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Back-To-School Tips

This year, for the first time in 18 years, I don’t have anyone going back to school. It feels very strange. Luckily, though, we have some youngsters in our life who are just starting out and it has been fun to “relive” when my children were small.

It just doesn’t seem that long ago that I put the youngest one on the school bus for my last first day of school experience. That mix of excitement and complete horror a mom feels as you watch the school bus doors close to whisk your child off to a new adventure will never be forgotten. By laying a sound foundation of nutrition and sleep along with a strong educational support system for homework, parents are an integral part in ensuring their children succeed in school.

The first step in making the transition to formal education is to ensure the child is relaxed about their trip to school. For rural children the school bus drive can be intimidating. If the child hasn’t already had a school bus orientation it is recommended to try and do one before the first day of school. This is extra important for children without friends or siblings on the bus with them.

We home-schooled our two youngest children from 2003 till 2010 and that was when I learned just how important parental involvement really was in education. That was also when I learned just how many fantastic resources there are out there for parents today that weren’t there when I was a kid. This is very helpful since a lot of curriculum in higher grades is often well above what we learned in high school 20 years ago. This is particularly true of mathematics.

A mistake that our family made when our children were still in public school was not requesting curriculum goals from our classroom teachers. Without them we were blind as to how well our children were progressing in the term. It wasn’t always a happy revelation when mid-term report cards came out. Curriculum goals are established before the school year and if they can be shared with the parents it makes it much easier to ensure that the child is meeting their goals. Parents also need to remember to ask their children daily for worksheets, notes etc. because a lot of them forget.

There are so many students in public schools who need extra help, and teachers’ time is very limited. When a child needs individual help to grasp a concept it is often time for a parent to help. There are volumes of excellent resources available now for parents to teach children, even if it is just homework help needed, than there were years ago. One of my favourites is www.lessonpathways.com. This site is geared towards both teachers and parents of elementary-level students. It is fantastic because everything is researched for you and it is free. A resource I used when our child had a problem with mathematics was the placement tests made by the Saxon textbook company, found at http://www.learningthings.com/articles/saxon-math-placement-test.aspx.

These tests are designed to find your child’s grade level to help you purchase the proper textbook, but can also be used to help pinpoint where they need more help. For example, if a child doesn’t understand the proper way to multiply multiple-digit numbers, that could be the problem holding them back with long division. This information along with the knowledge of the curriculum goals made overcoming the problem fast and easy.

For parents who prefer hard copy over online resources my favourite is http://www.heritageresources.ca/. These books can be very costly, though, so joining a few email newsletters or email groups to help source used books or parents who may be willing to share is a valuable choice. One of my favourites is http://clickschooling.com/. Once a day I receive an email newsletter with an online resource for a specific curriculum area. There have been a lot of virtual tours of how things are made which our whole family enjoys.

Once all the remedial resources are in place the other way parents can ensure a successful school year is to monitor their children receive proper sleep and nutrition.

Our children still complain about how they had an 8 p.m. bedtime till they were teenagers but they also had to get up at 6 a.m. to be ready for the bus. The current recommended sleep time for children is an average of nine hours a day. This can be really hard to do between after-school activities and farm chores. So, a family needs to be organized.

No caffeine-type drinks after 12 p.m. This isn’t only coffee. Many soft drinks contain caffeine so read the labels.

No television, video games or computer activities within 30 minutes of bed. This allows the brain to relax.

Play music softly in the room with the child to drown out sleep-disturbing noises. This helps right through high school for children who are easily distracted from sleep.

To enhance your child’s academic performance, always plan to serve a protein (eggs, cheese, peanut butter or breakfast meats) with the carbohydrate (toast, pancakes, cereals) portion of your breakfasts. This allows the food to digest slower and maintain an even blood sugar level. The child will stay fuller longer. This is really important for the grades when they stop allowing a morning snack. This recipe for Overnight French Toast is an example of a complete meal in one pan that is quick enough for busy school/work day mornings.

OVERNIGHT FRENCH TOAST

1 loaf (1 pound) unsliced cinnamon-raisin bread

5 eggs

2 egg yolks

1 cup half-and-half cream

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon maple flavouring

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups milk

1/4 cup butter, melted

Fresh strawberries OR maple syrup, (optional)

Slice loaf into eight 1-inch slices and arrange in a greased 9×13-inch pan. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, yolks, cream, brown sugar, pie spice and flavourings. Gradually add milk, beating until well blended; pour over bread. Cover and chill overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Drizzle with butter. Bake, uncovered, at 350 F for 45-60 minutes or until a knife inserted near the centre comes out clean. Serve warm; top with strawberries or syrup if desired. Yield: 6-8 servings.

Even though there are no children to send to school every morning, my husband is driving school bus, so I will still get to hear all about the small ones embarking on their first days. My children are thrilled to not have to do school work anymore but I sure do miss them being small.

DebbieChikouskyfarmsatNarcisse,Manitoba.

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