19 August 2008 11:36 AM

Month by Month Planning for a Successful Year

by Dr. Rick
We lead busy lives, and since we don’t seem to have much success in simplifying or slowing down, the next best thing is to organize ourselves. It’s a good skill to teach our kids. Kids listen to what we say and watch what we do (yes, they do), so we’d better be good role models. If we want them to do better in school, we’d better let them see us reading, writing occasionally, doing actual math in our lives. And organizing.

One of the most frequently asked questions from parents is how to plan for a successful school year. Every autumn is a New Year for school kids, a time for New Year’s resolutions. Here are suggestions for things parents and students can do to get the upper hand on a new school year before it takes on a life of its own.

It’s a calendar of monthly actions that you and the children can take. It’s simple, but it’ll give you some ideas of how you can plan ahead, establish routines, ask the right questions, and set the right goals for a successful year.


Parents, start setting the healthy and helpful routines that your child will need to navigate the new school year. These include times for mornings (breakfast), after school (homework), evenings (family and fun) and bedtime. These routines become rhythms, necessary for children, adults, and families.

Talk about what you did over the summer as a family, as individuals. What did you enjoy? What did you learn? Movies? Books? Travels? New experiences? Special accomplishments? What was the most fun? Was something difficult? You get the idea. Talk to your kids. Listen.

Students, set some new school year’s resolutions. Make them challenging and realistic. An improved grade in social studies? Remembering to turn in homework assignments? Keeping an organized notebook? Studying for tests earlier than the night before? Learning to play the tuba? Getting the lead in the school play? Making the soccer team? What’s important to you?

Get a “study buddy.” Each kid should have someone outside the family who can be helpful at homework time or any other time of school “crisis.” A study buddy is someone from your class you can call or IM each evening (time limit required) to make sure you have all the assignments for tomorrow, understand them, and ask questions. When test time comes along, it’s okay for groups of study buddies to get together to study and help each other out. Actual studying is required. Parents have veto privileges over study buddies.

Did you sign up for the right classes to meet your goals? Did you get all the classes you signed up for? Don’t wait for the first day of school to find out. Visit the school first.

Are you new to the neighborhood? Need a tour of the school? With your parents, arrange one now, before school starts. Many schools do this automatically for all students, especially first timers, but you’ll want to make sure you’re ready to begin with confidence about where your locker is and first period class is held.

Seniors, how’d you do on your ACTs or SATs? Not happy with the scores? Start thinking now of getting help and then taking the test again. See your guidance counselor or check out www.collegeboard.com, www.act.org, www.educate.com, or other well-respected websites for test dates and prep opportunities.

And finally, check to make sure you’ve got all the school supplies you’ll need. Each school has its own requirements grade by grade – planners, crayons, highlighters, notebooks – so check with the school.


Parents, reinforce those routines. Students, you’ve already set the routines at home, now make sure you have school routines, too. Set them by yourself and with your study buddy. Share your goals with your study buddy. Help your buddy achieve hers; she’ll help you achieve yours. Parents, take every opportunity to communicate with teachers. Go to Back to School Night, take advantage of teachers’ web pages on the school web site, know when special projects will be due so you can bug your kids to get them done, inform teachers of your kids’ special needs and goals. Teachers like to hear from you, especially when you’re being constructive and helpful.

Set rewards and consequences. Parents, let your kids know – in words and actions – that you support their goals and efforts. Show them that there will be some kind of reward for advancing toward and meeting those goals. Rewards don’t need to be monetary, but they can be. Depends on how you feel about this. I don’t see anything wrong with reasonable money incentives, by the way. And don’t call it “bribery.” Bribery is money paid to make someone do something he shouldn’t do! Getting good grades should be encouraged. Read the books of Dr. Ruth Peters for some down-to-earth, common sense guidance. Go to www.ruthpeters.com for more.

Next, I’ll run through planning for October, November and December…


Add comment

  • Comment
  • Preview

Dr. Rick In The News

WMARabc2news.com - March 2, 2011
Baltimore Celebrates Read Across America

WMARabc2news.com - March 2, 2011
Read Across America Interview

The Friday Flyer - February 18, 2011
Parents can Nurture the Love of Reading

Multiples and More - July 5, 2010
Expert Post: Dr. Rick of Sylvan Learning

Examiner.com - May 15, 2010
Summer Skill Sharpeners

Blog Posting Rules

This blog is for the good of education - for students, for teachers and for parents. I very much value a two-way communication with you and welcome and encourage your comments and feedback. However, to facilitate a constructive conversation that is beneficial to everyone in this online community, I expect the same respect in your comments that I present in my blog.

Read the full Dr. Rick Blog Posting Rules.