‘Back to school’: three words that offer up so much hope and possibility.
The autumn term may only be the beginning of the year for children, but, as the season begins to change, it’s one of the best times to refresh, revise and start again, especially in terms of organisation and outlook for the year ahead.
Follow our preparation tips to help your budding students maximise their potential to succeed, both academically and personally this year.
1.Train the brain
Small brains love routine and consistency, this allows the mind to focus on the really important stuff, like learning. Begin the school year with set, early bed-times and consistent alarms in the morning. Aim to have your little one sleep for at least ten hours a night to achieve maximum concentration in the classroom.
2.Encourage regular, healthy eating habits
While all parents know the toils of trying to get children to eat their greens, recent studies have shown just how much bad diet and lack of nutrients slow down brain productivity and increase the body’s production of cortisol, the stress hormone. Nothing is worse than stress for affecting good marks and levels of concentration. So, as early as possible in the term, make sure healthy, balanced meal times are on the early-side (between 7-8pm) and never in front of the TV.
“Tidy desk, tidy mind” has never been truer than when it comes to homework. In order for the brain to adequately focus, it needs to feel calm and devoted to a single task, which is never easy when a desk is cluttered with paper, rubber shavings and odds and ends. Encourage children to tidy their desks once a week, and have a separate shelf or cupboard dedicated to school books and folders.
As school gets harder, more and more paper is given out, each sheet should be filled away in date order, in a folder dedicated to a single subject . While this may seem like a chore at first, it will make revision and homework much easier to manage later in the year. (see our other blog post on revision tips for getting organised during study leave).
4.See difficult subjects as challenges
Students understandably tend to excel in the subjects they like or do well in, unfortunately this often leads to those weaker subjects getting left behind during homework hours. To ensure your student is as well-rounded as possible, spend some extra time with them on working through the work they find hard. This will allow you to pick up early on on any weak areas. Tutors who specialise in certain subjects can also help students to find easier and quicker ways to approach topics they find challenging.
5.Keep it balanced
If you’re looking to get into the best boarding schools, universities and colleges, a well-rounded, interesting and interested student is the one who always wins the place over a genius in one subject. Begin the year with a good chunk of time devoted to extra-curricular activities: sports, books, culture, arts or just playing with their friends are an equally important part of being at school. So make sure no one is studying until 10pm and missing crucial aspects of their childhood.
6.Identify priorities for the day, week and year
Extra-curricular participation, extra lessons, school clubs, watching TV, video games and friends all make up part of a child’s day, so make sure you have the most important of these fitted into their routine from the first day of term. Using a Sunday evening to write down goals and schedules for the week is a great time to prepare, and equips students with organisational skills they can carry forward into their adult life.
7.Encourage independence and freedom
Know when to praise and when to tell off children, too many rules and punishments lead to anxiety and heightened stress levels, not enough and students can feel confused and misguided in their choices. As a parent, set yourself a goal to allow for freedom of choice, this is the only way they will learn self-discipline and commitment. At the beginning of term, give older students the opportunity to plan their own homework schedules, should marks or standards start slipping it’s time to intervene, but not before.
8.And finally, make time for family
Whether it’s the evening meal or a weekend trip, make sure that everyday you spend some time with the whole family, encourage children to talk about their day, discuss problems with you and work through options and ideas they have about school or their personal lives. Sharing problems reduces stress and allows you to have a better insight into your childrens’ lives.