I can’t believe the new school year is here already! Have your kids started back yet? As moms, I know we all want the best for our kids. And we want them to succeed and do their ABSOLUTE best in school, whatever THEIR best is. There are some things we, as parents, can do to help set them up for success. So keep reading for 12 habits and tips for school success that you can start incorporating with your little ones today!
I’ve been an elementary teacher in the classroom for 10 years, but just made the tough decision to take a break from the classroom and become a stay-at-home mommy. I’m so excited and grateful for this opportunity to spend more time with my kiddos!
Being a teacher, I’ve learned a thing or two about what parents can do to help their kids be successful in school. And my “teacher self” is giving my “mommy self” some advice. 🙂 Hopefully these tips will be helpful to you as well!
(2021 update here – We started homeschooling, and we’re loving it! Many of these tips are ones that can still be applied to homeschool. If you want to find out how our first year went and 10 lessons I learned my first year of homeschooling – check out this post. If you’re considering homeschooling in the future – definitely read it! Hopefully it will help making the decision a little easier!)
I know from observation and experience that home life has SO much to do with students’ success in school. Setting up routines at home and engaging positively with your child and the teacher will really help them do well. So read on for my 12 tips for helping your child do their best in school!
12 Tips for School Success
1. Get Enough Sleep
This is so important! According to WebMD, children 3-6 years old should be getting 10-12 hours of sleep a night, children 7-12 should get 10-11 hours of sleep, and children 12-18 should get 8-9 hours of sleep.
I understand that families have busy schedules. Last school year, we wouldn’t get home until after 6:00 pm some days after my work day and then picking both boys up from different locations. Trying to cook supper, eat, clean up, give the boys a bath, do any homework, spend some time with the boys before bed, AND get them to bed at their 8:00 bed time was tough and didn’t always happen. And their 8:00 bedtime was in order for them to get the MINIMUM 10 hours of sleep.
We shoot for allowing them to get at least the minimum amount. When they don’t get their 10 hours, it shows. They’re grumpy in the morning, slow-moving, and sometimes even fall asleep in the car. They really do best on 11 hours of sleep.
As a teacher, I could tell a huge difference when kids didn’t get enough sleep. Several times I had some kids fall asleep in class after they stayed up late the night before playing video games or watching tv. Or they were just so tired they couldn’t focus. And when they’re falling asleep or not able to focus, there’s no learning going on!
Getting enough sleep is so important because:
- It is the time when children’s bodies grow.
- It is when our immune system fights sicknesses and stress.
- Sleep promotes better moods.
- Sleep promotes longer attention spans.
- It helps our brain function optimally and retain information.
- Poor sleep habits can cause an increase in the hormone cortisol and can lead to obesity.
So, even if it doesn’t happen every single night, do your best to make getting enough sleep a priority for your kids.
2. Set a Relaxed Wake Up Routine
Another way to ensure your kids have a successful day of school, is by starting the day on the right track. And that starts with you!
Wake Up on Time
I believe that it’s the parents responsibility to wake up early enough to ensure the kids are ready for school on time. I understand that we want our children to be responsible and independent. But we’ve got to make sure they get to school on time and don’t miss any important learning! Even if you have older kids that wake up to an alarm, you can still check on them to make sure they are getting up when the alarm goes off.
I shoot for waking up an hour before my kids to get myself ready and make myself a cup of coffee. This is the one that I struggle with the most, because I am NOT naturally an early bird. When I hit my snooze button several times, it does not make for a very relaxed morning. So I am definitely working on this one!
Do your best to wake up on time. Have a cup of coffee, spend time in prayer, do your workout, or get your self ready BEFORE waking the kids up.
Wake Your Kids Up Calmly
When you wake them up, or check to make sure they woke up, do it in a calm, quiet voice. I know I wouldn’t want to be in a dead sleep and then all the sudden hear, “Wake Up!” real loud. I’d be pretty grumpy.
Open their blinds to let some natural light in (assuming the sun is already out!). Play a little quiet music. Start cooking breakfast and let the yummy smells waft into their rooms.
