The First Six Weeks of School; Parent’s Support in Setting the Tone with Joy, Curiosity and Connection (Part Two)

Last week, we began taking a look at how the first six weeks of school can set the tone for the school year and how families can play a role in that transition. We examined bringing our open minds and hearts to school events, looking to make genuine connections with others in our school community, modeling introductions to others to practice with our children, spying and articulating the discovery of treasures, or inner strengths, in our children that are emerging and the treasures of the school as well through the teaching staff or many other individuals who are a key part of the school community. 

This week, we’ll take a look at next steps for setting the tone for the school year. Some learning takes place at school but there is plenty of learning that will need to take place at home whether formally through homework and studying or informally through reflections on our school days. In these early weeks, perhaps the intensity of the work is low (and you know it will rise in the weeks to come). This offers us some space to ensure that you and your family are not only physically prepared for the work to come, but you’re building connections as a family to the learning to help inspire and motivate your child in engaging in the work ahead.

Create Conducive Learning Spaces

Take a little time with each child to figure out where they will consistently work each day during homework time. You may or may not have an ideal spot but here are some considerations as you think about designating a homework and learning space. That space will:

  • be quiet during homework time (eliminate noise distractions);
  • contain adequate supplies nearby (pencils, notebooks, outlet for laptop plug-in); 
  • have a clean, cleared off hard surface;
  • be near enough to parent/caregiver that your child can ask questions and gain support when needed; and
  • offer adequate task lighting.

Note this does not have to be an all-the-time dedicated space (a dining table works just fine, for example!)

Reflect on the Coming School Year as a Family

Instead of diving head first into all of the many tasks of the school year, take a moment to lift up and talk about the hopes and dreams of your child and of your family for the school year ahead. Write them down! Use them as an anchor. Find out what your child’s focus is. Maybe they are very interested in making new friends, joining an extracurricular or proving they can achieve academically? Your awareness of those hopes will help you support them throughout the school year.

Ask Big Questions Together

All exploration begins with big questions. And learning, after all, is a big exploration expedition. So take a look as a family together at what your child/children will be studying over the coming year. What subjects are they taking? What big questions can you ask together that may be explored over the year? My son who is a sophomore this year is taking U.S. History. We are so curious as a family to see how this will be taught and where they’ll begin the story. We have lots of questions to lead our family’s exploration and learn from our son’s curriculum. The mystery involved with genuine curiosity is a motivator like no other. You can’t wait to turn the page to find out more! So lead off your year with those big questions (and leave judgments behind) and savor taking steps toward uncovering and discovering the mysteries behind your child’s learning.

Find Opportunities to Play

As adults, we can focus solely on the work to be done very quickly (because often there’s a full load on our plate and then some). But if our children are to become lifelong learners, then there’s important value in seeking the joy in learning and also, in finding the play opportunities and the fun so that their creative, innovative side can have some space. 

The weather right now (where we are anyway, I know some are struggling with difficult weather!) is beautiful. Take advantage and head to the park after school to get out some energy and enjoy! In the dead of winter, that won’t be as possible or likely. Gather classmates together or whole families to enjoy a Fall outing together and get to know one another better. Accomplish both your hopes of making deeper connections with others and seeking fun, play and enjoyment.

Examine your Routines and Make a Plan Together!

Here’s a quick checklist. You might ask yourself, have we created…

_____ well-rehearsed routines with clearly defined responsibilities?

_____ healthy sleeping, eating and hygiene habits?

_____ an organized, well-equipped and calm working environment for each family member?

_____ a plan for sharing and managing big feelings?

_____ a plan for times to connect in a caring, loving way with each/all family members?

For more support on co-creating routines with children that include clearly-defined responsibilities, check out the article “Establishing or Reinventing Home Routines and Responsibilities for Learning Success.

There is never a more ideal time than right now to set an optimistic tone for the school year ahead! Your family’s discussions about the treasures you are finding in your school community and in your children, the hopes you have for the year, the big questions you want to ask about what our children are learning and the play and connection with others will all set a tone of joy in learning. As a lifelong educator, when you boil it down to its essences, this is what it’s all about. Not drudgery. Not a chore to get through. But a family expedition into the unknown with buried treasure to be discovered. May you find that kind of magic this school year!

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