Back to School 2010: Back to Basics
August 9th, 2010 - Filed under: Cover Story
Some things about “back to school” time haven’t changed much over the years. We still have to get school supplies, pack lunches, deal with a new teacher and (ugh!) get back into that morning routine. To ease the transition, UA faculty experts offer tips and insights about the fundamentals of starting a new school year. See more, including faculty videos, at http://www.ua.edu/features/backtoschool10.
Avoiding the Back-to-School Stress Mess
Most parents and students focus on time management as one of the keys to academic success. But managing stress is just as important, according to Michelle Harcrow, assistant director of health promotion and wellness.
“A student [should] have a general plan for each semester that includes their schedule of classes, mealtime, exercise, study time per class, extracurricular involvement, work plans and any major travel,” Harcrow says. “Then, use a semester-based planner to lay out the major responsibilities each week.”
Once a plan is in place, Harcrow recommends the following steps to help achieve goals set for the year:
• Prioritize and balance school assignments, work and social life.
• Set realistic goals that you can accomplish in a timely manner.
• Celebrate your accomplishments with healthy rewards (a movie, dinner, a new game).
• Build rest time into your schedule, including at least seven hours of nightly sleep.
• Choose healthy foods, including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Limit fast foods and excessive sweets.
Back to the School Routine
After a summer off, it’s always difficult for kids and their parents to get back into the school routine. Dr. Carol Donovan and Dr. Diane Sekeres of the College of Education offer these tips for getting organized:
• Create a list of “to do” items to ready your child for school.
• Plan when you will shop for supplies as well as purchase new shoes and clothes.
• Set up a place for your child’s school supplies — preferably the same location where he or she will do homework.
• If your child will attend a new school, visit and meet the administration and office staff.
• Practice getting up and preparing for school on time.
• Establish rules for waiting at the bus stop and coming home after school.
Teaching Money Management Skills
Jan Brakefield, assistant professor of consumer sciences, is a certified financial planner and creator of Camp Cash, a two-week summer program that teaches fiscal responsibility to middle-school students. She shares tips for raising children who know how and when (or when not) to spend.
• Teach the No. 1 rule: Pay yourself first. Save 10 to 20 percent of money earned or received as gifts.
• Help kids avoid impulse spending. For example, assign them partial responsibility for creating the weekly grocery list, give them a budget and use grocery ads as a resource.
• Teach the concept of buyer’s remorse. Ask your child to explain why she does not use items that she desperately wanted (needed!) two months ago.
• Before making a major household purchase, ask kids to make a list of pros and cons. Sleep on every major purchase — leave the store and discuss it with the entire family.
• Hold a family meeting to decide on vacations, Christmas expenditures and more. Come to an agreement, set goals and discuss steps to achieve them.
• Teach kids the advantages of delaying gratification. Give them a certain amount of money, and if they still have it all after two weeks, double it.
• Model responsible spending to your kids. They’ll follow your example, so make sure it is a good one.
Healthy School Lunches
Suzanne Henson, assistant professor and director of UA’s Coordinated Program in Dietetics, offers tips on packing school lunches loaded with flavor and nutritional value.
• Depending on their age, children can shop for, clean, peel or cut up fruits and vegetables. If they feel invested in their lunch, they’re more likely to eat it.
• Don’t force children to eat certain foods — avoid mealtime and food battles.
• “Go for color” is still great advice. Colorful fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals.
• If you have a child with a food intolerance or sensitivity, always check the ingredient list of a product. Reading the ingredient list also helps us understand what we are eating.
• Shop for food when you and the children are not hungry. You’re less likely to fill the cart with unplanned purchases.
• Be aware of how companies market food to children. Something as simple as the foods a child sees at eye level from a grocery cart can affect his or her preferences.
Homework should not be a battle. Sekeres offers parents these steps to encourage kids to take responsibility for their homework assignments.
• Set aside a special place for homework, such as a desk or a spot at the kitchen or dining room table, and a regular time for it.
• Turn off radios and televisions while your child studies.
• Check your child’s planner or schedule every day and her work when it is complete.
• Check over graded work with your child and help him correct errors and celebrate accomplishments.
• Set aside times to work on projects so that they are not done at the last minute.
• Let your child do her own work, but be supportive with help as needed.
• Send the teacher a note if you realize your child has specific difficulties with work.
What Teachers Wish You Knew
Parents, pull up a chair: According to Sekeres, here’s how to help your kids do their very best at school.
• Your child needs your support and encouragement to learn. The teacher, the child and the parent are all equally important in terms of attention to learning.
• Checking daily that your child has completed assignments and returns them to school is vital.
• Planning ahead for projects will help your child learn to organize time and tasks.
• Occasional encouragement for the teacher helps the lines of communication stay open.
• Check with the teacher to find out what she or he knows before you complain about an incident that your child relates to you.
• Visit the classroom, eat lunch with your child, volunteer to help or teach the children about a topic you know well.
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