The Real Start of the School Year

A first grader raises his hand in a classroom in Nitzan, southern Israel. (Edi Israel/Flash90/File)
A first grader raises his hand in a classroom in Nitzan, southern Israel. (Edi Israel/Flash90/File)

Typically, the month of September is a busy time for students and parents, with the start of the new school year. This year however, for Jewish families around the world, the holidays meant that school has not actually truly begun. With the constant starting and stopping, most students and parents have not yet gotten into the real routines that normally come along with the start of school. Well, luckily (for us parents) the real start of the school year comes tomorrow, as our children will shuffle off to learn for consecutive days. Besides serving as a relief for parents that the kids are actually out of the house, this is also an important time to make sure that our children are prepared for the realities of the academic year. While no one will argue that the time for our kids to be in school has come, we also want to make sure that the school year is as successful as possible.

Here are some practical steps that parents can take to help ensure a smooth start…

  • Put the Phones Away – Many parents use monitoring or blocking applications to curtail the number of hours our kids spend on their mobile devices. Apps such as Screentime, provide parents with a glimpse at how time is being spent, and what sites/apps our kids are using. Over the holidays, many families disable the Apps, as during breaks, we do not need to be as concerned with the amount of time being spent on these devices. With school getting into full swing, we need to make sure these controls are turned back on. If you are not using this type of software, setting limits on phone and computer use is a good thing to do now, rather than later on. My kids each receive enough device usage so that they can relax a bit and have some “down time.” If they do their work, and complete their tasks, more time can always be added. Now that vacation time is over, limits should be set to ensure that proper attention is devoted to academics.
  • Get to Know the Teacher – Many of us have already attended our school’s “Back to School” night, but with the academics now getting under way, it is a good time to officially connect with the teachers. If your child has certain issues that you feel need to be addressed, now is the time. There is no reason to wait until there is a problem. The more pro-active we can be, the better the teacher can help. If you know for example that your child needs extra help or is at the head of the class, start working on enrichment/support options. Most teachers would much rather have productive and open communications with the parents than have a confrontational situation later on. Your child’s teacher is there to help, and parents should use this time as an opportunity to get to know them. After all, the teachers will be spending more time with the kids over the next year, than the parents.
  • Academic Support is Always Available – Unfortunately, many parents and students wait until it is too late to ask for help. Many students may benefit from some extra academic support to get through the school year. Thanks to online learning and technology, there are many more options for support now than there were just a few years ago. Academic support does not need to be expensive, and can usually be scheduled based on the student’s availability. Getting ahead of a challenging subject can make a huge difference. If your child is enrolled in an advanced class, or is taking a subject that has been difficult in the past, why wait for a bad grade? Start providing some extra help now.
  • Routines are Important – Sometimes, when my kids come home from school, I ask that important question, “do you have homework?” The usual response is, “yeah, I’ll do it later.” While “later” is all fine and good, there needs to be a time designated for homework and other school activities. Until this point, we have not really had to worry about this, as there have been very few homework assignments. Now though, the volume of work is going to increase, and many children need help with time management and staying focused. In our house, the hours of 5-6:30 PM have been designated as “homework time.” Sometimes, the kids actually need more time, while other days, they are able to finish their work in only a few minutes. If time is left over, there are always projects or enrichment activities which they can do. By setting these hours especially for homework, my kids know that this is the top priority, regardless of what else may be going on.
  • Have Some Fun!- Ok, school can be difficult and many of our children spend a bulk of their time doing homework and studying for tests. While academics should come first, we also want to make sure that our kids have an opportunity for some fun activities. In Israel, there are literally hundreds of “Chugim” or clubs for which children can sign up. Chugim offer everything from sports to drama, art, etc. While some of these activities do mean an extra carpool or an added expense, it is important that kids have some time away from the books and the studying. In my family, Friday is “baseball day.” Both of my kids play on our city’s baseball teams. While this means more carpools and hours for the parents, this activity is a chance for the kids to get away from the books.

The school year is a time of growth and maturation for our children. Our role as parents is to make sure that our kids have the tools they need for success. The more we can support them at home, and the more we can advocate for their interests, the more successful are children will be.

Wishing everyone a great school year!

About the Author
Aryeh Eisenberg is the CEO and General Manager of Bonim B'Yachad, an online education technology provider for schools and individuals. Based in Israel, Bonim B'Yachad works with students all over the world.
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