Back to School Tips

Aug 12, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Education, Tom Sims

by Tom Sims

I have good news for you, and I have bad news for you.

Let me tell you the bad news first. In a few days, summer vacation will be over for all the students in the Central Valley. That’s the bad news for children who are really enjoying their summer vacations, extra swims, trips to camp, and sleeping late in the morning.

What is the good news for you? It is that in a few days, summer vacation will be over for all the students in the Central Valley. You will have extra time to get some things done. It will be quieter in the house.

As I recall, my youth and my days as a student began in kindergarten and continued until I was about 30 years old. I remember the mixed feelings that I had at the beginning of summer and at the end of summer vacation.

I was always looking forward to getting back to school and I was always sad about the end of vacation time. I often had regrets that I had not done more of the things I wanted to do during vacation.

I also had great hopes for all the things that I might be able to accomplish in the new year. I looked forward to renewing my friendships. I looked forward to getting a new teacher. I would always look forward to making new friends. I looked forward to buying some new clothes. I looked forward to learning new things.

That excitement continued with me through elementary school through junior high school, through high school, through college, and even through graduate school.

It was always a mixed feeling.

I look back on my school days with some nostalgia. I love taking courses now. I love learning. I love studying.

I have gone through the start of school for myself, with my children, and with my grandchildren. Some things have changed. Some remain the same.

Perhaps the best way to embrace the back-to-school days is to prepare for them. Feed the anticipation with knowledge. Feed knowledge with planning, with words of encouragement, and with excitement that we speak to each other and to ourselves.

Here are a few suggestions for preparation:

Have a conversation with your children about the start of school. Ask them about their hopes and their goals. Do they have any concerns? Do they have any questions? Share your experiences from when you started their grade level.

Let your children know that everything will be OK and that you will be around every day to help them process their experience, keep up with their homework, and listen to their concerns.

Discuss the schedule with them and, along with that, the routines that will be part of their day. Begin to reintroduce these into your daily schedule before school starts. Discuss bedtimes, study times, play times, and any rules that will need to apply to the school schedule.

If there is a “meet-the-teacher” night, attend and take a tour of the school with your child.

Shop together for school clothes and pick out some fun new things.

Shop together for school supplies. Make a list of what he or she will need. Your list may include some of these items depending upon your child’s grade level:

• lunch box
• backpack
• Sharpie pens
• highlighters
• erasers
• pencils and sharpener
• ballpoint pens
• pencil pouch
• glue stick
• notebooks
• calculator
• calendar
• graph paper
• folders
• hole punch
• protractor
• laptop and laptop bag, or pad if the school does not provide it
• lunch bags
• Post-it notes
• binders
• gym clothes and gym bag

Look for some back-to-school programs on public television. Watch them together and discuss them.

Read books about starting school. You will find many such books in the library. In fact, visit the library and create a pattern of doing that year-round. Let the library be a place of continuity between summer vacation and the school year. Let it be a reminder that learning is a year-round and lifetime experience. Point out to your children how many adults are in the library learning new things.

Ask your child about their friends. Which friends do they look forward to seeing? Talk about friendships and how to be a good friend. Discuss how to make new friends. Practice making an introduction to a person they have never met. Emphasize how important it is to make a new student feel welcome.

If you can download a calendar from the school website, look together at the special events coming up, including holidays, parties, games, and events. Mark them on your family and personal calendar.

Walk your child through the first day of school in a conversation. How and when will they arrive? What will happen upon arrival? Who will pick them up and when? Does your child have any apprehensions about this? What will make them feel more secure?

Plan good nutrition patterns. Stress the importance of a healthy breakfast and lunch. Talk about healthy snacks for after school.

Practice new skills that help your child feel more independent like tying shoes, opening and eating lunch, and throwing away their trash. Discuss good manners and healthy habits.

Stay positive and calm, but also be excited with them about the new opportunities and experiences they will face.

Talk about anything that concerns you related to your own values or family traditions.

Celebrate the end of the first day with a treat and a debriefing time. Let them know ahead of time that this is coming and let them help plan it.

Is there a way to involve grandparents in any of this? If they are a part of taking your child to school or after-school care, include them in these conversations.

Your child’s needs will vary from those of others. Every child is unique, and every age presents different needs and growth opportunities.

Most of this has been written with the returning elementary student in mind. Think about how to modify it for older students or first-timers in preschool and kindergarten.

The common denominators are conversation, planning, encouragement, and support with enthusiasm. Face the apprehensions and anxieties and build on the strengths.

A new school year is an important marker. Make the most of it.

More Information

Typical Steps to Enroll a Child in Kindergarten (from a local school district)

Step 1. Visit district home page to start the process.
Step 2. Verify home school.
Step 3. Complete online registration form.
Step 4. Gather required documents.
Step 5. Ensure your child has required immunizations.
Step 6. Schedule and attend registration verification appointment.

Back to School Dates for Selected Districts

Central Unified: 8-16
Fresno Unified: 8-14
Reedly/Kings Canyon: 8-16
Clovis: 8-21
Sanger: 8-16
Selma: 8-17

Information on Immunizations

Tom Sims is a local pastor (and Grandpa!), writer, and blogger. Pastor Tom Sims spends time pastoring Granny’s Park Community church, leading 4141 Ministries with his wife, Andrea Sims, writing, teaching, and hosting various websites, blogs The Dream Factory where Ideas can be given room to grow, and Facebook pages such as The Politics of Compassion. You can also find him on Facebook.



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