The lazy days of summer are over and it's time to look ahead to another busy school season. You're in the process of purchasing new school clothes and supplies for the year, and the kids are gearing up to meet their new teachers. They'll also reacquaint themselves with their schoolmates. It's a time for new beginnings and fresh starts. Here are five tips to make sure your children get off to a smooth start this September:

  1. Have a family meeting

    It's wise to make a clear transition from relaxed summer days to a workable fall schedule. It's important that children know their adult family members support their learning, and one way to get everyone on board is to have a family meeting. Each family member has input in setting expectations for such things as homework times, television privileges, telephone and texting time, bedtimes and how many after school activities will be part of the new year. Post the schedule where all can see, as the whole family is entering into a new school year and ready for success.

  2. Create Personalized Study Spaces

    Here's your chance to encourage your children to develop good study habits. Help them create and personalize a study area at home. You can work together to organize and plan the décor. It's amazing how a few contact paper-wrapped cans and some bright new pencils can perk up a work area. Buy a simple plastic organizer tray or use some recycled boxes to store rulers, erasers, scissors, glue and other necessary supplies. Add a nametag, stickers, drawings, pictures - anything that makes it a special place to settle in and get homework done.

  3. Do the Basics

    Make sure they're alert and ready for the school day - it's important for children to begin each day with a healthy breakfast. It's not just the nutrition that's important, it's also a time for the family to gather strength for the day together! Children must be taught to be on time. It's a habit that will benefit them throughout their lives. Teach your kids the importance of building a reputation for being responsible in this important way. Encourage children to be ready to learn. This means sending supplies, forms, fees or whatever has been requested by the school in a timely manner. Homework should be kept in a special folder ready to turn in.

  4. Engage!

    Make sure a family member attends back to school nights and open houses, and whenever possible, volunteer to help with class parties, field trips and special projects. If you're a working mom or dad, make a special effort to find at least one way you can support your child's teacher. Plan ahead and add school events such as music programs, PTA events and curriculum nights to your monthly calendars.

  5. Build a Team

    It's important to stay in touch with your child's teacher. You need to know what's happening in the classroom and also inform the teacher of anything out of the ordinary at home, such as emotional loss or health concerns. When you communicate clearly, you build a relationship with the school that supports learning. Many schools have websites to keep families informed of school events, but don't forget to regularly look for bulletins and newsletters in those backpacks. A parent-teacher team builds the strongest possible support for a child's learning success.

    The goal, of course, is a positive, healthy start to a new school year for the whole family. Challenges will come over the course of the year, but a solid beginning with every family member on board will do wonders to ensure smooth sailing this September.


Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is a retired teacher and freelance writer. She is the author of "Homegrown Readers and Homegrown Family Fun." Find Jan at janpierce.net