“I know it’s summertime, and it’s easy to just let them stay up late, but sleep really affects our routines, how we feel, how ready we are,” said Pamela McKenzie, achievement and behavior specialist at Fortis Academy.
Keeping kids from repeatedly hitting the snooze alarm keeps their body on time, McKenzie said. She herself used to hit the snooze button to cram in a few extra minutes of sleep, but read that when you go back to sleep and wake up again for the second or third time, it takes your body more hours to get awake.
Having a dedicated area for homework can help kids keep their focus.
“You’ve now set yourself backwards, whereas if you woke up with that first alarm your body is ready to go. When you start to put it back into a sleep mode and then wake it back up after it didn't have a full REM cycle, your body now needs four hours to be alert, awake, focused,” she said. “I have noticed a difference. I feel more awake and I don’t feel that sluggish.”
Positive mindset about the return
Just the thought of returning to school might leave kids feeling anxious as the summer days dwindle. Liz Newton, dean of early elementary at PrepNet Virtual Academy, suggests positively framing the prospects of a new school year as you’re starting to communicate about going back to school.
“There’s always a negative connotation of ‘We’re going back to school,’” she said. “But instead ask students, ‘What are you looking forward to at school? What do you hope to learn this year? What teacher do you hope to see from last year?’ That way we talk about it as positive.
“If you know things about the grade level, share that with the student. ‘This year, you’re going to learn how to read better,’ or for a middle schooler, ‘You’re going to be transitioning to high school, that’s really exciting.’ Students pick up positive vibes from their parents.”
Keeping kids in a sleep routine throughout the summer can help them during the school year.
Communicating specific goals with kids can be part of a daily school routine. As a parent, McKenzie is preparing her 5-year-old for kindergarten with a goal each day, be it going outside and making sidewalk chalk letters, counting things, or something else that is education-focused.
“We’re getting her into that routine where we’re learning every day, no matter the day,” McKenzie said. “Some good research has been found in setting yourself small daily goals so that they’re not so big that you can’t achieve them. Then you feel more accomplished.”
On the home front
One way to achieve those goals is a dedicated homework area. Jean Hiller, a fifth-grade teacher at Fortis, said kids don’t necessarily have to be in the same spot, but having materials such as a pencils, erasers, a pair of scissors, glue sticks, and a ruler handy can make completing homework easier and keep them on track.
No matter the routine each person has, it’s important to be flexible at the beginning of the school year. Hiller is in her 22nd year teaching and said it’s important to realize that each year is a clean slate with new kids, different personalities. To make all those moving parts work, it helps to show compassion and understanding that everyone is in this together.
“I think it’s really important for parents to also be flexible,” she said. “Their kids are going to be coming home tired at the beginning of the year. They might be cranky; they’ve got a lot of information overload. A new schedule as an adult can be a challenge, but it’s even more challenging on a student. Let them know that it’s OK that they’re frustrated or struggling and that it will get better.”
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About National Heritage Academies:
National Heritage Academies (NHA) is a network of 100 tuition-free, public charter schools across nine states, serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.