The old saying goes, “Time flies when you are having fun.” It sure does! Our Summer Camp went by so fast, and the new Academic Year is upon us. Going from an at-home or camp summer routine to a full-time school schedule might be challenging, and we want our students and families to have plenty of time to prepare for this new transition.
Here are a few Montessori-inspired tips to help smooth back-to-school preparations and make your child feel confident and happy to return to school.
Establish a Routine
Research shows that a consistent routine helps children become more confident and independent. Children stay focused and feel less stressed when their daily activities are predictable and familiar. In a Montessori classroom, a routine is fundamental throughout the day. While children work independently on their favorite activities, they know there is a schedule to follow: a three-hour work cycle, snack, outdoor play, lunch, nap, snack, outdoor play, and time to go home.
Do the same at home. Set a consistent schedule for waking up, getting ready for the day, eating, sleeping, playing, and working. Children need to do a couple of things each day in the same way and create anchors. Many studies demonstrate the benefits of bedtime and dinnertime routines as moments for the whole family to sit together, talk and make positive connections. Be sure to try to stick to routines even on the weekends and vacations as much as possible.
Here are three pro tips to help you create a successful routine:
- A good routine starts with a good night’s sleep: make sure your child is going to bed early to wake up well rested and ready for the day.
- Whenever possible, do it the night before. Prepare your child’s lunchbox and uniform the night before-. Include your child as much as possible, but be sure you have ample time and it’s not too close to bedtime. If you set your child up for success, this will avoid power struggles and create more time in the morning.
- Plan plenty of time in the morning for your child to have a good breakfast and to help you get everything ready to go. No one feels their best when they are rushed.
Encourage Your Child’s Independence
In a Montessori environment, children work on their independence from day one. They choose their work, they learn how to self-assess and correct their mistakes, they clean up after themselves and make their snack.
Encourage your child to be as independent at home as they are at school. Let them set the table, chop some vegetables for dinner, feed the dog, and put their clothes away (a quick Google search will reveal a plethora of appropriate tasks by age). And most importantly, include them in the back-to-school routine! They can help you prepare their lunchbox, set out their uniform for the following day, and get ready for school on their own. The key is to break larger tasks into smaller steps. For example, instead of “get dressed”, start with “take off your PJs”. Then, tell your child to put on their shirt and so on.
We know that in the morning, your main goal is to get out of the house and get to school and work on time! But trust us, your child will feel empowered by the responsibility you give them and confident in doing these things independently. Before you know it, they will be accomplishing these routines without direction or resistance and quite efficiently. They do it in classroom all the time!
Talk About It & Be Positive
Every new season, new transition, and new beginning can be challenging and scary for parents, but especially for children in ways they may not be able to communicate. One of the best ways to comfort your child – and yourself – is to talk about it. Of course, this can be tricky. For some children the more you talk about it, the more anxious they become. Therefore, the key to be sure is to ask questions and model, rather than tell!
If children spontaneously share their feelings, roll with it. Let them tell you how they feel and acknowledge that it is okay to be scared or nervous. Go over the new routine and prepare your child for what will happen on a regular school day, so they know what to expect. Books are a great way to present opportunities to talk about school (The Pigeon Goes to School, Llama Llama Misses Mama are a few examples). Be sure to come to Open House on August 22, so your child can preview the routine. If your child is less forthcoming, you can ask questions, but be careful not to lead your witness. For example, ask “how do you feel about school?”, instead of “are you excited” or “are you worried about school?”. Encourage them to ask their own questions about school.
Most importantly, be positive about school. Even moms and dads get nervous, so even if you are feeling this way, it is best not to show it to your child. Your nervousness is most definitely not for the same reasons your child is nervous, so it’s best to keep it separate. If you see that your child is not looking forward to returning to school, remind them of all the fun activities they used to do there, mention some friends’ and teachers’ names who you know will be returning as well. If it’s your child’s first time, tell them about what you liked or miss about school.
Bonus Tip: Give It Time
Lastly, remember it takes time! Transitions and new habits evolve over time even for adults, so for children we must remember to give them space to adjust. Don’t wait until the last week or weekend before school to start this process. The sooner you start getting in school mode, the better will be for your child and your family! And remember, that even after school starts, it can take upwards of six to eight weeks for your child to feel comfortable in the new routine, even for returning students. Always know that your child’s teachers and administrators are there to help!
Now, go ahead and give these tips a try and we will see you soon!