Friday, August 13, 2010

11 Tips to Begin the School Year

We always tell our kids to start the school year off right. We give them tips on how to impress teachers, how to be prepared, how to get organized, etc. But, we need to think about how we parents can start the school year off right, too.

Here are 11 of my tips for parents:

1. Don’t over schedule your children. Benefits: you save money, get more time at home as a family and are generally less stressed out when you’re not driving your kids around after school running from one activity to the next.

2. Don’t sign your child up for academic tutoring unless he/she is in jeopardy of failing a class. (i.e., don’t pay for a tutor to boost a “C” or “B” to an “A”.) Benefits: same as in #1 and you are sending the message to your child that he/she is fine the way he/she is. You will trust the teachers to do their jobs. They will get a better indication of your child’s ability if your child isn’t getting extra outside help (this includes helps from you, too).

3. Don’t ask your kids about grades, test scores or homework too often. Instead, focus on the content of the subject. (Instead of “What did you get on the test?” say, “What are you learning in science?” Benefits: you are teaching them to take ownership of their own schedules. You are letting them manage their own time. You are taking the focus off scores and putting it on learning. You are alleviating stress in their lives.

4. If you are connected to an electronic school communication tool (like "School Loop") don't look at homework assignments and grades daily. Benefits: Same as in #3 and you will not be as stressed out if you don't micromanage your child's work or be overly concerned about his/her grades. Many parents call it "School Snoop" for good reason.

5. Give your kids at least an hour of down time after school. Benefits: they will be more cooperative and happy if they can de-stress and “chill out” after spending 7 hours at school.

6. Have your child do daily or weekly chores – lawn mowing, sweeping, cleaning toilets, vacuuming, taking care of the family pets, planning, preparing, cooking and cleaning up after meals. Benefits: you will be less stressed because you will have more help around the house, your child will learn about the responsibility of being part of a family.

7. Don’t yell at your kids during homework time; you are not the homework enforcer. If they spend more that 10 minutes a night per grade level, email or talk to the teacher. (ie., 10 minutes/night in 1st grade, 40 minutes/night in 4th grade, etc.) Benefits: you will get along with your kids better. Your kids will see that you value family time over work time. Your kids will have more balance in their lives.

8. Don’t go to every scheduled sports game or extracurricular activity of your child’s. Benefits: your child will be participating for the love of the game or of the activity, not to earn your approval.

9. Encourage unstructured outside neighborhood activities after school - a walk, a bike ride, hide-n-seek, skateboarding, picking flowers, building something, drawing on the sidewalk with chalk, etc. Benefits: your child will get exercise and use his/her imagination. Your child might meet friends in the neighborhood. You will be less stressed because you won’t be driving him/her somewhere. You will use less gas and that’s good for the environment!

10. Don’t use rewards and punishments with regard to school and sports. Benefits: the focus shifts from seeing our children as performers to seeing them as people.

11. Let your children fail. Think of the slogan "Fail to Succeed." In other words, they must make failed attempts at tasks before they can succeed. Benefits: they will make discoveries on their own.


  1. Thanks Kerry! I am very worried about my child starting 9th grade. I think I am more stressed than he is! I want him to take ownership of his work this year but it is so difficult to let them feel failure. It is an almost impossible fear to stay out of the school grade rat race! Debra W.

  2. I love this advice! Both as a parent and as a 7th grade science teacher and inveterate reader of edubabble :-). Oh and a master's thesis on the efficacy of homework. I'll be linking to your blog on my blog roll at Keep it coming, Kerry.

  3. Kerry, I responded to this post on my blog:

  4. Great article, thanks for the tips!