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First days of school

By DENNIS DOUGHTY • Aug 23, 2018 at 1:30 PM

Just last week I had a parent somewhat sarcastically say “good luck with the new school and all those students; I’m glad it’s you and not me.” I was taken aback by the comment because even after 40-plus years, I’m excited about the new school year.

The start of a new school year is met with excitement and great anticipation among our younger students while the older students might reluctantly admit some underlying anticipation. Truly a new school year means new teachers, new friends, a renewal of old friendships and a restoration of the “routine” for our young people. Secretly, parents anticipate the start of school because of the natural parameters that become associated with school: Earlier bedtimes and a renewal of “order” after the more care-free summer months. It can be just plain “fun.”

Parents have a need to recognize the need for routine for their children especially at the beginning of the school year. Some examples of what our young people need include:

Re-establish bedtimes and even meal-times if the summer has changed your school year pattern. While it may be a fight, in the end it’s well worth it for parent and student. 

Establish a homework time each day. Once the time is discussed and selected, it becomes that time — every day. Again, routine and good habits are the best things you can do for your children. If there is no written homework, the time should be spent reading or doing some other kind of improvement activity. (We are adding to the routine and accepting no excuses.)

Ask your child questions when they say they don’t know how to do something. It is amazing how much a child actually retains if they are pressed to find a solution. This is especially true in the first six weeks of school. Most of the lessons are relearning from what they did in the past. Often that recall will take place when they have time to think about it.

Don’t ever do their homework for them. You can help them by asking questions, but if you do the work, they will count on you to do it for them in the future. Homework tells the teacher how much a child knows (assessment) and if you did their work, there is an assumption the child knows how to do the work. 

Most important for parents is the find ways to share these special school days with your children. The time spent in learning at school can be richly re-enforced and shared at home. A parent’s gentle support and nurturing can make the difference between success and failure.

Invest time with your children and make that time part of your routine. 
Excitement and anticipation can be heightened for our children by parental support and participation.

Parents should proactively approach the school year with a plan of action to help ensure the success of their children. With determined and deliberate parental involvement, the start of the school year truly becomes a new and exciting beginning. Have a great school year.

Local columnist Dennis Doughty is the Norwalk Catholic School president.

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