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helpful articles

Need back-to-school advice? Read about how you can make this year the best school year ever, in these helpful articles.

Family Use of Libraries
Worried that your children might not be prepared for the responsibility of caring for library books between school and home? If children go to an extended care program after school, there is an opportunity for books to get lost, damaged, or simply misplaced. Parents with these back-to-school concerns can be encouraged to go to the library with their child, check out the books together, and take them directly home where parents can model responsibility for the books by sharing them with their children and returning them when they are due. After all, parents are their children’s first teachers. And sharing books with your children establishes a love of learning and reading, which has a powerful impact on their lives.

As a parent, you may also want to highlight that public libraries offer a wealth of information for the community in a variety of formats—books, computers, Internet access, videos, compact disks, books, and tapes. Even puppet shows and dramatic readings of storybooks. All of these things make libraries great places for families to spend time together.

Feeling Comfortable at Your Child's School
At back-to-school time, it’s natural for you to sometimes feel uncomfortable in your child's school. You may have emotional reactions based on your childhood experiences in school, your experiences in your child's previous school or classroom, or uncertainty about what to expect from the new school year. But here are two ways you can try to build your comfort level:

1. If your schedule allows, spend time volunteering in your child's school. This will give you an opportunity to see firsthand how the teacher and staff manage the students, curriculum, playground, and lunchroom. Observing this process may help you feel less anxious about the setting and people.

2. Prior to a school visit, contact your child’s teacher via phone with questions or ideas you have. Maybe you can ask questions while volunteering in their classroom. Or you could send written notes to the teacher in your child's backpack. This will help launch a good pattern of communication between you and your child's teacher.

Getting Involved as a Busy Parent
There are lots of tasks that teachers need to have done throughout the year. Things like web research on a special topic, developing a class newsletter, or finding materials for an art or science project. Unfortunately, many parents are busy and can’t take the time during the day to volunteer in the classroom, but still want to be involved. If this sounds like you, there is a way you can get involved with your child’s class as a busy parent. Ask your child’s teacher to develop a "Need to Do" list that goes home once a month and explains what support the teacher needs for the upcoming weeks.

You may have interests or talents to share with your child’s class. Maybe you could introduce a musical instrument to the class, demonstrate how math or writing skills are used in business, or introduce the class to your career. Perhaps you may be able to write out and share ethnic folk tales for language arts lessons, or participate in a weekend playground repair project. Offering information about your interests, skills, talents, or personal experiences to your child’s teacher may also inspire involvement with your child’s classroom.

Nutritious Lunches
Want to make sure your child is eating nutritious foods at school? Back-to-school is a great time to stimulate an interest in tasty fruits and vegetables—especially when kids can take an active part in growing, picking, and preparing them for lunches. In a medium to small patch of ground or several pots, have the kids turn the soil and plant seeds or seedlings of cherry tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, celery, peas, radishes, spinach, or strawberries. These foods are healthy, and they're easy to wash and slip into sealed bags for hurried lunch-making routines.

If the previous option is not workable, consider having your children assist you in selecting fresh fruits and vegetables from a local farmer's market, or the produce section at the grocery store. Empower your children to make choices and urge them to select new fruits and vegetables that the family might not have tasted before.

Another option for encouraging kids to eat more fruits and vegetables is involving them in the food preparation. Turn your nutrition goal into a "recipe research project" with your children looking up ways to prepare new fruit or vegetable lunchbox goodies.

Organizing Assignments
Are your kids organized? At the beginning of a new school year, and at several points throughout the year, help your children develop ways of organizing homework assignments and school projects. Some tools such as organizer binders and calendars can be used to arrange materials and note due dates. But motivation, attitude, and planning are more important than the particular tools.

Set a time each afternoon or evening when upcoming homework assignments are discussed. Help kids preplan for big projects that involve research, writing, illustrating, etc. Establish a routine for children to sit and complete brief assignments, too. Then, outline agreed-upon expectations and good work habits to be followed in your household.

Give gentle time reminders to your kids as you see deadlines approaching. Young students often have difficulty understanding the passing of time or planning work that is "due next week.” Don't rush in to rescue a child who has procrastinated in doing assignments. Doing this tends to reinforce this behavior.

Remember, organization, responsibility, and a good work ethic take years to develop. It is a process that requires consistency, good modeling, and accountability.