By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
From homework habits to sleep schedules, students and parents can start the school year off right with some tips from seasoned parents and teachers.
Many parents say advance planning and preparation keep mornings organized and running smoothly.
Laying out school clothes and packing lunches the night before are routine for seventh-grader Rachel Lewicki and her fourth-grade sister Madison of Dearborn Heights.
“Thankfully, with the girls going to Catholic school, picking out clothes is not an issue,” said their mother, Heather Suchyta. “The girls and I are planning out our schedules together so we all know what needs to be done. We are going to prepare freezer meals to save time in the evening.”
She helping her daughters with evening homework while her 2-year-old son runs around can be challenging, as is sharing the bathroom in the morning.
Lucinda Chavez of Allen Park said she used to schedule bathroom time in the morning when her children were younger.
“Since we only had one bathroom in the house, it was an issue getting ready on time,” she said. “I would actually make up a schedule by 10 minute increments, on who was doing what to get ready, and that seemed to work well.”
Planning ahead, preparing the night before, and making her children part of the process worked well for Debbie Aue of Taylor.
“My children learned to do their own laundry when they were 12. That was their ‘rite of passage,’” Aue said. “They made sure their clothes were ready the night before, and we had less chaoticness in the morning.”
In addition to packing backpacks and lunches the night before, Amanda Bias of Southgate recommends building extra time into the morning schedule to lessen stress.
“Everybody’s not frenzied, freaking out, and the morning is a good, smooth transition,” Bias said. “Have them help pack lunches, so they are happy with what’s in it, and it takes a little stress off Mom or Dad.”
Easing into an earlier bedtime before the school year starts is also important, said Vivian Hamood of Dearborn Heights.
“It’s kind of hard coming right off of summer vacation,” Hamood said. “They still want to stay up a little bit later, they want to put things off.”
Her maternal granddaughter, Madison Ganzak, 12, of Dearborn Heights, a seventh-grader at O.W. Best Middle School in the Dearborn Heights, said her mother has her set an alarm the night before, since she is not a morning person.
Jennifer Owen of Riverview said parents should “go with the flow” and not stress out at the beginning of the school year.
“Everything will be fine, and every day will come, and every day will go,” Owen said. “It just needs to be fun.”
Her daughter Isabella, 10, a fifth-grader at St. Pius in Southgate, said she appreciates her mother’s calmness when she is re-learning things after summer vacation.
Fun is an important part of the back-to-school ritual, said Chris Boudreau of Dearborn, who has two children at Divine Child High School.
“Make them look forward to it,” Boudreau said. “Today I made them breakfast. I woke them up early, we had music playing, I had bacon – stuff I don’t normally make – and I drove them to school, which I normally never (do).”
Dave Kanclerz of Dearborn said he makes back-to-school fun by shopping early and often with his three daughters.
“They already have their folders and backpacks, and everything ready to go,” he said. “They are itching to get back to school because they want to get out of the house.”
Lincoln Park Middle School special education teacher Brian Welch of Dearborn said parents worried about their children transitioning from elementary to middle school should just relax and trust the process.
“It’s not as bad as you hear,” Welch said. “A lot of our staff reach out to the kids, and we try to help them not just with the academics, but with social (skills) and things like that.”
Welch encourages parents to activate accounts and passwords, check their student’s assignments and grades, and see if assignments are missing.
Julie Ballantyne Brown of Dearborn, an early elementary Montessori school teacher, encourages parents to let their children become independent, and not do everything for them.
“Children need to figure things out on their own,” she said. “Sometimes that means they will fail, which is OK.
“Don’t get their homework that they forgot. Let them take the consequence, and don’t make excuses for them. Failure is a great teaching tool and helps kids learn how the real world works.”
She added that when parents encourage good manners at home, it makes a teacher’s job less difficult.
Paul Bruce of Dearborn, a teacher at Salina Intermediate School in Dearborn, encourages parents to talk to their child at the end of each school day, ask them what they learned that day, and what homework they have.
“Ask them to show you the completed work and explain what it means,” Bruce said. “Parents who do this will find that their students are more successful, have higher grades, and are more interested in doing well.”
In addition to doing well at school, children are more likely to feel well if they have an annual physical and their immunizations are up-to-date, said Barbara Day of Belleville, an Immunization Field representative for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
“Get their health check-ups early,” Day said. “There are required immunizations for school, and don’t wait until the last minute to get those, because that’s when the appointments all fill up and it takes a long time to get in.”
She said there is a new waiver policy in effect if a parent does not want a child to be immunized. Parents will need to make an appointment with the local health department and complete an educational session with a health department nurse to obtain a waiver.
“This is not to penalize parents. This is to make sure they have all the information that they need in order to make an informed decision,” Day said. “There is a lot of misinformation out there.
“We just want to make sure the parents are getting the correct information. It’s not a confrontational visit. It’s simply to get the information they need to make an informed decision.”