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SchoolFamily Voices

Join our bloggers as they share their experiences on the challenges and joys of helping children succeed in school.

Strategies To Help Your Child Get to School On Time

Every school year, we have certain students who are chronically late to school. Just a few minutes might not seem like a big problem, but it actually has a bigger effect than you realize. Those who arrive a little late miss out on the organizational time of the day. This is when teachers take roll, take up homework, hand back homework, and set the tone for the day’s lessons. When students arrive in the middle of this, they might forget to turn in their work. Or they are confused about what is happening in class.

If this is true for your child, together you might resolve to improve. You might say to him, “This year you need to get to school on time.” But in order to be successful with this resolution, you and your child need to identify the reason he is late to school so much and make a plan to improve.

Does your child have trouble waking up in the morning? Adolescents need from eight to nine hours of sleep each night. It is important to limit the number of activities that take place on school nights to make sure your child gets to bed early enough. She should not take her phone or other electronics to bed with her. Many students text one another all through the night, which affects their sleep cycle. There is considerable research that suggests this sleep is necessary for learning to become permanent. Getting enough sleep will make it easier to get up and get ready for school.

Perhaps your child gets up on time, but when it’s time to leave he still isn’t ready to go. Getting organized the night before can help if this is the issue. He should pack his backpack and lunch before going to bed. Additionally, he can decide what he will wear and lay those clothes out for morning. It is important to include eating a healthy breakfast and brushing his teeth in the morning routine. This organization may help move him along faster in the morning and get to school on time.

If nothing seems to help, try setting the clock a little ahead. I used to do this and was always amazed that I looked at the clock and believed what it said! I would move along faster and wind up getting there on time. Having an extra few minutes after arriving at school can help students relax, enjoy their morning, and be ready to learn.

I hope you enjoy the remaining days before school starts. It will help make the transition to school easier if you wake your children up early a few days before they have to get up so they can get used to the morning routine.

 

> A Stress-Free Morning Routine

> Get Ready for School Checklist

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Should School Start Later for Teens?

Ever try to wake a sleeping teenager? It’s a time-consuming undertaking that’s frustrating for everyone involved, especially on early morning weekdays before the sun is even up.

 

That’s the reality for many parents and teens Monday through Friday, in order for the teen to get to school on time—and we’re talking school start times between 7-7:30 a.m. For those who must catch a school bus, back up about 20-30 minutes earlier, and we’re talking the wee hours.

 

Take our Poll: Does School Start Too Early for Your Teen

 

There’s been a fair amount of conclusive research and expert opinion that teenagers need more sleep rather than less.  [Listen for the applause and the “I told you so” looks from nearby teens.] But in many school districts across the country, school start time for teens—and even some middle school tweens—is getting earlier and earlier.

 

Since everyone is cost cutting these days, especially local governments and school districts, many schools say they’re starting earlier due to budget-friendly tiered busing schedules. This means that older kids—high school and middle schoolers—are picked up earliest, during the first tier of morning busing runs (they’re also dropped off earliest in the afternoon as well). Next come older elementary school students, and in the last tier are kindergarteners, who often are picked up by their buses as late as 8:30 a.m.

 

Do you struggle with getting your teen up and out the door 5 days a week? (Maybe more if your child has clubs, sports, and/or job commitments on the weekends.) And do you worry that your teen's lack of adequate sleep may be detrimental to his grades?

 

If so, take heart. Two women decided enough is enough and formed a not-for-profit organization to address the issue. StartSchoolLater.net, co-founded by Maribel Ibrahim and Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D., is staffed by an 8-member steering board (the women occupy 2 of the 8 seats) and a 12-member advisory board, and advocates exclusively for later school start times.

 

More than simply presenting solid research findings and hosting the conversation, however, this group is seeking nationwide legislation to mandate that no public schools start before 8 a.m. 

 

What do you think? (I know my high-schooler would heartily agree!)

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Children, Sleep and Long Term Memory

Sleepy StudentScientists now have evidence that long-term memories form during sleep. For years we have suspected that sleep was important for learning and memory. This data now confirms that suspicion (See Science Daily, Sept. 16, 2009).