Have a Relaxed Routine
Try not to run around and shout to your kids “Hurry up! Get dressed!” If you’re stressed about them getting ready and getting to school on time, they will be stressed too. They will feed off of your attitude. And they WILL bring it into the classroom with them. Trust me, what happens in the morning can stay with your child throughout the WHOLE day.
Before bed, share with your child the expectations for them in the morning. Make it a routine. Do the same thing everyday so they know what they need to do when they wake up.
Make sure you allow for plenty of time for your kids to wake up all the way, get ready, and eat a good breakfast. Even though it only takes about 5 minutes for them to get dressed, I wake my boys up 45 minutes before we need to leave.
Leave on Time
If you drive your kids to school, leave BEFORE you absolutely have to, because there’s always tons of traffic in the morning. It normally takes 15 minutes to get to Jackson’s school, but because of all the buses and extra morning traffic, I allow for 25 minutes.
3. Make a Healthy Breakfast
Another way to help your child have a successful day, is to fix them a good, healthy breakfast. Food is fuel. Give them something that will HELP them think and give them energy, not hinder them from learning.
Sugar-loaded foods like Fruity Pebbles, cinnamon rolls, or donuts are NOT healthy breakfasts. Sugar causes a spike of energy, and then brings them crashing down. That can prohibit them from being able to focus in school, among other harmful things sugar can do.
Choose foods that have protein, complex carbohydrates (think potatoes, bananas, or real oats-not the little packets), fiber, healthy fat (like eggs, avocado, and nuts), and natural sugar (like fruits and honey).
My boys LOVE oatmeal with peanut butter, a little honey or maple syrup, and blueberries. They would that everyday if I let them. They also like scrambled eggs and bacon, smoothies, or gluten-free pancakes (I make those ahead on the weekends sometimes.)
4. Pack a Healthy Lunch
To keep them going strong throughout the second half of the day, it’s important to pack them a nutritious lunch. You can’t really count on healthy options from the cafeteria most of the time (or for your kids to CHOOSE the healthy options!). At my sons’ school, they have lunch specials a few times a week, which are usually Zaxby’s chicken and pizza. I don’t consider those healthy foods by any stretch of the imagination. Those are not foods that will provide nutrition and fuel to keep him healthy, sustain his energy, and help him think clearly. We pack a lunch, and I let him get the special lunch as a treat about twice a month.
Try not to pack chips, crackers, and cookies for your kids (that’s what was in some of my students’ lunches – and that’s it). They need protein – meat, eggs, or nuts. They need fruits and vegetables that are full of fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients. Chips, crackers, and cookies are void of nutrition and full of sugar! (This is definitely my soapbox, if you can’t tell.)
Check out this video where I share several healthy lunch ideas for your kids!
And I recommend packing that healthy lunch the night before. It’s most likely not going to be a relaxing morning, if you’re scrambling trying to figure out what to put in your kids’ lunch boxes last minute. I packed Jackson’s lunch for him while I cooked supper last year. About half way through the year, he started packing his own lunch box (with me checking to make sure he packed at least 1 vegetable, 1 fruit, and 1 source of protein).
A great way to help teach your kids cooking skills is by having them take the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse. My boys are in the midst of the course right now, and they are loving it! It teaches them how to make real, heathy food themselves! So packing lunches can be one less thing for you to have to do.
5. Stay Organized
If your child has a homework folder or binder, make sure you check it each afternoon. Again, it’s important that you have a routine in place. Jackson knows that as soon as we get home, he needs to take everything to his room, unpack his book bag, bring me his homework binder, get his outfit ready for the next day, and make his lunch. He was 5 and then 6 last school year, guys! And this just took a few weeks of teaching him the routine, and then he had no problem with it. He loved it! He got to be independent and choose what he wanted for lunch (within the parameters we set) and what he wanted to wear for school (They have a uniform; so it’s just a matter of picking out which color shirt to wear.).
I recommend checking your kids’ folders or binders when they get home. Don’t wait until the morning as you’re about to walk out the door. Just my luck, I’d do that and there’d be a project they were supposed to do that night.
Sign any papers that need to be signed, read any notes from the teacher (she writes them for a reason!), and pay any fees due as soon as you get them. Plan on spending the first 15 minutes after your kids get home just to check folders. Have a folder or a file in your filing cabinet to keep important papers from school that you can look back on as needed.
