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Starting School on the Right “FEET” by Practicing Routines
Ms. Vita Biddle

Who’s ready? It’s unavoidable. A new and exciting school year is upon us! It is normal to feel a balance of emotions at this time, whether you are a parent, a student, or even a teacher! Now is the time to start valuable routines that will make the transition from summer to school a smooth and enjoyable one. 

Sleep Routines
Practicing good sleep hygiene and following solid sleep routines is critical for your child’s brain development, their behavior, and their ability to focus. Bedtimes and bedtime routines should be established and practiced before the actual school year begins. Be sure that your child gets the appropriate amount of sleep at night. Discuss the importance of sleep with them. Model good sleep habits yourself. Most children need about ½ hour for bedtime routines that include bathing and calming activities. Anything longer than that time leads to procrastination of sleep and is detrimental to creating good sleep habits.

Getting Ready Routines
Routines are also important for getting ready for school. Getting ready for the day should actually start the night before. No child is too young to be part of daily preparation routines. Allow them to help select their breakfast and lunch items, and even prepare them. This can be as simple as placing their cereal bowl, napkin, and spoon on the table the night before or making their entire lunch and putting it in the fridge for the next day. This small habit will serve them well for a lifetime. 

An often overlooked routine is to set out all necessary items for school the night before. This includes a fully-packed backpack, instruments, sports equipment, projects, etc. Having these things “ready-to-go” the night before saves lots of time and frustration when it comes time to leave for school in the morning. Younger children would benefit from a simple checklist taped to a convenient spot in the house. Teach them the idea of having a “stop and think” spot. For example, choose a location in the house that they would pass each day on their way to the car. Have them stop at this spot and think about the things they will need for the day and be sure they have them. Small habits return valuable results. 

Homework Routines
Perhaps the hottest topic surrounding school-related routines is homework. Establishing effective homework habits should begin as early as the time that homework becomes a regular part of your child’s daily life.

Remember this acronym: FEET!  Keep your child on track by placing their FEET on a solid path.  

This refers to the order, or flow, in which your child does their homework. In short, it is always best to do the most arduous tasks first and save simpler, more enjoyable tasks for later. Flow should vary from night to night, depending on the assigned work and its priority.

Although it is not always practical, students should work in the same space each evening. The space should be comfortable, but not too comfortable. It should be well-stocked with basic supplies, and it should be well-lit. It should be quiet but not silent and away from household distractions like cooking, TV, and conversation.

Research shows that the best retention occurs when students review material in short bursts (5 - 10 mins) every day. Studying for a test in one or two nights is not as efficient as reviewing small parts of the content each night for a short time. Sometimes this can be as simple as listing all of the vocabulary words for an upcoming test that they remember on their own, and then checking for the words they forgot. The next night, they could categorize the words into parts of speech. The third night they can make up a story using several of the words. Each night is a different approach, but the consistency is there. This is called spaced repetition. Read more about the benefits of spaced repetition here:

Time is a critical piece to the homework puzzle. Sometimes, as parents, we want to get our children home from school and have them complete all of their homework right away so we can get on to the other responsibilities of our evening. As practical as that seems, it may not always be the best answer. Many children need a well-deserved break after school. Blowing off some steam before they study may increase their ability to focus later. It is also a good idea for them to take short breaks, and change subject matter frequently while working for long periods. This recharges the brain and helps them re-focus. 

Applying these routines regularly will ensure that your children get off to a good start this year!

Vita Biddle

Vita Biddle, Independence's LeApps™ Specialist, has taught at our school since  1992. She is a team member of the Center for Wellness, Innovation and  Learning (CWIL).

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