Welcome to the final school days of 2013 – what a great time for parents to clean up the loose ends at school! When parents take care of the “housekeeping” details, it’s easier for students to successfully engage in learning and feel comfortable in the school environment.
First things first. Do your children have any missing assignments? Are there any big projects due soon? Make it a priority to check on this and provide your kids with every opportunity to get all their school work done now so they can have a fresh start in 2014. There’s nothing worse than spending holiday time making up unfinished assignments.
While you’re thinking about missing assignments, you might want to show up at school some Friday afternoon and help your child clean out his desk. You’d be surprised at what you might find: apple cores, field trip permission slips, overdue book reports, math homework sheets, old sandwiches, notes from the teacher – you name it, it can be crammed into a desk!
And have you checked out your children’s backpacks recently? The missing assignments that aren’t in their desks could well be balled up and crammed into their backpacks! In my middle son’s backpack, I have found old lunches, forgotten assignments, notes to the teacher, a fistful of broken pencils, lost library books, and a rock collection. Remember that your child’s backpack should not weigh more than 15% of body weight.
Wouldn’t it be nice for your child to return to school in January with a clean locker or classroom cubby? Lockers and cubbies are also places that just seem to collect stray papers, lost clothing, and old food. If it isn’t in the desk or the backpack, chances are it’s in the locker! Check it out.
Have you noticed that your kids are missing sweatshirts, jackets, gloves, and hats? Better check the Lost and Found at school! It’s so easy for students to leave outer wear on the playground or in the gym, and the Lost and Found gets awfully full. I’m amazed at the high quality of some of the clothing that is left behind. The school will periodically donate the clothing that is not claimed, and the end of the year is a time when this is often done.Make sure you check the Lost and Found before school lets out for the holidays. You might be surprised at what you find!
Do your children have all the school supplies they need in the classroom? Check it out and replenish school supplies for the new year. There’s a good chance that your kids will need paper, pencils, or glue. High school kids might need a graphing calculator for a math class next semester. If you’re able, send in some extras for those children who cannot buy their own supplies. And teachers always appreciate getting some boxes of tissue, paper towels, and wipes.
Have you moved, changed jobs, gotten a new cell phone number, gone to court for a new custody order, or made other changes that affect your contact information? Make sure that the teacher and the school secretary have updated information for addresses, phone numbers, and emergency contacts. In an emergency, the school staff has to be able to find you easily.
How well is your homework center stocked? Check on the supplies you have available at home for homework assignments and projects, and replenish your stock as necessary. Those 9:00 pm runs to the store for paper or markers aren’t a lot of fun!
After four months of school, your children’s lunch boxes are probably in need of a major scrub-down with soap and bleach. Lunch boxes can get awfully nasty! This is also a good time to make sure your children are actually eating the food you send for lunch, and not just throwing it away. It may be time to figure out some new lunch menu ideas.
If your kids eat lunch at school, make sure that you have cleared up all the lunch charges. And if it’s easier for you to pay in advance for lunches, go ahead and add money now to your children’s lunch account.
Have your family circumstances changed such that your children might qualify for free or reduced lunch? If so, go ahead and get that application filled out. Free and reduced lunch is a program that is there for you to use if you need it.
If your work schedule has changed and your children need to ride the bus, get all the information now about schedules and bus stops so your kids will be all ready to go in January when school starts up again.
If you will need after-school care in the new year, make those arrangements now! Even if the after school program is at your child’s school, there will be an application to fill out and rules and regulations to read.
When was the last time your child brought her gym clothes home to be washed? Middle schoolers are especially bad about bringing home their gym clothes. It’s also a good idea to make sure your child still has the clothes, shoes, and equipment he needs for gym class. Locker rooms are notorious for thievery and lost clothing, and kids don’t like to report it when things go missing.
If your child is in preschool or kindergarten, have you replaced his extra set of clothes with clothes appropriate to the winter weather? Little ones get wet and muddy on the playground, and sometimes they have accidents at school. You don’t want your child changing into shorts and a t-shirt when it’s 30 degrees outside!
Are there any school library books sitting at home? Check bedrooms, backpacks, desks, and lockers for overdue books. Returning library books is an age-appropriate responsibility for kids.
If your child takes medication at school, make sure the prescription is up-to-date and the bottle is full when school starts up again in January. This might be a good time to check in with the school nurse to make sure that procedures for giving medication are being followed and your doctor’s note is current.
Do you need to get your child’s eyes checked during the school break? If your child’s teacher has mentioned concerns about vision, get an appointment with the eye doctor immediately. It’s very common for children in third or fourth grade to have changes in visual acuity that require glasses for correction, and the kids typically don’t notice.
Is the family calendar up-to-date with school activities and events? Check the school website and make sure that you have all the relevant dates on the 2014 calendar.
Check jeans and shoes to see if everything still fits. It’s amazing how quickly kids grow out of clothes, and younger children often wear shoes that are too small and pants that are too tight without mentioning it to parents. Go figure!
If you plan to volunteer at school in 2014, have you completed the necessary application forms? Most school systems these days have an application procedure for school volunteers – it’s necessary to ensure the safety of the students. So don’t get frustrated – everyone has to do it.
Do you have a thank you note or letter of appreciation that you’ve been meaning to send to someone at school? The end of 2013 is a perfect time to get it written and sent. You don’t know how much teachers and other school staff appreciate notes from parents.
Enjoy the holiday season, and be ready to go in 2014!