Dr Linda Meyer
Concrete strategies that set the foundation for a successful learning journey
Parents have an important role to play in preparing children for a new school year. An education expert says putting the correct framework in place right from the start can make a fundamental difference to a child’s performance and holistic development.
“The transition from carefree summer days to the structured rhythms of school life marks a significant phase for children and their parents. In this critical period, the role of parents transforms into that of guides and facilitators, preparing their children not just for a new term but for the challenges and opportunities that come with it,” says Dr Linda Meyer, MD of The Independent Institute of Education’s Rosebank College.
“While most parents usually fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to preparing for the new academic year, there are some concrete strategies and approaches that can be taken to set the foundation for a successful and productive learning journey,” she says.
These guidelines delve into various aspects of preparation, from the practicalities of organising school supplies and schedules to the more nuanced elements of fostering effective study habits and addressing any lingering negative patterns from previous academic experiences. The aim is to provide a holistic approach focusing on academic preparedness. It considers children’s emotional and psychological readiness as they enter a new grade with new expectations and challenges.
Parents’ guide to preparing for a new academic year
Early planning and organisation
- Start preparations early: Initiate your preparations a few weeks before school commences. This includes purchasing necessary supplies, organising a study space, and discussing academic expectations with your child.
- Invest in a family calendar: Use a central calendar to keep track of school dates, extracurricular activities, and family events. This aids in balancing educational commitments with other activities while reducing anxiety due to a feeling of being in control of time commitments.
- Engage with teachers: Attend school meetings and teacher introductions to understand the curriculum and the teacher’s expectations for the upcoming year.
Establish routines and study habits
- Create a consistent daily routine: Establish a routine that includes a fixed wake-up time, preparation for school, allocated time for homework, and a regular bedtime. Consistency fosters security and helps in effective time management.
- Strive for a balanced lifestyle: Ensure your child enjoys a balanced life with time allocated for relaxation, play, and hobbies alongside their academic responsibilities. Beware of over-scheduling.
- Create a dedicated study space: Create a quiet and organised area in your home for study, free from distractions such as television and social media.
- Create study schedules: Collaborate with your child to develop a study timetable. Break tasks into manageable segments and prioritise accordingly.
- Explore diverse learning techniques: Explore different learning methods and strategies with your child to find what works best: visual aids, reading, or practical activities.
Address negative patterns and encourage positive behaviour
- Identify and address challenges: Be mindful of any academic or behavioural issues from the previous year and address these early on. Engage with teachers or seek external support if necessary.
- Positive reinforcement: Employ positive reinforcement to cultivate good habits and celebrate academic achievements, emphasising effort and success over results.
- Open communication: Foster an environment where your child feels comfortable discussing challenges. Regular conversations can help identify and address issues promptly.
Become involved and provide emotional support
Parents must become active participants in their child’s educational journey, says Dr Meyer.
“While it is true for many, if not most people, that they feel overstretched already, investing time and energy into supporting your child will benefit you both. Ensure you maintain regular communication with your child’s teachers and attend school events. Be available to help with homework, encourage independence and provide guidance rather than answers.
“Be available with a listening ear and understanding. Acknowledge the pressures your child may face and provide reassurance and support.”
Health and wellbeing
As far as possible, promote a balanced diet and encourage regular physical activity. Dr Meyer says a healthy lifestyle is vital for mental and physical wellbeing.
It is also essential for children to get enough rest as adequate sleep is vital to concentration, alertness during school hours, and emotional regulation.
Managing schedules and limiting screen time
Teach your child to organise and prioritise their schoolwork and activities. Set clear rules for using screens during the school term, encouraging other activities that do not involve electronic devices. Of course, parents must also demonstrate balanced screen usage to set a positive example.
“A new year provides a new opportunity to start afresh. As we head into 2024, I would like to encourage parents to guide their children into the mindset of taking responsibility for their studies, including organising their work and preparing for exams. Guide your child in developing problem-solving skills, and foster critical thinking and self-sufficiency,” advises Dr Meyer.
About Dr Linda Meyer
Dr Linda Meyer is the Managing Director of the Independent Institute of Education’s Rosebank College and has held several Executive roles in the public and private sectors. Dr Meyer is a serving member of the SAQA Board and a former CCMA Commissioner. She holds several qualifications, including a Doctor of Philosophy (RSA), Doctor of Business Administration (USA), Master of Business Administration (UK), Post Graduate Diploma in Management Studies (UK), Bachelor of Business Administration, B. Com (Law) and several other Diplomas and Higher Certificates and professional certifications.