Friday, August 23, 2013

Eight Goals for Making the School Year a Great One

Are you ready for the school year? Desert Boy has been in school for over a week, and I still don't feel quite ready!

Thinking about the school year ahead made me realize that this may be a really good time to make some goals as a parent. Writing them down makes me feel more accountable (which is why I shared my New Year's Resolutions and check in on them periodically.)

Here are some of our goals. I hope you'll leave yours in the comments, as we're still new to this school business, with Desert Boy only in first grade, and it's so helpful to find out what works for other people.

Goals for making the school year a great one

1. Get homework done right away. Desert Boy brings homework home Monday through Thursday, and if we don't get to it right away, it gets forgotten. Like last night. Then he scrambled to get it done this morning while he was waking up and trying to eat his breakfast and telling me what he wanted in his lunch. It wasn't pretty. So we are working to do better. Organization means happier students and parents!

2. Healthy food = healthy mind. Some of the most common artificial food colorings have been shown to cause hyperactivity in kids. Caramel coloring may cause cancer. Too much sugar can cause diabetes and other problems. Yet huge food companies entice us with their advertising to buy their unhealthy but attractively packaged products. This year I'm fighting back, trying to pack as healthy of lunches as possible. Homemade soups (check out the ingredients on Campbell's soups and you may be surprised to find MSG a regular ingredient, as well as caramel coloring!), healthy leftovers from dinner the night before, peanut butter and homemade jam sweetened with juice or honey, lots of fruits and veggies, popcorn, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, healthy muffins (which can be frozen), and frozen smoothies are making their way into the lunchbox. My son is delighted. We've found some reusable Bugsella sandwich/snack holders to cut back on plastic bags, use silicon popsicle and cupcake holders, and try to limit the trash that each lunch creates. Basically it's going old-school--not so different from when I was a kid! Hopefully all this good food will mean that he will keep up a healthy energy level during school.

3. Outside time everyday. Kids spend most of their time indoors at school, and even with outside recess time, they need some more outside time. Sometimes I have to demand that my children go outside because they've gotten enthralled with some game (or often the computer--see next goal!). Once they're outside, magic happens, every time. They find something to do. Suddenly sticks and rocks take on a whole new face, and they're being creative. Outside times equal rejuvenation of the body, mind, and spirit, and more willingness to learn once they're back in the classroom.

4. Limit screen time. I never realized how hard it would be to pull my kids away from the computer and TV screen. We rarely watch TV, but even so, the combined time of being in front a screen is amazing. We've just instituted a new system. Desert Boy can earn a token worth 15 minutes of screen time for doing various chores. Simple ones like straightening his room, vacuuming or sweeping a room, or emptying the dishwasher are worth one token. More complex ones are worth more. He can earn as many tokens as he wants in a day, but can only redeem up to four per day. He's grumbled occasionally, but overall it's been a win-win. The house is slightly cleaner, and his time is reduced on the computer. We'll have to see if this system works for the long term. Having him learn to take more responsibility and manage his time should be invaluable lessons as he continues in school.

5. Homeschool. I don't homeschool in the traditional sense. I enjoy working part-time outside the house, and I really don't feel like I have the patience or education to give my children the quality of education they receive at the local public school. However, I do homeschool after school and on the weekends. We are always looking for ways to reinforce what Desert Boy learns at school and to enhance his learning on subjects outside the curriculum. (Check out our science experiment series!) We especially try to take advantage of special programs, concerts, and trips.
One of our fun science experiments--this one stuck in our
memories due to the potential mess factor!
6. Spend at least two hours a month in the classroom. Throughout Desert Boy's kindergarten year, I had this same goal, and it was amazing how much I learned about class dynamics and how kids learn by spending a little time in the classroom each month. I would like to spend even more time, but the teacher assured me that even this limited contribution was really appreciated. My son got really excited when it was one of my days to come visit the school, and that helped him like it even better.

7. Be encouraging. It's amazing how a few kind words, a smile, or a hug can improve someone's day. We can make our kids feel better after a tough day at school, show them by being a role model that sometimes it takes awhile to learn a hard concept, and encourage them to do their best.

8. Savor the moment. Do you take a first-day of school photo and then wonder how the kids have grown so much in the last year? Sometimes it can be hard to slow down and just live in the moment. I know I struggle with it almost daily. However, that's one of the most rewarding challenges. Kids are having little "ah-ha" moments every day, when something suddenly makes sense and they understand another little part of the world. Being there for that or hearing about it on the day it happened is something you don't want to miss.
What else helps you have a great school year?

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