In Our View: Boost Kids’ School Year

As new term begins, follow these tips to set your student up for success

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While students and teachers might lament the start of school and the demise of carefree summer days, for many parents it means the return to a routine. Gone are the days of worrying about how to keep the kids occupied and engaged.

So, as the school year kicks off — today for some students in the Ridgefield district and soon for students elsewhere in Clark County — we offer a few tips for parents as they settle into that routine:

• Be cautious when driving near schools. As the National Safety Council reminds: “It’s never more important for drivers to slow down and pay attention than when kids are present — especially before and after school.” With an increase in school buses and young pedestrians and bicyclists throughout the area, remember that safety is a priority.

• Establish a morning routine from the outset. Leaving plenty of time to eat a good breakfast, grab all the school supplies, and head out the door in a timely fashion rather than scrambling at the last minute can help lead to a successful first day of school and set the proper tone for the remainder of the year.

• Meet the new teacher. As PBS writes in its tips for school: “For kids, one of the biggest back-to-school fears is ‘Will I like my new teacher?’ Breaking the ice early on is one of the best ways to calm everyone’s fears.”

• As the school year goes along, remember that guiding your students involves more than just asking whether they have done their homework. Keep abreast of their assignments and provide help when necessary. At the same time, remember that homework is supposed to be completed by students and not parents.

• When it comes to homework, establish a household rule that it must be completed before the TV or the iPad gets turned on. Making schoolwork a priority will help establish good habits from the start of the school year.

• Make sure your child is prepared for the mode of transportation they will take to school. If they are walking or riding a bike, hold some practice trips so they are aware of safety rules. If they are riding the bus, speak with them about the importance of remaining in their seat and not distracting the driver.

• If your child is attending a new school, take a tour in the days before classes begin. Whether starting kindergarten or high school or anything in between, a new school can be intimidating, especially once it is filled with hundreds of other students.

• Make sure you are aware of the daily schedule. Different districts begin and end the school day at different times, and those times may have changed since last year.

While some Ridgefield students will head to class today, Clark County’s largest school districts — Evergreen, Vancouver, and Battle Ground — will open on Wednesday. Camas and Woodland begin on Sept. 5, Hockinson on Sept. 6, and Washougal on Sept. 7.

Meanwhile, perhaps the most important tip for parents is to demonstrate enthusiasm about the start of the school year. Students are embarking upon an endeavor that can be simultaneously exciting and frightening, and focusing upon the benefits — the opportunity to learn, grow, and make new friends — can make it easier for both kids and adults.

Following some simple guidelines and establishing an effective routine from the first day of school can help make the entire year more productive and enhance the learning experience.