Horry County Public schools open on August 23. Private schools, pre-schools, and many home school programs also resume at around the same time. While it is easy to focus on the checklists of school supplies, meeting new teachers, and shopping for uniforms, shoes, required doctor visits (in some cases) and other school gear, mental preparation for the first day of school should go to the top of the preparation list.
Whether it is the first day of school, the first day or days at a new school, adjusting to new sleep hours was always a major readiness factor in our house since summer meant days of sleeping in and school meant being at the bus stop before seven in the morning. I would start waking them up a bit earlier each day for two weeks.
The first day of school was fraught with anxiety for one of my children and a day of great cheerful anticipation for the other. For both, the thought of a celebratory ice cream cone at the end of the first day provided an extra incentive to enjoy the day. In addition, sitting in the ice cream parlor (sometimes McDonald’s for soft serve) gave them a neutral location to tell me all about their experience. Patient listening let me know what I would need to watch for or celebrate in the coming days regarding that new school year experience. It’s not just the first day. Many schools have preview days so that you can take your child to meet their new teacher and see the new classroom. If you can go, do. If you were not able to, try to at least learn the name of the new teacher so your child will go into the room knowing it.
When parents convey value for education and make efforts to stay involved and informed, students are more likely to adopt their parents’ attitudes and behaviors.
Teal Britton, spokeswoman for Horry County Schools
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Of course one of the biggest adjustments is made by students starting school for the first time (or a entering a new school). One of Surfside Learning Tree’s pre-K teachers, Phyllis Snyder, said that the attitude of parents, especially for the pre-school child, is a key factor.
“Parents need to remain calm themselves. If they are worried, the child will be worried,” Snyder said. She also had several suggestions for the dealing with the first days: “Make the drop off short and sweet. Give your little one a photo of the family to keep in his or her backpack.” She notes that it takes a child at least two weeks to adjust to a new environment. This adjustment period can be true for older children as well as younger ones.
Horry County Public Schools enroll the largest number of elementary, middle and high school students. Teal Britton, spokeswoman for Horry County Schools, put together answers from all three of those sectors — information that will be of use to students returning to public or private schools. She also stressed the importance of parental attitude in making a successful transition to school from home—for the first time, for a new year in an old school, to a new school.
“A new school year gives every student a fresh start. Whether students are beginning kindergarten of entering their senior year, parent involvement is essential to student success,” Britton said. “When parents convey value for education and make efforts to stay involved and informed, students are more likely to adopt their parents’ attitudes and behaviors.”
For that first day and the critical next weeks, Britton said parents should “develop a routine and schedule that accommodates all members of the family. Establish morning and evening routines that assign age-appropriate responsibilities for children and to take steps to make preparations for a “morning rush” by prepping backpacks, breakfast, and clothes the night before.”
On the night before and the morning of the school day, “talk about what to expect during the day. Speak confidently to instill confidence in your child to make new friends and to be optimistic about the new school year.”
Parents should also check and double check bus routes and rules regarding parental drop off and pick up and be sure that lunch arrangements are made, including paying for lunches at school, or making appropriate arrangements for free lunches, so things will go smoothly for the child at mealtime. Be sure, as a driver, to obey all rules about stopping behind a school bus and obeying the speed limit in school zones.
Britton adds that parents should talk after school with their children about their day. “Ask open-ended questions about what they are learning. Ask to see samples of their work.”
It will also help adjustment if parents can designate a study area in the home for completion of homework assignments and projects. She says to “discuss goals for the year with the student and especially for the older student, help them explore extra-curricular activities along the lines of their own individual interests. Britton notes that parents can ease adjustment if they join parent organizations and attend all parent night and parent-teacher conferences. If possible, Britton advises parents to volunteer at the school.
Although homeschooled children already know the environment they will be entering, each new school year poses some need for adjustment for them as well. Lisa Horne, of Carolina Forest is entering her eighth year of homeschooling their three children. She and her husband Mark just moved back to the area to start Carolina Forest Presbyterian Church. Lisa Horne says, “Our school [started] on August 7th. We enjoy starting early so we can finish early. “
She adds, “To prepare for the coming year we make sure we are back on a regular reading schedule. We talk over what we will learn the coming year, and return to a better daily bedtime schedule. We also spend time together enjoying the last of summer break.”
Lisa Horne is the primary teacher and to ensure her children/students are acclimating well to the new material she offers a lot of encouragement and makes sure there is no rushing through the material. “I want to be sure they truly learn what is being taught. This may mean a few extra days on certain facts and breezing through others. We, both Mark and I, really encourage our kids to love to learn, not just memorize facts.”
Just as parents of students at schools outside the home must do, the new school year means the Hornes coordinate a schedule of after-school sports and other activities along with music lessons and more. Whether your children are schooled at home or outside of the home, Lisa Horne’s advice holds true for every day, not only the beginning of the school year: “You learn something new every day and that should excite you.”