If you’re like some, you’ve got both feet firmly planted in summer break — adorned with goggles, water balloons, a good book, and a steadfast denial that school is right around the corner. Or, maybe you’re one of those families that actually loves school and, in fact, has never stopped teaching long enough to notice the ‘break’ in summer break. Regardless of your current summer disposition, it’s a good idea to pause and take stock of your needs for the coming year. It’s the chance to assess what has worked, purge ideas and materials that have proven ineffective or superfluous, and make new goals to help streamline education. It’s also time to start planning your supplies list.
Many school essentials don’t come in wrapped packages with price tag attached. Those essentials can sometimes be set aside or forgotten about while we make itemized lists of pencils, notebooks, glue sticks, and rulers. It’s important to remember the true fundamentals that make up the back to school must-haves.
PURGE YOUR CURRICULUM LIBRARY OF UNUSED AND UNNECESSARY MATERIAL
Odds are you have it on your shelf. Most families do. It’s that old textbook you bought three years ago that didn’t work out like you thought it would. Now you’re saving it “just in case” you have the need for some supplemental material someday. Time passes. The stack of material grows and is left unused. The only thing it has managed to do is create clutter and guilt as you watch it gather dust.
Summer is the perfect time to condense and streamline curriculum for the coming year. Find one curriculum for each subject that works for your family and stick to it. Sell or donate items that don’t work for you. Who knows? They might be just the thing another family is looking for. The bottom line when it comes to curriculum is — less is more. You will be more efficient, organized, and stress-free when there are fewer materials being juggled.
MAKE EDUCATION CULTIVATE INQUISITIVENESS, IMAGINATION, AND A LOVE FOR LEARNING
Children are born with the same inquisitive nature required of scientists. As infants, they start off
examining and testing the physical properties of the world around them. Their laboratory is found on the kitchen, bathroom, and living room floors as they touch, squeeze, and lick anything within arm’s reach. They watch a cup fall from the highchair…time and time again…gathering data with each drop.
Children start to make connections and form hypotheses of expected outcomes as they pull the ever-patient dog’s fur, and then decide to move toward the temperamental cat. When the outcomes are different than expected, children are able to adjust their methodology for future recall. Pull the dog’s fur: yes. Pull the cat’s fur: NO! When fostered, these inquisitive childhood moments lead to innovative adult creativity.
Imaginative childhood play should be a part of the curriculum, not a scheduled break from it. The most notable innovators that have changed the world with their ideas were ones that dreamed the imaginary, and then worked to make it real. Unimaginative scientists aren’t at the forefront of technological advancement. The dreamers are. Allow children to make creativity and imagination a part of everyday education.
PRAISE STUDENTS FOR THEIR EFFORT AND NOT THEIR INTELLIGENCE
This recommendation may seem contrary to some of the recent advice you’ve heard. Saying someone is smart certainly doesn’t sound negative. It may even sound like a compliment to tell a child they’re smart after a job well done. When children learn to associate intelligence with outcomes, however, they may lose the drive to take on new challenges or persevere in the face of failure. Why take the chance of appearing “dumb” if you should fail?
Consistently telling someone they are smart can also lead children to believe that intelligence is all they need. They write off the importance of effort and hard work. Young children who are routinely told they are smart in the early grades might stop putting forth effort, believing intelligence is enough. Later, when difficult subjects are faced in the middle years, they are not accustomed to the type of effort required to conquer tougher challenges and can conclude they really aren’t intelligent after all.
Developing relationships of encouragement rather than merely praising innate ability is the key to performance. Engage a child’s thought process, encourage his or her ingenuity at problem solving, and praise persistence. When children fail, dust off their knees and help them fine-tune plans for another attempt. Encouragement for continued attempts will garner the results you want in the long run.
DON’T TAKE THE BAD DAYS PERSONALLY
Even when you’ve had a great start and things seem to be going well, there will come a time when your attempt fails miserably. It’s important to remember that you are not unique in your failure. Everyone fails at some point. Don’t take it personally. A bad day or two doesn’t make you a poor educator. It makes you human, just like your students.
When you hit a rough patch, perhaps it’s time to switch things up for a day or two. Find an activity in a different setting to help push the reset button. Assess your goals to make sure they are realistic. Most importantly, don’t forget to follow the advice you’re dishing out to your kiddos. Dust off your knees and fine-tune your next attempt.
COLLABORATE WITH OTHER PARENTS AND THE ONLINE COMMUNITY
There are so many resources available today. One such is Pinterest. Here are some wonderful Pinterest boards we found that offer educational ideas and parental support.
- We Learn Through Play!
- The Garden Classroom
- Kid Blogger Network Activities & Crafts
- The Parent Water Cooler
- Creative Mamas Inspiration Cafe
Do you have other back-to-school essentials that weren’t included in this post? Share them with firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add them to our list. Real Science 4 Kids loves the collaboration of great ideas.