Be ready when school goes back in session

August 15, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Class is about to start! Instead of shopping for back to school clothes, we may be overlooking some important issues. Bill Jackson, founder and CEO of GreatSchools, shares ideas for simple changes we can make at home to get our children ready for school.

Five tips for successful back-to-school prep
GreatSchools' Back-to-School Benchmark Survey highlights the need for parents to embrace a more comprehensive approach to preparing their children for a new school year - focusing less on shopping and more on the child and the school.
Here are five easy and low-cost - yet often-overlooked - ways to help children successfully prepare for back to school:

Adjust sleep schedules
A few weeks before school starts, move bedtime earlier each night and wake-up time earlier each morning, until the first day of school. Children naturally resist giving up their summer freedoms - staying up late and sleeping in being two of the most prized. But parents who are firm and enforce a return to the school sleep schedule a few weeks before school starts will reap the benefits in less cranky, more alert children for the first week of school. So have a night-time routine and stick to it - and begin in August so kids are accustomed to it when school starts. Most important, get your child up on time. You can be less concerned about getting them to bed on time, as research shows getting them up on time is key to making the shift.

Increase reading time
Get your child back in the swing of reading a few weeks before school starts. It doesn't matter what she reads - it can be books, magazines, comics - but the important thing is to get in the habit of reading daily well before school begins. Even just reading 20 minutes a night can make a big difference. One way to encourage reading is to bring books with you wherever you go. Take books to the park or the beach. Have them available while waiting in line or at the doctor's office. Take them on planes, trains and bus trips. Be a role model by taking books along for yourself, too. Kids are more likely to read when they see their parents reading in their free time. Many libraries have summer reading programs, particularly for elementary school students. They provide fun incentives to keep your child engaged in reading. Students and parents can also access the American Library Association Web site to find books that have won literary awards like the Caldecott and Newbery, and also a list of notable books to read.

Reduce TV watching and video/computer game playing time
It's important to regulate your child's TV watching and video/computer game playing time as you would during the school year before the school year actually begins. Establish a night-time routine in August so kids are accustomed to it when school starts. One example schedule is: no television Sunday to Thursday nights, instant message only after homework is done, no texting or instant messaging after a certain hour, read for at least 20 minutes before bed. But it's important to find the schedule that's appropriate for your child and it make take some experimentation and adjustment.

Establish a nutritional breakfast schedule
Getting the right nutrition is important for successful students and everyone knows breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and yet most parents do not get their child on a healthy breakfast schedule either before or during the schools. However, with a little planning you can make sure your child is in the habit of eating a good breakfast well before the start of school. If you plan and gather what you need on the weekends, you'll make life a lot less stressful and breakfasts more nutritious during the week. Look for breakfast cereals that have little to no sugar and contain whole grains such as oats, bran and whole cornmeal. Choose whole wheat bread for toast and cut down on foods with saturated fats and sugar. Make fruit smoothies for a quick and healthy addition to the usual fare.

Prepare your child for a back-to-school schedule
Getting back into the school routine can be a challenge for everyone in the family. To make adjusting to the new routine easier, start early. Establish school-day schedules for homework, TV, baths and bedtime and go over the new school schedule a week before the start of school. For younger children, explain the schedule and how the days will be organized. For secondary school children, ask them to explain what their schedule will be like - what classes they are taking, what extracurricular activities, work schedule, etc. Help them think ahead as to how to handle their responsibilities. When will they block out time for homework? When will they block out time to practice? Help them make sure the schedule is realistic.

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About GreatSchools
GreatSchools is an independent, non-profit organization that empowers and inspires parents to participate in their child's development and educational success. Parents choose GreatSchools to find the ideal schools, get expert advice, share stories and to get their parenting and education questions answered. In the past year alone, more than 35 million people visited GreatSchools ( ). With hundreds of thousands of ratings and parent reviews about schools across the country, and unparalleled expert resources, GreatSchools empowers parents with information and tools so they can choose the best school for their children, support their educational success and improve schools in their communities. A Webby award-winning site, GreatSchools is supported by leading foundations and corporations, including the Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, Robertson Foundation and Walton Family Foundation. GreatSchools - Involved parents. Successful kids. is the leading national source of information about pre-school to 12 information for parents. One in three parents - more than 35 million - turns to GreatSchools to find the ideal schools, access expert advice, share stories and get their parenting and education questions answered.

With the launch of its Back-to-School resource center (), GreatSchools aims to broaden the focus of back-to-school season beyond shopping and provide parents with expert advice on all aspects of helping their children successfully begin the new school year. GreatSchools' Back-to-School Countdown provides parents with easy, low-cost ways to help their children prepare mentally and physically for back to school and return to the classroom with a positive attitude - including helping children create a "summer brain workout," establish healthy eating patterns and get organized for a school year routine.

About Bill Jackson
Bill Jackson is the Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of GreatSchools (, an independent, non-profit organization that empowers and inspires parents to participate in their child's development and educational success. A former teacher, Bill is a nationally recognized expert on parental involvement in children's education. Under his leadership has grown to become the leading national source of information about pre-school to 12 information for parents, with more than 35 million parents turning to Webby Award-winning GreatSchools last year alone.

Before founding GreatSchools, Bill enjoyed successful careers in education and technology. He has worked as a teacher in Washington, D.C. and Hunan, China and served as a project director at Smart Valley, Inc., where he developed, now a project of the League of Women Voters, and, now a project of the San Jose Mercury News. He was also director of engineering at Tribe Computer Works and helped start Whistle Communications, a computer networking company.

An avid public school volunteer, Bill serves on the board of directors of the San Francisco Education Fund and recently served as treasurer of two San Francisco school financing measures and a school board campaign. He was also recently appointed to the California "P-16 Council" by State Superintendent of Instruction Jack O'Connell and is member of the board of directors of the California Voter Foundation. Bill holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Yale University and is a graduate of the San Francisco Coro Fellows Program.