special projects and library books all together in the same place? And for those with more kids than bathrooms, a schedule for morning use times can help to eliminate “mirror-time meltdowns.”  Most experts urge the creation of a “launch pad,” a specific place in the home where school-related accessories such as backpacks, lunch boxes, sports bags and the like are always kept.

Is Your Homework Finished?

Having a specific time and place where homework is done is also widely promoted as an effective strategy, especially with younger kids who typically need a little more supervision. By now you should have both an after-school and sick-day plan. If possible, try to be home for the first few days of school to help your child ease into the new schedule. If both parents work, it’s important to know what will happen for those hours that your child may be alone. Look for afternoon programs offered by your school, your town, the local YMCA, or religious organization. Getting a call from the school nurse telling you that your child has to come home can set off a mad scramble if you’re not prepared. Be proactive and compile a trusted list of babysitters, relatives, neighbors or friends who you could rely on if and when that call comes.

I Met Your Teacher Last Night

Before long, you will have the opportunity to talk to your child’s teacher, an opportunity you should make the most of. As a parent, your role in the “axis of education,” the partnership of parent, teacher and student, is a vital part of your child’s education. The meeting with the teacher is your opportunity to integrate what happens in the home with what happens in the classroom. Some of the questions you will want to explore could involve topics such as homework assignments, long-term projects, and major exams. Different teachers have different approaches and reasons for homework. In some cases, the process of practicing a new skill may be more important than accuracy. Some will value consistent on-time homework submission more than others. Knowing expectations can help in finding solutions to potential problems before they emerge. With due dates for long-term projects and timing of major exams in hand, plans can be made around family events and routines to minimize the impact to everyone. Be sure to involve your child in these decisions. Taking ownership in a decision makes a child much more likely to go along with it later.

Independence and Responsibility

Following all the suggestions that one reads would seem to lead to a life of unbending routine. Breakfast is this. Lunch will be that. After school will be here. Homework will be done there. Yet, back to school almost always involves a new set of responsibilities that a child has to accept, from learning to spell his or her name to turning in a term paper on time. Nurturing this growing independence while remaining cognizant of the educational aims of the teacher is a job that a parent is uniquely positioned and suited for. An active, involved parent is a student’s greatest asset.