Back to School Tips for Parents

Back to SchoolWow, how is it already the end of July?! Summer sure does fly by fast. Hopefully your child has kept busy with some good summer activities that let him enjoy some time off but also keep his mind and body sharp.

For those of us living in Texas, the school year seems to start much earlier than other places. Usually by mid-August students are preparing for their first day back. Today I want to talk to you, parents, about what you can do now to help ensure a smooth first day back for your student and set him up for a year of academic success.

Whether your student struggles with learning differences or just needs a little extra push to get back into school mode, these 6 tips can help start the school year off on the right foot.

1.  Schedule a Physical

Physicals are often times required for students to attend school, particularly if they participate in athletics. Even if a physical is not required, it’s still a good idea to have your child examined by his pediatrician once a year. Summer provides a great time to do this as scheduling is almost always less demanding during July when you don’t have to balance school and other activities.

If you think your student may have some educational-impacting difficulties, it is also a good idea to discuss this with your pediatrician. Your student may be a good candidate for an evaluation to determine if he has a learning difference such as ADHD, dyslexia, or and auditory processing disability. The sooner you can receive a diagnosis, the quicker you and the school can put some things in place to help remediate his learning difference.

2.  Update/Set Up a 504 or IEP Plan

If your student does have a diagnosed learning difference, it is wise for you to set up a 504 or IEP plan. I have written about 504 and IEP previously, and now is the time to contact your school’s counselor to discuss this if you have not already done so.

A 504 or IEP is designed to give your student the necessary accommodations to allow him to perform to his maximum potential. Also, once your student begins preparing for the SAT or ACT, it will be extremely helpful to have accommodations for these exams. Showing consistent use of accommodations in school is usually required in order to receive accommodations on these standardized tests.

If your student already has a 504 or IEP, it is still a good idea to double check the paperwork and ensure the accommodations given still meet your student’s needs. Furthermore, if your student has undergone a more recent evaluation, you should submit the testing report to your school’s counselor to keep on file.

3.  Review the School Calendar

This is something that often times is overlooked by parents but is really important to helping students succeed. Schools typically have their master calendar posted online sometime during the summer. Key dates to know include:

  • first day of school
  • Back-to-School night
  • major holidays
  • final exam dates
  • ACT/SAT dates
  • AP exam dates

I highly recommend that you review the school calendar and mark any days that you anticipate missing. Every year I meet families who did not realize final exams coincided with a previously scheduled, non-refundable vacation. Setting up alternative times to take those exams is not a good way to end the semester, and the worst case scenario is taking the exams once the break is over when the information is not fresh.

4.  Contact Teachers

I’m a firm believer that knowing each of your student’s teachers goes a long way to helping your student succeed. Back-to-School nights offer a chance to meet your student’s teachers, but there are so many other families trying to do the same. I suggest that you email each of your student’s teachers once you know they are back at school, which will be about 2 weeks before the year starts. Just send a short email introducing yourself and letting the teacher know you are willing to help out with anything he or she may need throughout the year. This quick introduction will give you a leg up on Back-to-School night and an easy way for the teacher to put a face with a name.

5.  Buy School Supplies

No matter how old your student is, he will need various school supplies to start the year. I like to focus on supplies that promote strong organizational skills. Most students should have a filing system and begin using it as soon as the year starts. Filing old papers away will help keep backpacks neat and also give your student a good place to start once it’s time to study for finals.

In addition to supplies, make sure your student has all of the books he will need for the year. If your student tends to lose things or forgets to bring things home, consider buying an extra set of books to keep at home. There’s nothing worse than sitting down to study for tomorrow’s history test only to find your student forgot to bring his book home. Many books are now offered online, so finding them should be relatively easy.

6.  Schedule Tutors

Sometimes it’s difficult to anticipate which tutors your child will need while other times you know for sure you will need a particular tutor. If you are not sure if your student needs a tutor, you can always contact last year’s teachers to ask their recommendation.

Scheduling tutors before the school year starts is important for 2 reasons:

  • the best tutors are usually booked up very early
  • it’s good to have a meeting before school starts to get to know each other

Keep in mind it’s much easier to cancel unnecessary tutoring than it is to schedule emergency tutoring. I suggest setting up sessions at least once a week for any subject you think your student will have difficulty with; you can always cancel if your student doesn’t need the extra help. Also, if your student has diagnosed learning differences, you may consider academic mentoring at least once a week to help with organization and study skill development.

The final weeks of summer are a great time to help your student get set up for a great school year. Anything you can encourage him to set up now will pay off later in the school year.