Back-to-School: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

Back- to-school season is nearly upon us. This simple phrase has multiple meanings – some good, some bad; it all depends upon your perspective. For my inaugural article, I want to share some tips for parents and students alike to make the return of the school year a more successful venture for all. With a little teamwork, back-to-school really can be, as one commercial says, “the most wonderful time of the year.”

The Importance of Sleep

Summertime sleep routines are usually quite different from school-year sleep routines. Staying up late and sleeping in are fine for summer, but obviously that will not work for the school year. Start now to gradually adjust bedtime and wake-up time to align with what your child will be experiencing once school starts. For students holding part-time jobs, discuss how many hours they will be working during the week, making sure they will have time for homework and adequate sleep. A well rested student equals a more successful student.

Establish a Routine

Many of us thrive in an atmosphere of structure, consistency and predictability. That includes your child, no matter what the age.

Have your child pick out the next day’s clothing the night before. Have a designated place for your child’s book bag so that it is not forgotten as he or she rushes out the door. Make sure your child knows when and where homework is to be completed. A quiet, distraction-free environment is best. If your child goes to after-school care, find out if there is time set aside for homework. Homework is as important as in-class work. Teachers assign it to reinforce what has been taught, to check for understanding and sometimes to introduce new material that will be used in the next day’s class. As I always tell my students, “Homework is not a suggestion, it is an assignment.” With our educational focus on college and career readiness, these self-directing skills will serve children well.

Don’t Skip Breakfast

Because school-age children are constantly growing, their bodies need a healthy supply of foods, starting with the first meal of the day. Make sure your child eats breakfast every day. Avoid foods with high sugar content, and focus instead on whole grains, proteins and complex carbohydrates. For example, a large batch of steel-cut oatmeal, cooked over the weekend, can provide quick, healthy breakfasts throughout the week. Mix in some berries or bananas, a small glass of skim milk and a small serving of a lean breakfast meat, such as ham, or vegetarian sausage for a breakfast that will meet your child’s nutritional needs. No time for breakfast at home? Many schools offer a breakfast program. Check with your school to see if it has one.


A daily dose of exercise will help children maintain good health. Good health provides children with the ability to attend school every day. Regular school attendance contributes to academic success. With the childhood obesity being at epidemic levels, first lady Michelle Obama developed the Let’s Move program to help our nation’s youth develop healthier lifestyle habits. According to the Let’s Move website, school-age children should engage in 60 minutes of physical activity five days a week. Make it easy for your child to exercise. Install a free pedometer app on his smartphone and challenge him to walk 13,000 steps per day (11,000 for girls). For younger children, have them track their daily activity on a chart. Award stickers for achieved goals.

Back-to-school is a time of excitement, new experiences and opportunities for children to take another step toward becoming successful adults. Following the simple steps set forth here can help your child become more successful academically. The solid foundation that is laid now will serve them today and for all their tomorrows. It truly can be “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Gail Adams teaches English at Wheeling Park High School. She is a National Board Certified Teacher, and she was named Teacher of the Year for Ohio County Schools in 2014.