The start of a new school year can bring with it many uncertainties, as you and your child prepare to tackle fresh challenges from new teachers and new classmates to new subject combinations, new co-curricular commitments, and for some, even new schools.
Dealing with all these changes can seem overwhelming, but with the right mindset and game plan you and your child will be able to turn uncertainty into opportunity. Here are 5 ways your child can hit the ground running within the first term.
1. Get Organised Early
Whether it’s your first child entering Primary 1 or your third entering Secondary 4, the value of getting organised early each school year never changes.
The expectations from teachers may differ, but your child will invariably need files, textbooks, notebooks and stationery from the first day of school, and the earlier you make sure they have what they need and can find what they need, the better.
Secondly, you should also set up your child’s weekly schedule as soon as possible, once you have a clearer idea of what their school commitments are like. This helps your child settle into a routine and adjust to changes faster, allowing them to turn their focus to excelling in their schoolwork.
Discuss and agree on dedicated study times with your child, for example, or where the little but still important things such as bed-time and chores fit in during the week. Most students eventually fall into a regular schedule anyway, but the earlier your child does so, the bigger the advantage he or she will have.
2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
As parents, you will need to be alert to any bumps on the road in the early going, and one of the best ways to discover these bumps is to check in regularly with your child, and to get on the same page with your child’s teachers.
Your child may be experiencing difficulty with adjusting to some aspect of school that they are afraid to tell you about, and by communicating with them you could be able to nip the problem in the bud early.
It’s also important to understand what your child’s teachers require of him or her in the classroom so you can help your child succeed. Take the time to go over the instructions, frameworks or syllabus outlines your child will receive in the first week of school.
But good communication does not mean that you have to breathe down your child’s neck at every moment, or you just might find yourself adding to their first-term worries instead.
3. Build Good Habits
The beginning of the school year is also the best time to set the tone and build a strong foundation where good habits are concerned, before the workload really starts to pile up for your child.
Get your child started on his or her filing system for the respective subjects, so that they are comfortable with organising their worksheets and notes. It’s also a good idea to get your child into the habit of regularly reviewing their homework and lesson material, as consistent work is the key to success.
Nurture an inquisitive and curious mindset in your child by encouraging them to explore beyond the confines of their textbooks. As the saying goes: waste time now to save time later, the time you spend guiding your child will give you manifold returns in the long run.
4. Set Realistic Goals
Everyone has come up with fanciful New Year’s resolutions at some point, only for those lofty goals to never come to fruition.
Setting goals is important for your child at the start of the school year, but you will want them to be working towards realistic goals that they can actually reach.
As a start, look back on how your child fared in school for the year just past. Are there areas that they need to work on, and that could be increasing in difficulty for the new school year?
It might not be wise to shoot for a dramatic improvement if so, especially if you do not have a plan yet as to how that improvement could be achieved.
It’s a good idea as well to have a combination of “hard” and “soft” goals for your child’s holistic development — “hard” goals are results-oriented and based on a target score or grade, while “soft” goals could involve acquiring a new skill or good habit.
Again, communication with your child is important so that both of you are comfortable with the targets set and can work to achieve them as a team.
5. Maintain a Balance Between Work and Play
Finally, don’t forget to leave some space and time for you and your child to kick back and relax in the midst of all the preparation and activity.
Yes, getting off to a good start is important, but it’s another thing altogether to overreact and worry too much.
Remember, the school year is all about playing the long game, and you do not want your child to burn out too early.
Deliberately schedule downtime, periods when nothing is planned, put away the notes and the homework, and do the first fun thing that comes to mind. Or plan a family outing during the weekend to get out of the house and decompress.
Making the Most of the Beginning of the School Year
The start of a new school year need not be a stressful time even as you and your child come to grips with all the myriad changes. Adequate preparation and getting into the appropriate mindset can go a long way to ensuring a smooth take-off for your child.
At The Learning Lab, we work towards making sure your child is prepared for whatever the school year might throw at them, through a combination of targeted classroom learning and the inculcation of key skills such as critical thinking.
Click here to find out more about how our programmes can equip your child with the right tools in conquering this new academic year.