Blog: Bright Ideas

Managing Back to School Expectations vs Reality: How to Help Your Kids Flourish

Backpack: check. 3-ring binder: check. Pencil case: check. Loose leaf paper: check. By mid-summer, kids may be getting anxious about their return to school. They watch the mail for class assignments and schedules, and imaginations are actively engaged. Some may be looking forward to going back, missing their friends or anticipating a return to familiar structures and routines. Others may be leary of the transition: apprehensive of a new school, a new teacher or uncertain expectations. In any case, parents can be very influential in calming nerves, getting them organized and helping kids rise to meet new challenges. Back-to-school time is also the perfect time to revisit important summer learning and think about how kids can utilize those skills and ideas when they return to school.

Examining Back To School Expectations

As kids contemplate the return to school in the fall, there will likely be a mixture of positive and negative expectations. For many, the school year represents the resumption of favorite activities, such as sports, scouts and afterschool clubs. It also means daily contact with friends. This is especially important for middle school kids, whose growing independence causes them to rely more on their peers than ever before. Most kids crave structure, and the typical school year schedule provides plenty of that.

On the negative side, it is common to feel apprehensive about transitions. Attending a new school can prompt anxieties regarding teachers, campus layout, routines and workload.  Even when returning to a familiar school, there may be concerns about new teachers, schedule challenges and getting placed in classes with friends. Some kids dread being among the youngest grade level; on the other side, “senior” students entering the top grade at school may experience apprehensions regarding increased expectations and responsibilities, especially if their brains have lain dormant throughout the summer.

Being Proactive Creates a More Positive Reality

Whether kids share their back-to-school worries and ask for help or seem unconcerned and/or uninterested, it is a good time to check in. Broaching the subject during a relaxed, one-on-one conversation (maybe over ice cream) is a good way to gauge what kids are thinking and feeling.
Helping them get organized and into a positive frame of mind can go a long way toward feeling more prepared for the eventuality of the first day of school. Here are a few suggestions for making preparations together: 

  • If it’s in good shape, clean out the old backpack and get it ready for the new year. If a new one is warranted, help kids make a list of required and desired features ahead of the Back-to-School sales.  
  • Establish an organization system that will give kids confidence in managing their daily schedule and assignments. While some schools provide student planners, you can get them ready for that first week with printable student planner pages, or a student planner app for those who prefer a digital system (iOS or Android).
  • Once class assignments have been received, check with the school office to arrange a campus visit. With new schedule and school map in hand, use your mobile phone’s stopwatch app to help kids note transit time between classes and locker. Note the locations of the cafeteria and restrooms, also the school bus loading zone or place where parents pick up.
  • Shopping for school supplies can put kids in a positive frame of mind regarding the new school year—after all, who doesn’t like to get new stuff? Sales typically start mid-summer with stores featuring different low-priced or sale items each week. Look for teachers’ “requested” lists on their websites or make your own. Allowing kids some choices, such as a binder cover or locker accessories can help them put their own stamp on the process.
  • Likewise, evaluating kids’ wardrobes and allowing them to select a few new pieces which they will feel good about wearing can go a long way toward helping them approach new situations confidently and with heads held high. Setting a budget and some guidelines before leaving for the store will ensure a conflict-free shopping trip.
  • Lastly, don’t wait until the last minute to shift into the school year schedule and routines. Ease into earlier bedtimes and establish kids’ responsibilities in advance to avoid “back to school jet lag” and minimize the pushback.

Camp Galileo campers collaborate on project.

Building Intrapersonal Skills

Another way to ensure that kids flourish in the new school year is to arrange summer activities that strengthen their skills and build their self-confidence. Athletic and academic camps fit this bill, as do innovation camps like Camp Galileo and Galileo Summer Quest. What sets these camps apart from the rest is the Galileo Innovation Approach®, or the GIA. With an innovation design process inspired by the Stanford d.school, Galileo helps each and every camper view themselves as a fearless innovator capable of making an impact on our world. And what better way to empower kids ahead of the challenges they will face in the new school year?

Whether at a thematic camp that highlights art, science and outdoor play for kids entering pre-K through 5th grade or through an immersive major that challenges middle school kids to stretch their skills via project-based learning, Galileo combines learning with epic summer fun. Each action-packed week brings kids closer to seeing themselves as inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs. The GIA’s three components: the innovator’s mindset, the innovator’s knowledge and the innovator’s process give campers important experience that empowers critical thinking, problem solving and future risk-taking. The positive self-image and strong intrapersonal skills honed through experience with the GIA will propel kids forward into their next set of challenges come fall. 

Equipping Kids for School Year Success

Managing back to school expectations and dealing with the realities is arguably one of the most important summer tasks for parents. By taking cues from our kids, we can help to minimize anxieties and maximize success in the coming school year. Helping to prepare them physically and mentally for the new challenges ahead won’t completely eliminate the bumps in the road but will give kids tools to navigate them with confidence. Getting the tangible things ready in advance, like backpacks, supplies and clothes, will establish order and preparedness for the start of a new school year. But helping kids view themselves as capable of conquering the academic and social challenges they will encounter is an equally critical investment in their future confidence and ultimate success.
  
Boost kids’ confidence in advance of the return to school by checking out a Galileo camp in your area: San Francisco, Southern California, and Chicagoland. Sign up for our mailing list to keep up-to-date on our camp happenings and innovation resources. Or, you can register for camp today.