As professionals who wish to see our students succeed, it is important to involve parents and caregivers to the extent we can in supporting their student’s success at school. My wife works at a Title I school and we understand how difficult it can be at times to engage this kind of support. We have seen how significant any contribution on the part of parents and caregivers can be if it is done with an understanding of their student’s needs.
One of the road blocks to overcome is the impression that supporting a student means teaching them traditional academic skills like math and reading. Many parents and caregivers can feel inadequate and will not even attempt this kind of support. It is key to help them understand that from a brain based learning perspective supporting a student’s learning and healthy brain development can be as basic as helping them get on a regular schedule.
Parents and caregivers need to know that a common aspect of all school learning environments involves schedules or routines. On Monday, in Ms. Kendall’s class, the children arrive by 8 am, empty their hands and backpacks, put their lunches and coats away, greet their teacher, line up at the door, enter the classroom in an orderly manner, find their chairs etc. On Tuesday, the children arrive by 8 am and follow the same routine. It is extremely helpful for children who are entering school or returning to school after summer break to have routines and schedules as a part of their life.
A student’s home life, then, ought to have routines just like school has routines. In our own experience as parents, one routine that we followed consistently was bedtime. On Monday night at seven o’clock we would announce that in ten minutes it would be time to get ready for bed, around 7:05 pm we would give a reminder, and then around 7:07 pm we would have the kids put their toys away, go to their rooms, get on their jammies, go to the bathroom, brush their teeth, snuggle in bed, read a story, give kisses, and turn off the light. On Tuesday night at seven o’clock we would announce that in ten minutes…etc. This was a huge help to our own kids in getting them ready to operate in an environment where a schedule will need to be followed.
What if Buster doesn’t want to start getting ready for bed at 7:10 pm? If that happens, parents should give him reasons: Sleep is when you grow, and it will help you grow up strong like Grandpa Neil. We should also give choices that Buster can make: Would you rather pick up your toys first or brush your teeth first? Either way, the student needs to learn that it is time for bed. While he might have a choice of how to get ready for bed, getting ready itself is not a choice. At school, lunch will be at a certain time every day. It doesn’t matter if the student wants to go to lunch or not, it will happen at 11:35 am. It will help the student (and the teacher) if caregivers teach the skill of following a schedule even when the student doesn’t want to.
Another routine that is important is to help our parents and caregivers think about is what the schedule for bedtime and getting up will be once school starts. Too many students arrive at school following a late night bedtime and a mad dash in the morning. They are sleepy and unprepared to function in a structured learning environment. We should be letting parents know that even before school starts in the fall it is helpful for our kids to begin going to bed early and have them get up at the same time each morning. Parents need to hear simple examples like these. By helping our caregivers understand how important schedule is, we help them make school readiness a part of their life.
Can caregivers vary the schedule? Certainly! We do at school. But schools will vary the schedule for a good reason, and at home caregivers should do the same and give the reasons for occasional schedule changes.
Researchers have been making connections between schedules and student success. The following articles provide more information regarding these connections.
Kelly, Y., Kelly, J., & Sacker, A. (2013). Changes in bedtime schedules and behavioral difficulties in 7 year old children. Pediatrics, peds-2013.
Biggs, S. N., Lushington, K., van den Heuvel, C. J., Martin, A. J., & Kennedy, J. D. (2011). Inconsistent sleep schedules and daytime behavioral difficulties in school-aged children. Sleep medicine, 12(8), 780-786.