With the start of the school year just around the corner, we’re willing to bet there is a bit of nervousness mixed in with the excitement. That’s understandable. Even if it’s not your child’s first year at school, it can still feel like a major change after the summer break.
Whether your child is new to Apple or a returning student, here are some tips that will help you and your child prepare for a successful first day of school.
End of Summer Tips
Talk It Through
Starting school is full of unknowns for children – what will the other children, their teacher, the classroom and the Montessori experience be like? Regularly telling your children what they can expect will go a long way to relieving the anxiety that comes with not knowing. Walk them through the school day, from greeting the teacher the Montessori way (look each other in the eye and shake hands to say “good morning”), to classroom time at school, to lunchtime and pickup. These conversations will make the first day of school a lot less intimidating.
If your child is returning to school, it’s a good idea to rehearse this with them as well. Remind them of the school routine and what they liked about being in the classroom. If they’re making a transition, like moving from toddler to preschool, make sure they know what will be different from their previous school year.
“Tour” the School
Another good way to demystify the upcoming first day of school is to give your child an online tour. He or she may have been with you for your in-person tour. Refresh his or her memory by showing your child the building in which they’ll be spending most days of the week and let them get excited about playing on the school playground. You can find an online tour of all Apple Schools by typing the school name, for example, “Apple Montessori Mahwah” into Google and clicking on “See inside.” This way they’ll get a good sense of their new school day home well before they hang up their coat bags on the first day.
Get in the Rhythm
Summer schedules can get a little crazy, especially in the last month. Vacations, impromptu outings, and family visits can make us play a little loose with routines like bedtime and dinner time. Unfortunately, that can make the start of a scheduled school day a little bit jarring.
Children love routine. Rhythm and consistency are a big part of the Montessori school experience. If you can, get your child on the school rhythm as summer winds down. Serve lunch at lunchtime, once pickup time rolls around tell them that this is when they will be coming home from school, and make sure they get to bed early enough to adjust to the school-day wake-up time.
Join our Meet & Greet
One of the many benefits of Apple celebrating 45 years is the fact that we have 45 years of experience easing the transition into school for the first time. Typically held the day before the first official day of school, the Meet & Greet gives you and your child a chance to become familiar with the school and get to know your child’s teacher and other team members. You will have a chance to ask questions and review any items needed for the big day. We are here every step of the way to make the first day and beyond a wonderful experience.
On the Big Day
Plan the Morning Routine
Sit down with your child ahead of time and plan out the morning routine for school days. Having a solid routine mapped out and getting your child involved will help the morning of the first school day go smoothly.
The more you get them involved in the routine, the better. Place the things they’ll need on their first day – shoes, lunch bag, and sweatshirt – at their level to encourage them to do things themselves. It might take them a few minutes for them just to slip on their sweatshirt, but it’s a great way to exercise the autonomy that will be nurtured and encouraged by the Montessori approach.
Ask your child what he or she would like to wear on the first day. Not only is it empowering, it can bring comfort to your child getting to wear a favorite shirt or dress.
Make Lunch Together
Getting your child to help prepare and pack their lunch sounds like a small step, but it can make a big difference. Basic food preparation is a part of the Montessori curriculum, so having them cut fruit or slice off their sandwich crust with a butter knife is a great way to make them familiar with some of the tasks they’ll be doing.
Children who have already done some food prep at school will still enjoy helping out, and they’ll feel proud to be eating a lunch that they helped put together. You can even include a love note or picture that will bring a smile to your little one’s face.
Send Them Off with Confidence
Most parents will tell you that they were a bit of a mess on the inside when they dropped their kids off on the first day of school. It’s normal – this is a big day for us, too! But our children are naturally empathetic and they pick up on all sorts of emotional cues. When you show hesitation, even if it’s a hug that’s way too long and a bit too tight, it might wear down their optimism about the school day. Keeping the goodbyes brief and pleasant will help them feel more confident about the world they are about to enter (or re-enter). As tempting as it might be, don’t linger. The longer you stay, the harder it is. Let your child know that you’ll be there at pick up time with a simple and cheerful “See you later!”
Create Your Own Ritual
Young children thrive on routine. One of our parents says goodbye to her son the same way every day: She kisses him on the lips and gives him a butterfly kiss (her eyelashes on his cheek), and hug. When the embrace is over, he knows it’s time for her to go to work.
Know What to Expect
Ask your child’s teacher what she does when children are crying for their parents. Make sure an Apple team member is ready to help your child with the transfer from your care to the classroom.
A Good Start to a Great School Year
Every school year is a brand new adventure. Start it off right by planning ahead, preparing your children, and making them feel confident about what lies before them. We’ll take it from there as we have all been busy preparing to give them a thrill-filled learning journey with their friends guided by an experienced team!