Getting Back to Back to School

Well, its that time again. There is a coolness in the air, and the stores are packed with binders, books, pens, etc. Yup, back to school. After a lovely, long, lazy summer, its time to get back to reality. With reality comes routine and schedules.  Regardless of the age of children, back to school is an adjustment.  As a teacher, and parent, here are some things that I have seen, and done, to make the transition easier.

Firstly, rest. Getting enough sleep is probably the most important thing you can give to a child in school. Children who do not get enough sleep do not function well in school. Want to see a child who is not ADD behave that way? Deprive them of Sleep. They are so busy trying to keep themselves awake that they cannot focus or sit still.  I know I may be getting myself into hot water with this comment, but after 10 years of teaching, I have seen this time and time again, and wish I could ensure all children under the age of ten get to bed by 8:30 every night.   The site WebMD has a great breakdown of how much sleep children need, and why. Many people do not know this, but up until age 12, children should be getting 10 – 11 hours of sleep each night!  So what does this mean for dayhomes? It means being an advocate for the kids and sharing this knowledge with parents.  It also means building in rest, or even nap time, for kids after school. Little ones, ESPECIALLY those starting grade 1, are going to be completely wiped after school for the first few weeks. They are really going to need that rest time built in.

Food.  It is true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. In our house, we call it “gas for your tank”. A breakfast that incorporates protein of some form is even better. Eggs, meats, nuts, dairy products – these are all proteins that will help the kids function better through the day. Protein stays with the body much longer and helps regulate blood sugar levels. At the end of the day, a good snack is also important. Put out fruit and nuts and a glass of milk, or carrot sticks and greek yogurt. If you’ve got kids who come to you for lunch, again, ensure that it is a good healthy, balanced lunch. High in protein and fruits and vegetables, and low in refined carbs is best. In my experience, children who have high carb, high sugar lunches CRASH in the afternoons, and have a really hard time focusing. Remember, healthy does not mean boring!  Bring out tacos for lunch and see what happens :-)!!

Mental prep. It takes some time to make the switch from the long, lazy days of summer to school, schedules, bells, teachers and LOTS of other kids!  Start easing some “school” like activities into your day. Perhaps a story in the morning to get everyone started, a craft before lunch, then off to the park for “recess”. Then maybe a focused learning activity in the afternoon. It doesn’t have to be formal though. What are the kids interested in at the moment? What is current in the news that would be relevant to kids? It could be as simple as going out in the morning and noticing that you can see your breath – then discuss and learn about why that happens!  This will all help the “back to school” a bit less of a shock on their little brains.

Homework. Ugh, the dreaded word. Even as a teacher, I really don’t like homework. However, it is a reality and needs to get done.  Give your school aged children a time and a place to do their homework once they get to you. A table in a quiet corner, and activities to keep the other kids engaged will certainly help. My son is starting grade 1 this year, and I will be trying to stick to the routine of: home from school, snack (a MUST for him), homework, then the rest of the evening is play time, or veg out time, depending on what he needs. Typically kids should only be expected to do ten minutes of homework for each grade they are in. So that means 10 minutes for grade 1 students, and as much as 50 minutes for a grade 5 student. After their allotted time, if they are not done, switch activities for a while to rest their brains, and then either send it home, or have another go at it a little while later. I realize that homework is definitely not the job of the dayhome, but in my experience, my students who could get their homework done in their “after-school care” really appreciated having time and space to do it right away. That way, in the evening, they could have that quality time with their parents or in their extra curricular activities.

If you have school aged children in your care, enjoy the transition. I always love hearing about the exciting things kids have done at school, and you may be the first person they get to tell!  Using the above tips, I hope, will ensure that the transition back to school is a smooth one. Then, once you’ve put the older ones on the bus, grab your cup of coffee and enjoy the little ones still with you.

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