Monday, September 7, 2009

School Year's Eve: Resolution #1

School Year’s Eve is almost bigger in our house that New Year’s Eve - with four kids, three of them tween girls, school rules the family calendar. In Washington, Fall weather is still a few weeks away, but September evokes all things new: new classes, new teachers, new friends, new uniforms, and new opportunities. While the adult work world doesn’t follow the school year cadence (I’m still yearning for summers off), the chance to start the season afresh has universal appeal. As a result, one of our family traditions is making Back to School Resolutions.

As culled from years of working with tweens and their parents, what follows is a Top Ten Back to School Resolutions list for both tweens and parents – one resolution a day for the next ten days. I’d love to hear your back to school resolution suggestions as well – please send me tweet at: or post a comment below.

Back to School Resolution #1: Don’t procrastinate.

This one tops the list by far for both students and adults. For tweens, many of whom are just entering middle school, managing their school work load independently is struggle. I most often hear variations on this resolution such as “Don’t wait until the night before to study for a test” or “Start projects early; don’t leave them for the last minute.” It’s a learning process to figure out how to organize their work and their time, and schools are just beginning to give them greater responsibility in doing so. Any adult knows that one of the keys to success in life is time management, so the sooner one masters this skill, the better. Talk with your tween about their long-term assignments and pose some thought-starter questions such as: When is it due? Will you have time in class to work on it? Is it a group project? (And if so, you can point out that scheduling meetings/work sessions will impact the project work schedule given kids’ after school activities.) Have you thought about how to break down this big assignment into smaller pieces of work? The tendency for many tweens is to become overwhelmed by a large project because it’s a change from the smaller, discrete assignments from elementary school. You can help by talking it through with them and coaching them on how to make it more manageable. Teachers are well aware of this challenge and many offer afterschool or before school “office hours” to help students learn to plan their work.

For the parents in our house, procrastination begins the minute those long lists of “Important School Dates” arrive in the mail. The task of copying down each date into our Blackberries or journal for each different school can take the better part of an afternoon. Inevitably there is a mad scramble the day of a forgotten event to find a sitter/buy the class snack/change our work schedule to attend an assembly. This year I’m trying something new: copying down one month at a time. It’s still four lists’ worth of dates, but at least I can get this done within an hour instead of an afternoon. If you are the type that likes online tools or to receive reminders via email, you may want to check out a free online service that recently launched called Cozi. It’s a website designed to help parents manage the family calendar and allows for email reminders, separate calendar views by kid, and even can send you text messages of your grocery list (no more forgetting to buy toothpaste – again).

Next post: Back to School Resolution #2 – Be organized.

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