Start Strong! — Our Tips For Back to School Success

January 1 may require a calendar change, but for us, “Back to School” signals the start of a new year and fresh resolutions.  Take this opportunity to reflect on how your family can make this school year the most instructive, productive, harmonious, and sleep-filled one yet!  Let these tips and conversation starters guide you to a great fresh start.

Take Stock and Evaluate, with Honesty

We think students can learn from both setbacks and successes.  Take stock and evaluate what worked well last year and what didn’t.  Did video games get in the way of good sleep and school-related productivity?  Did homework assignments get lost at the bottom of a cluttered (or even non-existent) to-do list?   Encourage your teen to pick two things (not ten!) that could work better this year.  Post these “resolutions” in a visible place in the home such as the kitchen or on a bedroom bulletin board as a simple way for students to remind themselves of those commitments.

Shore Up Weaknesses

Look at your class schedule and anticipate which subjects will be a breeze and which will pose challenges.  If Spanish felt boring and impossible last year, then chances are there may be knowledge gaps that, if left unattended, will only make it worse this year.  Someone who is a slow reader or retains little information may require new study strategies for history classes.  Most schools have excellent in-house support networks, such as teacher office hours, a math tutoring center or peer-to-peer support.  Research days and times when resources are available and take advantage of them.  Alternatively, identify that friend or study buddy who really motivates and use him or her to help keep things on track.  Success in life isn’t gained by being the smartest person in the room, but being the one most willing to seek out help, draw on existing expertise and learn new and perhaps better ways of doing things.

Scan The Horizon and Plan Ahead

Look at your year holistically.  Identify times that will be particularly busy and put in place measures to minimize stress.  If the school play is in March, sidestep other activities or delegate responsibilities during the lead-up to opening night.  Seniors should give themselves space in the fall to visit colleges and complete admissions packets, while juniors should plan now when their class and extracurricular schedule will give them free time to prepare for the SAT or ACT.  Between Advanced Placement exams and finals, the last six weeks of school are trying for everyone, so don’t try to tackle other projects or activities during this period.  Check out these seven apps that allow students to keep track of assignments, schedule meetings and other commitments, preview the day ahead and much more.

Carve Out An Effective Study Space

Our environment influences so much of how we feel and what we do.  It’s amazing how many students don’t ask what makes them productive and identify a go-to study space that optimizes their work habits.  It won’t be the same for everyone.  One person may love to spread out on the dining room table and happy to move books and materials at dinner time.  Another may need an orderly desk in a quiet bedroom, the door shut to noise and other distractions.  A third may want to get out of the house and commandeer a local library study carrel.  Whatever the space, make sure that needed books and materials are readily available and reasonably well organized and good lighting is available. Check out this article with tips on how to find or create an ideal study space.

Set Limits on Screen Time

Multitasking can lead to stress and undermines productivity.  Trying to study for a calculus quiz while succumbing to the siren song of Instagram is no recipe for success.  And while some students may think a computer is absolutely essential for all homework, that is not always the case.  When computers are necessary, as for submission of work or online research, be sure that social media and other distractions are off.  Check out this article, which reviews ten apps that allow users to block social media or incoming texts for a pre-determined period. The best part of these resources is that they are user-driven: you will need to own your decision and resolve to be mindful, minimize procrastination and block distractions.

Have Fun and Keep a Healthy Perspective!

High school can be a wonderful time of learning and exploration for students.  This year, be sure to give your family permission to set aside the overstated need to resume-pad for college admissions and instead discover what else there is to love in life.  Give yourself room to find and master something that inspires — whether that’s robotics, flower arranging or cooking.