The lyrics from a song by The Hives say it all:
They say our summer vacation has come to an end
And we simply have no more holidays to spend
They say “No more barefoot, no playing around the pool”
They say now it’s time for us to “Go back to school.”
The inevitable has happened, and it is time to get into school mode again. There is usually a little excitement with “Back to School” shopping for school supplies but the reality is that school is about more than new pencils and backpacks. The daily work of learning has begun once more. As parents, we can set up our children for success or failure in their schooling. I want to share with you some tips that will help you set your child up to succeed in school. These tips will fall into four categories: schedules, nutrition, media control, and attitude.
Success of any kind is scheduled. For example, I know of a man that resolved to change his career from one he found frustrating and boring to one he was excited about. This resolve was followed through with scheduling evening courses, and scheduling time to study. A few years later he earned certification that allowed him to work in a job that he enjoys. That’s success! In the same way, we need to help our children learn how to schedule their lives for success. One of the first things to schedule is SLEEP! WebMD.com recommends that children ages 7-12 should have between 10 and 11 hours per day, and children ages 12-18 about 8 to 9 hours per day. Getting the proper amount of sleep is vital to your child’s ability to sustain attention and retain what she is learning in the classroom. So make “bed time” a routine that allows your child some time to wind down at the end of the day. This would include stopping the mental stimulation caused by screens about an hour before bed time (see media discussion below). Scheduling study time is equally important. A good rule of thumb is to set aside a time and place every school day for homework, reviewing for upcoming tests, and working on projects. Preferably this time should be after school but before dinner; perhaps after your student has had a chance to have a snack and chill out a bit.
Speaking of snacks, let’s think about the nutritional aspect of academic success. While eating certain “brain foods” like salmon, nuts, and whole grains is great, your child will benefit most from a well balanced diet. It is surprising how many kids tell me they don’t eat breakfast. Starting out the school day with no food means your student’s gas tank is empty. Think of it this way: “empty stomach, empty brain.” Make an effort to provide your child with a well-rounded breakfast; one that includes protein like eggs, sausage, or yogurt. Protein will give your child a base of constant energy rather than the brief spurt that pop tarts and donuts give, leaving a person feeling sluggish an hour later. A good breakfast will take getting up in time to have a meal before school (see scheduling tip above).
I’ve discussed media control before, but there is a need to reiterate its importance. “Kids these days” have 24-hour access to audio, video, and communication in ways that we couldn’t dream of at their age. Adults, who are supposed to be so much more self-controlled, are getting in trouble with social media (Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc.) quite a lot. Do we really think 8 – 18 year-olds can figure this out on their own? My suggestion is to remove all screens from your child’s sleeping area during bedtime hours. If you have already allowed them to get addicted to their screens they will howl in protest at this new rule and even try to convince you they will die without their phone, tablet, or laptop. Unless this device regulates some biological function for them, they won’t die. This guideline is directly tied to the one about sleep (see SLEEP above).
Finally, realize that success is a state of mind. This is about attitude. The attitude required for success in school is one that values education and learning. With that in mind, here are a few quotes that should inspire and motivate us to always be good students in life.
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes” ~ Charles Swindoll
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
“Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.” ~Benjamin Franklin