You can't put it off any longer: back-to-school tips

You can't put it off any longer: back-to-school tips

School has already started for some families in Urbana and elsewhere,  but for those of us who are still in prep mode here are some tips for a smooth start to the school year.

Some are obvious, some less so, but they're good reminders for how we can all transition back into that school routine --  and start the year off with healthy study habits.


It's important for kids to arrive at school ready to learn, Illinois State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico said in a news release this week. Families can help by making sure their kids get enough sleep, have a good breakfast and a dedicated study time and space.


"School doesn't only teach kids how to read, write and do math, but school is a place that prepares students for life. The most important thing to remember is that learning is fun, but learning is a team effort; involved parents help teachers build better students," said Alton High School teacher Annice Brave, the Illinois 2010 Teacher of the Year and finalist for the National Teacher of the Year competition.

Here's some of their advice:

-- Start earlier bedtime hours a few days before school starts, so that first-day wake-up call isn't such a shock.

-- Set up their own study space, with good light and supplies. It can help kids focus as they do homework.

-- Review academic skills with them, in fun ways:

  • Dictate the grocery list so your children can practice writing skills.
  • Ask them to write about your summer vacation for a family scrapbook.
  • Review multiplication and division skills. Using money for math practice always helps: "How many nickels does it take to make one quarter?"
  • Talk about current events, the causes and possible connections to the school and local community. In our neighborhood, a major construction project to stop flooding is affecting our walk routes to school. But it's also given our kids an up-close-and-personal glimpse of how drainage works, where all the water goes, and why things like rain gardens are a good idea.
  •  Ask students to write three goals for the school year and then discuss how they can achieve them. Examples: I will make a new friend, I will get an A in math, I will read x number of books.
  • Once school starts, check homework nightly and find ways to expand on topics through trips to local museums, libraries, parks and zoos.

Generally, talk to your children about any fears or concerns they might have. If they are going to a new school or a new district, arrange a visit to the building so they can get familiar with their surroundings and meet the teachers or other classmates in advance. Most middle schools, for example, hold a transition day to help kids get acclimated.

Here are a few websites with information with other fun learning ideas, recommended by the State Board of Education:


Julie Wurth writes and blogs about family issues, social services and the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Her column appears in the paper every other Tuesday. Leave a comment below,  contact Julie at 351-5226 or or follow her on Twitter at



Driver Larry Walker watches as students get off the bus at Garden Hills elementary school in August 2007.  Darrell Hoemann/The News-Gazette

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mspading wrote on August 18, 2011 at 10:08 pm

We were ready for school - kindergarten - with a very excited and happy 5 year old but the school was not ready for him. Instead of going to his after school program he was put on a bus and dropped off at our home in the country where he spent over 4 hours alone. He was distraught to say the least and now doesn't want to go back to school. Not the same child we sent to kindergarten yesterday morning, that's for sure. How do we feel safe sending our children to school? What is there responsibility???

Julie Wurth wrote on August 19, 2011 at 8:08 am
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That's terrible. Have you talked to the school about it? I would certainly request a meeting with the principal and/or transportation office. Feel free to contact me by email or phone if you'd like.

mspading wrote on August 19, 2011 at 8:08 am

Contacted Superintendent's office, teacher, bus driver, after school program, and principal. I have to say the administration do not seem concerned nor seem to feel they are responsible. Much more support from the bus driver and after school program but where is the administration and the people who should be making sure this doesn't happen again to any child? Every year something like this seems to happen. Are schools more concerned about standardized testing and "No Student Left Behind" than our children's safety and leaving them wherever?