Tips for Back to School Success

Toronto, ON (PRWEB) August 28, 2012

Light in the Attic co-founder and Academic Director David Laredo has summarized his four core steps to learning success. He helps students master these skills in one on one tutoring and he’s happy to share his advice to help students prepare for a productive, positive and fun year of learning.

“Too many students walk into the classroom and simply let things unfold the way they did the year before,” says Laredo. “Similar to high performance athletes we believe students should receive coaching and pre-season training so they are organized, prepared and they have the tools to succeed from day one.”

Laredo’s Four Ways to Manage a Successful School Year include tips and techniques that students and parents can use throughout the year:

*Develop Organization Skills

Organization skills are critical to academic success. There are several things you can do to help and encourage your child to stay organized. The single most important tool for organization is an agenda. Digital or paper, an agenda helps your child stay on top of upcoming tests and assignments. Purchasing an agenda is simple enough but actually keeping it up and actively using one is not innate. To help your child learn how to get the most out of an agenda you can request long-range plans from your child’s teacher (see ‘Get to Know the Teacher’) and build a schedule working backwards with your child. Make sure your child is cataloging all upcoming tests and assignments in the agenda and work backwards to determine a schedule of activity that will allow them to meet timelines. You can also keep a large calendar in view featuring major milestones so they are top of mind for the family.

*Build Good Study Habits

Routine is the name of the game for building good study habits. Build into your daily schedule a specific time set aside for homework and STICK TO IT. Ensure your child has a quiet, well-lit place with all of the tools they need (pencils, paper, geometry set, etc.) so that there is no need for them to procrastinate. Younger children (under grade 6) should be doing their homework in a public part of the house (kitchen or dining room table). Older kids can use a separate quiet space as long as they can stay motivated. If you find that your older child is not maximizing their study time, back to the kitchen it is! Discourage distractions. This means no TVs or music on. Remember that agenda? Actively using it can help your child prioritize what they should be doing during each study period.

*Set Screen Time Restrictions

Many of us are familiar with setting restrictions for TV and computer time at home, but the proliferation of personal mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets, adds another layer of complexity to distractions. Instead of simply limiting TV time, we recommend limiting ‘screen time’ which includes texting with friends, updating Facebook and tweeting. Set expectations with your child and provide them with a reasonable limit for screen time after homework time. They may just get bored enough to pick up a book!

*Get to Know the Teacher

Teachers can be your child’s biggest allies. Get to know your child’s teachers by booking time to discuss objectives and goals for the year. These meetings are a great time to request long-range plans. Let them know you are looking forward to working with them as a partner to help your child achieve maximize success. Ask them how they prefer to receive communications. Some teachers prefer email, others would rather set up time to chat face to face. If issues come up throughout the year, such as behaviour or poor performance, make sure they feel supported. Try to create a collaborative team environment where you both work together for the benefit of the child. If you agree on a path forward, make sure you hold up your end of the bargain.

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As the mother of a Senior Kindergarten student and a toddler, I wondered if these tips provided by David could be applied to my two enthusiastic school types (my SK kid can’t wait for school to start to go to her new school (we switched her to a French Immersion school this year) and my toddler proclaims at the top of his lungs on a daily basis that HE’S GOING TO PRESCHOOL AND EMILY CAN’T GO TO HIS SCHOOL, ONLY HIM!)

So I took the opportunity to ask him a couple, more specific questions. Here they are along with his answers:

NC: As a mother of a senior kindergarten student, how can I apply your tips to help her have a successful year and to set the tone for a successful overall school experience?

DL: It is really important that, before the onset of school, parents really look at how they can demystify school as the unknown and really “big it up”.  As a parent of three children myself, one going into SK and one going into preschool, I try my best to make my children part of the back-to-school process. We talk about the way we will walk to school, and who will be in each of their classes. It is also really important, if you have a chance, to introduce your child to the teacher before school even starts. Many teachers at this time are getting their classes ready and to take your child in and just say “hello” allows the teacher to put a face to a name on their class list. And it allows the child to see who they are going to be learning with! It is also really important that 1-2 weeks before school starts, school starts at home. This means that at the same time every day, you read together, go over letters and numbers so that your child understands that this is what will be happening when she/he comes home from school. This offers your child the opportunity to feel secure and part of their learning experience. Also, it won’t be a jolt to their system when school actually does start because they have been doing this already. The key here is that it is fun and the child feels like they are in control.

Having said the above and knowing that school is starting on Tuesday, if these routines are not in place, gently discussing what will happen once school starts should take place over the next few days. For example, some parents can discuss a great working place for their child. Creating a list of things that need to happen when your child comes home from school – Eg. “once you get home, this work area will have all the things you need: pencils, paper rulers, etc and as we discussed first you will have a snack and then we can work on your fun homework.” Your child should be a part of what they think will help them succeed in school. As mentioned above, making this expectation consistent is key to your child’s success; same time, same place, same routine is established and boundaries are created where both child and parent feel involved in the schooling process.

NC: In this age of social networking and personal mobile devices, how can parents limit screen time and how much of a limit should parents put on screen time since kids are using their devices to accomplish school tasks?

DL: First off, screen time is anything with a screen. Ipad, Smart phone, TV, computer, laptop. Discussion needs to happen about what they are used for. For example at Light In The Attic, we encourage our older students who have organizational issues to utilize their smart phones as a tool to organize themselves. It can offer the child an opportunity to plan backwards with reminders of important dates and make sure that they are on top of their school workload. This organizing is best done with a parent or tutor so that the use of the smart phone is monitored. This is an example of when a technical device is used for school purposes. Younger children need to have this monitored closely. That’s why we suggest that homework for younger kids gets done in a public part of the house. For older kids, you have to give a certain amount of trust that they are working on school related items. If you begin to see that social screen time is creeping back in, you need to make sure that they are completing their work in a public part of the house and actively monitor. The key here is monitoring the use of many of the technological devices that are available to children. If done together, not only is the parent/caregiver abreast of what the child is supposed to do, the child will also get a sense of support without the nag to complete a certain task.

Screen time can be used as a reward  once work is completed. Please remember, as  a parent, you need parent with boundaries and clear expectations. At my house, with my three boys the screens don’t go on until we have had our routine time that was established before school even started. Once our homework is complete, my children are allowed 1 hour of screen time. This can be iPad, TV or Wii. After that, screens go off and my kids can play with toys, build with Lego or read a book. It is really important also to establish with your children what is a fair amount and allowing them into the decision process of how much time they should get for screen time. If they complain after that it is not enough, redirection towards the conversation you had establishing the amount of screen time should be acknowledged. By doing this, you become a partner with your child and not an authoritarian.

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About Light in the Attic:

Light in the Attic Learning offers educational enrichment and remedial programs for students JK to grade 12. Our private instruction is tailored to fit each child’s individual needs and learning style. Specializing in math and language, Light in the Attic provides the foundation that students need to achieve academic success in tandem with helping them with the work at hand. In addition to improving their grades, kids who study at Light in the Attic will better analyze problems, propose solutions, trouble-shoot, communicate with others, and manage their time. Our students develop learning skills that will help them succeed in school and beyond. Light in the Attic also offers virtual one on one tutoring online for students who live outside of the Toronto area. For more information visit


4 thoughts on “Tips for Back to School Success

  1. elskenewman

    Great post! I hope I can remember the advice for long enough until my little one goes to school. Although I am pretty sure my mum did very similar things with us. Hope it goes well at the French school!


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