6. Help with Homework
Even though it is your KIDS’ homework, it is the parents responsibility to make sure that your kids do their homework. After your kids unpack, let them have a little snack, and then go ahead and do their homework right away, BEFORE playing or watching TV. That way it’s out of the way and they can play afterwards.
Try to have the right balance on this one. We shouldn’t do our kids’ homework for them, but we also don’t want to ignore their homework. Read their planner to see what they need to do, make sure they do it, and check it over to see that they did it correctly.
As a parent of a rising First grader, I spend more time working with him on homework now than I will when he’s in high school. He’s learning how to read now. So I’m spending time listening to him read and helping him when needed. I’m also reading the directions to him on any papers he has to do.
If you know your child is struggling in an area, spend a little extra time working on that area, even if it’s not exactly homework. For example, if your child is having trouble remembering sight words, make flashcards and practice them with him daily. If your child is having trouble adding, have her come to the kitchen while you’re cooking dinner and practice adding groups of carrots.
7. Read with Them
Besides assisting them with reading homework, spend time reading with your kids for fun too. Make it a routine to read stories that your kids LOVE and that THEY CHOOSE before bed. Make reading an enjoyable thing for them. If you have older kids, you can read a chapter or two of chapter books together. Or even just read books you love in front of them, so they see that reading is a fun, enjoyable thing.
8. Let Them Be Active
It is important to give your child a chance to be active after school. That way they’re not being too active during school. Your child has PE class or recess, and I’m sure the teacher is giving him or her opportunities to move during class. But, that’s probably not enough.
Encourage them to be active by putting them in a sport that they like, letting them take karate class, or having them go outside and run around. Or be more active as a family. Play basketball together, have Nerf gun wars, or play capture the flag (can you tell I’m a boy mom?).
Allowing your kids to sit for hours playing video games or watching TV is not going to help them focus during school. They need to let out all that energy they have!
9. Pick Out Outfits the Night Before
This is a simple thing you can do to save some stress in the mornings. Part of our routine when we get home is putting our things away and getting outfits out for the next day. At first I would pick Jackson’s outfits out for him, then I showed him how to get his own outfit out, and now he does it on his own. Now, if something doesn’t match, I’ll let him know and try to convince him to change it (because blue shoes, black pants, and a brown belt don’t EXACTLY go together.)
He lays everything out on his dresser the night before. That way there’s no stressing over what to wear or scrambling around trying to find clean pants when it’s time to go.
10. Have a Positive Attitude
Parents having a positive attitude about school helps SO much! If parents have a poor attitude and talk down about school, homework, or the teacher, the child will for sure pick up on it and have the same attitude. And if they have a poor attitude, they’re not going to try their best. Whether you agree with something the teacher or the school is doing or not, be positive around your child. You can always write a note, call, or email the teacher with your concerns.
Be encouraging to your child and make going to school an exciting thing for them!
11. Talk about School
This goes right along with #10. A way to be positive is by talking about school. When you pick your kids up from school, or when they get off the bus, talk to them about their day. Ask them what their favorite thing is that they did, something they learned, or even something they had a hard time with. Ask them about their friends at school and who they sat by at lunch. Show that you are interested in them and what goes on with them at school.
If your kid is anything like mine, when you ask them what they learned at school, the answer is probably going to be, “I don’t know” or “nothing.” We remind Jackson in the morning – “We’re going to ask you what you learned about after school. So make sure you pay attention and think of something you can share with us later.” When I give him reminders, he’s usually able to tell me SOMETHING at the end of the day.
12. Communicate with the Teacher
Another big way to help your kids succeed in school is to have open communication with the teacher. Most teachers now use apps to share announcements and send messages to parents. If you have questions or concerns, ask the teacher. She or he is happy to help do whatever they need to help your child succeed.
Make sure to go to the parent-teacher conferences when they’re scheduled. Ask the teacher if there’s any area your child is struggling in. The teacher can give you recommendations for any additional things you can do at home to help your child succeed.
I hope you find these 12 tips for school success were helpful to you! And I hope your kids have an awesome year of school! Let me know any other tips you have for setting routines and helping your child have a successful school year.