Getting in Gear: A Back to School Survival Guide

Despite the warm temperatures and sunny skies, many students are feeling a shadow looming as back to school season creeps closer. After weeks of lazy, summer days, late nights, varying routines and minimal mental stimulation, the return to school can seem overwhelming to students of all ages.

To help parents and children get ready for the new school year, Dr. Richard E. Bavaria, Ph.D. and senior vice president for Sylvan Learning, offers several tips to ease the transition from the beach to the classroom and jumpstart sluggish summer brains.


For many students, the first day of school doesn’t only bring new teachers and new friends - it can also be a source of anxiety with homework assignments and tests just around the corner. Starting the school year off on the right foot can help minimize students’ stress levels throughout the year.

Get Cleaning.  A dirty, cluttered room is not conducive to studying.  Get organized before homework starts piling up.

  • Remove seldom-worn clothing.
  • Pack away belongings not used on a regular basis.
  • For smaller children, label areas so they can easily see where belongings should go.

Carve Out a Homework Spot. Whether it is in your bedroom, the basement, or a family office, find an area where you can work distraction-free and claim it as your official workspace.

  • Pick a place that is always available and where you feel comfortable doing schoolwork.
  • Stock the area with all of the supplies and tools that are needed to complete homework.

Get Organized. Organization is key to ensure you stay on top of the requirements for each subject.

  • Use separate, labeled notebooks for each class.
  • Create files for each subject.  The folders can hold assignments, essays, handouts and notes taken during classes.
  • Purchase a planner or calendar to keep track of important dates and deadlines.

Set Educational Goals. Whether it is striving for an A in a certain subject, handing in all homework on time or preparing for tests well in advance, setting goals can help establish a routine for the new year.

Set goals that are measurable, specific, reasonable and have personal value.

Stay On Schedule. Minimize last minute cramming or deadline mix-ups by creating a detailed school schedule.

  • Include all classes, assignments and key dates, such as project deadlines and test dates. Fill in new dates as they arise.
  • Schedule specific times for studying, projects and extracurricular activities.  The more thorough the schedule, the more helpful it will be to you.

Know The School. If you ever feel swamped with back to school madness, ask for help. Schools assist students with transitioning from one grade to another. Meet with your guidance counselor and/or teachers. If you are still nervous, ask your mom or dad to drop you off at school on the first day of class.

Be Adventurous. Step out of your comfort zone this school year by trying new things academically and in terms of extracurricular activities.

  • Try every type of class and/or activity.  You never know what your strengths are until you experience as much as you can.
  • Challenge yourself.  If you have the opportunity, take the hardest classes - not the easiest subjects.
  • Ask questions.  There is nothing wrong with not always knowing the answer. Asking questions is the best way to learn!

Think Positive. Yes, going back to school means homework and early mornings. It also means reconnecting with old friends, meeting new people, resuming fun extracurricular activities, learning more about your favorite subjects and improving on your last year’s performance.


While the idea of waking up at the crack of dawn to prepare lunches, fighting over appropriate school attire and regulating the amount of television watched might have you frazzled, take solace in the fact that you can play a big part in getting your children motivated and excited to tackle a new school year.

Depending on your child’s age, your role in the above-mentioned tips will vary. The following are helpful ideas to ease kids of all ages back into learning mode:

Help Your Child Discover His/Her Learning Style. Because each child is special, with different learning styles and academic needs, it is important to personalize the learning process.  People learn in at least eight different ways, according to the Multiple Intelligences Theory: visually, verbally, physically, mathematically, musically, naturalistically, through group activity or through quiet thinking time. Talk to your child’s teachers about your child’s learning strengths and how best to support them.

Get Back In The Routine. Ease the transition from lazy summer days to the structure of the school year by re-establishing bedtime, mealtime, reading and homework routines. Talk with your child about the importance of structure and how routines help ensure that he is not overtired or overly anxious about schoolwork.

Develop A Family Event Calendar. One of the most helpful tools for getting organized is a family event calendar. To ease the chaos, track school programs, volunteer work and after-school activities. Family time management is essential if you are going to avoid the tumultuous frenzy of disorganization.

  • Depending on your children’s ages, this calendar can be on construction paper with large squares to write in all necessary information, or it can be produced on a white board so that it is easy to revise.
  • If it is color-coded by family member, you can clearly see who has an activity scheduled and when the event occurs.
  • Place the calendar near the telephone, so when a friend’s mother calls to invite your child to a birthday party, you will know instantly whether it fits within your family plans.

Purchase School Supplies In Advance. Avoid the last-minute rush by purchasing supplies at least one week in advance. Take your child.  She can feel excited and in control by choosing her favorite colors and designs.

Be a Cheerleader. Encourage your child to share any concerns he has about returning to school. Reinforce positive feelings by talking with your child about learning and achievement. Support his academic interests and encourage him to get involved in extracurricular activities at school.

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