A little planning pays big! 6 new-school-year survival tips to start the year off right

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With a little preparation and thought, every family can start the school year off on a positive note. (iStock)
With a little preparation and thought, every family can start the school year off on a positive note. (iStock)

Back to school is right around the corner, with the school year kicking off 12 January for the inland cluster of provinces (Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West) and 19 January for the costal cluster (Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Northern Cape and Western Cape). 

And that means the time to start preparing is almost here. 

Every parent wants the school year to be successful for their children, so here are a few simple 'tricks of the trade' from a parent who's not only raising three school-going children but has also been 'on the other side' as an educator.  

Also see: Find the 2022 school holiday calendar here 

1. Calendar the entire year

One of the most unsettling things is when a school project or holiday creeps up on you, and you didn't know about it. You can avoid this stress if you put the entire year on everyone's calendar at the beginning of the first school term.

Put everything you can on the calendar. Every holiday and excursion. Back-to-school night. Gala day. Anything that your school publishes on their yearly school calendar that affects your kids and family put it on your calendar.

With digital calendars, it's easier than ever. Invite your partner to these, so it's on both of your calendars. If you have an au pair or carer, you can invite them too. And if you still use pen and paper, get all the dates on the master calendar that the whole family can see.

2. Creating a system for the kids 

Helping your kids get organised helps you too. For parents, it's stressful when we're rushing to get out the door in the morning, and one of the kids suddenly remembers they need us to read and sign something from the school. Or say something like, 'by the way, mom or dad, I need R100 for the excursion to the Science Centre today'. 

Surprises like these are not the fun kind. To eliminate them, we suggest creating a system. 

Each child has two slots in a desktop or mail organiser. Each slot is labelled for each child as "important" and "school work." Important means the parents need to look immediately. And school work is for homework books that need to be signed. This way, we know right away if there's a permission slip or an important note we need to read from school.

But for this system to work, the kids need to be taught to use it. Through this simple intervention, parents say they have almost completely eliminated the morning stress of having to sign a form they didn't know about and has made their jobs as parents so much easier.

3. Creating a learning space for the kids 

Giving your kids a set time to focus on academics is important, but having a space in which to do it is essential, too. Decide now where homework will be done in the coming year and get that space ready. Whether decluttering a desk in a teen's bedroom or setting up a dedicated space in a common room, having somewhere for kids to go solely for their academic studies can greatly improve their focus. Plus, creating that space can be a fun activity. Working together to organise and decorate the space may give them a motivating start to the year! 

4. Clean and declutter

In addition to creating organised spaces for homework and academics, it's important for kids (and parents, too) to start the year off with a clean slate – in other words, an organised house. For kids, this means getting their rooms in order and having set places for school stationery, backpacks, sports equipment, etc. For you, it's making sure you're ready for the influx of forms, notices, and art projects that are about to start flooding in daily – not to mention the chaos of school mornings. Whether you need to purchase label containers for easy school lunches and snacks or a supply of cardboard, glue and marker pens for projects, the more you do now, the better, because as much as you might dread it, when the school year starts, you'll all be grateful for it. Check out one-stop stationery stores like PNA for these supplies. 

5. Be thankful. Be supportive

Teachers' jobs are more difficult than most people can imagine. The amount of work they do during the week and on the weekends–to prepare lessons, ready their classroom, research best practices, work with specialists, mark and grade schoolwork, respond to parents, attend meetings, and continue their own education–is immense.

So we need to be thankful for their hard work every day, and not just on 'Teachers Day' or at the end of the year. Sign your emails with a sincere, 'thank you for all you do 'and mean it. Ask what you can do to support them and follow through.

Say 'thanks' to the administration, the teacher assistants, the specialists, the sports coaches and the tuckshop workers because they're all working towards creating a safe environment for your child to meet with success and have the best year possible. So why wouldn't you want to be thankful for, supportive of, and grateful for this school community?

6. Finally, level up for an amazing year! 

As with most things in life, attitude is everything when it comes to school. So last but not least, start building up excitement for the coming year with positive thinking, conversation, and expectations. As a parent, you get to be your kids' biggest cheerleader, and now is a good time to remind them how much you believe in them. Whether they ace every test or struggle academically, make sure they know that you are proud of them and are there to see their efforts pay off.

Submitted by PNA. 

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