The lazy days of summer are over and it’s time to look ahead to another busy school season. You’ve  purchased new school clothes and supplies for the year. The kids have met their new teachers. They’ll reacquaint themselves with their schoolmates. It’s a time for new beginnings and fresh starts.

Here are five tips to make sure the children in your life get off to a smooth start this year:

1. Have a Family Meeting

It’s wise to make a clear transition from relaxed summer days to a workable fall schedule. It’s important that children know their adult family members support their learning, and one way to get everyone on board is to have a family meeting. Each family member has input in setting expectations for such things as homework times, television privileges, telephone and texting time, bedtimes and how many after school activities will be part of the new year. Post the schedule where all can see and there will be no surprises, but instead a knowledge that the whole family is entering into a new school year ready for success.

2. Create PersonalizedStudy Spaces

Here is your chance to encourage good study habits in your children. Help them create and personalize a study area at home. You can work together to organize and plan the decor. It’s amazing how a few contact paper-wrapped cans and some bright new pencils can perk up a work area. Buy a simple plastic organizer tray or use some recycled boxes to store rulers, erasers, scissors, glue and other necessary supplies. Add a nametag, stickers, drawings, pictures-anything that makes it a special place to settle in and get the homework done.

3. Do the Basics

Make sure they’re alert and ready for the school day, it’s important for children to begin each day with a healthy breakfast. It’s not just the nutrition that’s important-it’s also a time for the family to gather strength for the day, together!

Children must be taught to be on time. It’s a habit that will benefit them throughout life. Teach your kids the importance of building a reputation for being responsible in this important way. And ….

Encourage children to be ready to learn. This means sending supplies, forms, fees or whatever has been requested by the school in a timely manner. Homework should be kept in a special folder, ready to turn in.


Make sure a family member attends back to school nights and open houses and whenever possible, volunteer to help with class parties, field trips and special projects. If you’re a working mom or dad, make a special effort to find at least one way you can support your child’s teacher. Plan ahead – add school events such as music programs, PTA events and curriculum nights to your monthly calendars.

5. Build a Team

It’s important to stay in touch with your child’s teacher. You need to know what’s happening in the classroom and also inform the teacher of anything out of the ordinary at home: emotional loss, health concerns, etc. When you communicate clearly you build a relationship with the school that supports learning. Many schools have websites to keep families informed of school events, but don’t forget to regularly look for bulletins and newsletters in those backpacks. A parent-teacher team builds the strongest possible support for a child’s learning success.

The goal, of course, is a positive, healthy start to a new school year for the whole family. Challenges will come over the course of the year, but a solid beginning, with every family member on board, will do wonders to ensure smooth sailing through the year.

Jan Pierce

Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is a retired teacher and author of Homegrown Readers and Homegrown Family Fun: Unplugged. Find Jan at