We now believe that new memories, including motor memories (like playing a scale on the piano or shooting a free throw in basketball), are somewhat fragile and that they become more permanent during sleep. (See Science Daily, June 29, 2005).

Now we understand why children and teenagers who are learning new skills and concepts need more sleep than adults. (See Healthy Sleep for Kids).

For children in elementary school, this means ten or eleven hours of sleep each night. Older school aged children still need eight to nine hours (See WebMD, 2003)

Children are involved in so many extra-curricular activities, and those most successful in school often have a lot of homework to complete each night. Add in the time they spend watching TV, listening to music, or talking on the phone and there just are not enough hours in the day to get enough sleep!

It is important to limit the number of activities on school nights in order to allow time for your child to change new memories into permanent long-term memories while sleeping. You might want to think about this when helping your child to decide what extracurricular activities they will do when school starts this fall. Be sure they have enough time for sleep!

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Managing Technology Distractions on School Nights

Cell phones, Facebook, I-Touch, Xbox + students + parents… can they peacefully co-exist and survive the school year? How do we best teach our kids to manage technology distractions on school nights? Hmmm.

Did you ever stop to think that because we are addressing this very question we are making history? This is a new problem that gets more complex with every new release of cell phones, gaming systems, etc.  How to address this issue has not yet been solved. I know this because I have googled many phrases in attempt to come up with a plan for my family:

Technology limits on school nights
Technology limits + kids + homework
Guidelines for cell phone use + study skills + teens

What did I find online? Not a lot. I learned that too much Facebook affects academic performance. Now there’s a surprise. Also learned that t(w)eens will text all night  if you let them keep their phone in their room. Shocking. What I didn’t seem to find is how to help our kids manage all these distractions. So, my husband and I  did what any good parents would do: We talked to other parents and compared notes on kids, homework and technology rules. Next, we developed a list of guidelines for technology on school nights that we felt fit our situation and kids.  

Thought I would share our guidelines here in hopes that other parents will jump into the conversation.  

School Night Technology Rules

After School/Before Homework Technology

  • Can check Facebook 15 min max  & be on computer for homework related stuff only
  • i-Touch for checking Facebook - 15 minutes

During Homework

  • I-Touch - Music Only   -   if used for surfing the net, or Facebook, I-Touches will be downstairs
  • Cell phones- in kitchen (our kids do homework at desks in their bedrooms)
  • Can check cell phones on homework breaks
  • Note: our computer is in our family room.

After Homework Approved Activities

  • Chores get done first
  • Outside activities
  • TV
  • Read 
  • Hobbies (xbox is not a hobby)
  • Friends
  • No i-Touch games or internet-  Music only
  • No XBox
  • Can talk to friends via Skype  

Night Time/In Bed

  • Cell phones downstairs
  • I-Touch for music only- No internet or games

Sundays

  • Homework needs to start no later than 3pm 
  • No XBOX after 3

You may be wondering why we felt the need to write up such specific rules for our family.  I will tell you that typically my husband and I fall into the authoritative parent style category. As for our kids, they are good kids; they have lots of interests, make great choices with friends, they get good grades, and are kind and respectful. For these reasons, last year we went the route of "discussing" guidelines and hoping that our kids would learn to self-manage. Simply put, this approach didn’t work.

So fast forward to the family meeting where we told our kids about the "new plan." Well, you can imagine that this went over like a lead balloon.  As anticipated, we had a very heated and healthy exchange with our kids. Their reaction: these rules are way too extreme. 

So, here’s the gist of what we told our kids... when they were little it was our job to keep them safe. Now that they are older we want to empower them to make good choices but  this technology thing is just too darn alluring. Stay in touch with your friends 24-7? That’s a t(w)een’s dream. Science tells us that t(w)eens brains are not wired to multi-task nor can they be expected be a steel trap of self-discipline. They are not unmotivated or bad kids – it’s just unfair to think that they could have their cell phone and Facebook accessible  during homework and not be tempted to check it … a lot. (Yes, we have cell phone texting records to prove this theory ;  ) Our goal is to have balanced kids, that do well in school and pursue hobbies and friendships that don’t always involve technology. Hopefully by taking this approach, our kids will arrive at the spring of senior year with lots of options for colleges and have no regrets (because they didn’t apply themselves).  Once we explained our thoughts, they actually came around. Yes, they are still speaking to us. I may even go so far as to say that I think they are relieved to have some limits set. I'll have to get back to you on that one. 

