Two Essential Steps You can Take Right Now to Make It the Best School Year Ever!


Back-to-school season is upon us!

Whether you are sad to see the summer end or you are dancing through the back-to-school aisles at Target, there are two essential, and free, steps you can take right now to prepare your children for the best school year ever.

The first and most and most essential step will help your child to stay focused and engaged all school year.  They need to establish their WHY. Why is school important?  What will they gain from participating?

It is a question that comes in many forms and we have all heard it before.  “Why do I need to take this class?” “Why do I have to do homework?” “What is the point of…” Let’s be honest, as kids, we asked these questions too.

The answer to this question is essential and personal.

The reason behind our actions is our “why.” It is what drives us and gives us purpose and meaning.

Without a clearly defined WHY, students are likely to flounder in a fog of low motivation.

We cannot design the purpose for our students but we can help them to find it.

So this year, let’s help our students find their WHY.

Begin by guiding your child through a dream future.  Have them close their eyes and imagine their perfect life.  Resist the urge to narrow their dreams to a career choice.  For most, that is too much pressure. This dream is more the image of what life could be.  Prompt their thinking with some questions such as:

  • Where do you want to live? Will it be the mountains, the desert, the snow, the beach…
  • What kind of house do you want to live in? A high-rise? A cabin? An RV? A houseboat?
  • What would your job be like? Is it in an office? Outdoors? Do you use a computer or forklift?
  • Do you own a car? What is it like?
  • Do you want to do something new every few years?
  • Do you want to see the world?

Then ask,

How do you get from here to there? How does school play a role in creating the life of your dreams?

Try not to steer the conversation.  Just listen and offer encouragement.  Ask if they want your input but offer only a little. Their “why” has to come from their heart and, if you are lucky, you might learn something new about your child.

Next, have them draw a picture or write a description of their dream.  Place it somewhere so that your child will see it every day and be reminded of why school deserves their attention.

Now that your children have identified a strong WHY, they will need to create some new habits.

Willpower is fickle, habit is not.  Can you relate?  You brush your teeth every day.  No one needs to remind you.  Do they?

When our kids do not do well in school, when they forget things or miss handing in their homework, we tell them to try harder. What if, instead, we recognized that they are trying hard?  School is hard.  Instead, we can help them set up smarter habits and create routines that will establish an environment for success.

Try automating homework time. Here’s how it works:

Set up a learning time. Choose a time when the entire family can all sit down together to learn. This time should be non-negotiable and uninterrupted.  No phones. No TV.  Computers only when necessary.

Habits are best learned when they are paired with an already-established habit.  For example, you might pair learning time to coincide with the completion of after-dinner dishes or before walking the dog.

Sometimes, students claim there is “no homework.” Guess what? There is always homework.  Reread/highlight notes. Practice site words. Review math problems. If traditional work is completed, the student can explore another interest. Create an agreed-upon list of acceptable topics/skills.  This list could include anything from reading to journaling to creating a recipe or writing music.

The intention is to establish the habit.  When there are no outs, there are (eventually) no negotiations.

This includes you, parents. When you participate in learning time, you will not only model lifelong learning, you will save yourself a great deal of conversation and conflict over homework. I promise.

Start your family time today.

Establishing the routine now, before the hustle and bustle of the school year, will reduce the objections that will inevitably come when school starts.  Make today creative and fun! Play Uno and practice addition facts when keeping score. Write a family story about your summer vacation. Research a topic from a Trivial Pursuit card.

So while you happy dance through the aisles of Target looking for essential school supplies, remember the two MOST essential tools for success will not be found at Target. These tools are within us.  Our motivation comes from our WHY.  Our momentum comes from consistent habits.

Here’s wishing you a very happy and successful school year full of exciting learning opportunities!