So now it’s your turn. How do you manage technology distractions on school nights in your house? What has worked and not worked? Would you add or subtract anything to our list?

 

 

 

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Petition for Later Start Times for High School?

When you have children in elementary school the conventional advice is easy to follow: get your child to bed at a reasonable hour and they will have an easier time in school. Fast forward several years to high school and the same wisdom applies. Unfortunately, early to bed in high school is usually an elusive and rare feat.  Compound a late bedtime with very early start times at school and it's not pretty. And yet, this is the standard. 

Countless studies have been done on teens and  how lack of sleep affects academic performance and teens in general. Ability to concentrate, memory, coping skills, mood and physical coordination are just some of the things affected by too little sleep. It makes me wonder if there might even be less bullying in schools if kids got more sleep. A recent blog I came across talked about how early school starts affect teen driving and accidents. Now that's scary. But what is a parent to do? Make your teen go to bed early? Right. 

I know my high schooler has lamented many times that the elementary school kids start school so much later when they are the ones who are early risers. Why not flip the sequence? It makes perfect sense until you factor in sports, jobs, and homework. Like with so many teen topics, there are no easy answers. 

Do you know of any schools that have adopted the later start times? Are you ready to start a petition to have the high school students in your town start school after the elementary school kids? Would love to hear from you!  

 

 

 

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Keep Television Out of Your Young Child’s Bedroom

“Should I get my child their own television for their room?”  Whenever I am asked this question my answer is always a resounding “Absolutely not!”

I say this because:

  • Using a TV for reward or punishment gives television too much importance.
  • Watching TV as a family allows parents to monitor programs, and limit length of time spent in front of the TV.
  • Watching programs together gives parents the opportunity to start conversations on what they see.  For example, “What would you have done if you were that child?”
  • Watching together allows parents to look for programs that can excite your child’s interests, and encourage reading (a story dramatization, wildlife or nature adventures, science, or history programs.) 
  • Having a television in your child’s bedroom can over stimulate your child and delay needed sleep.  (“Just five minutes more please"…)
  • American children watch an average of 3 to 5 hours of TV each day.  In my opinion this is 2-4 hours too much!

For a young child TV time can be fun and even educational. However, letting a young child watch unsupervised television for hours on end is a bad idea.

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Students Need A LOT More Sleep Than You Think

Your kids' bedtime.

Ah, just reading those words puts a smile on your face, doesn't it? I love my children as much as the next parent, and at the same time I am not ashamed to admit that I also love sending them to bed at the end of a long day.

The two things are not mutually exclusive.

Kids need sleep. Lots and lots of sleep. They need consistent bedtimes and regular sleeping hours.

You may be surprised to learn how much sleep your children need:

  • 3 to 6 year olds = 12 hours a night
  • 7 to 9 year olds = 11 hours a night
  • 10 to 12 year olds = 10 hours a night
  • 12 to 18 year olds = 8 to 9 hours a night

So, are your children getting enough sleep? Few are. And, it is not the once-in-awhile-crazy-late bedtimes that cause the long-lasting problems. It’s the kinda-late-every-single-night bedtimes that do the most damage and cause problems in school. Students need to be at their best at school every day, and that means they need to be well-rested every day. Consistently losing even a small amount of sleep adversely affects children. Sleep-deprived children don't grow as fast as they should, don’t learn as much they could, and don't get along as well with others.

Some students come to school sleepy nearly every single day. They spend their entire academic careers operating at less than their best. How much learning do you think is taking place?

Just to clarify: sleeping means eyes closed, snoring, dreaming. It does not mean brushing teeth, begging for one more story, arguing and debating the merits of sleep, watching one more show, getting ready to hang up the phone or turn of the computer. Sleep means sleep.

 

Don’t you wish that someone demanded that you go to your room, get in the bed and go to sleep? This is punishment?

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