School days

By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom Newspapers

Wednesday not only marked the beginning of the month, but the beginning of back-to-school training for 11-year-old Christian Smith of Portales. That means no more late movie nights and lights out at 8:30 p.m.

With only a little more than a week before area school bells ring, school counselors and principals, as well as other educational experts, recommend parents start getting their children and themselves ready for school now.

That doesn’t just mean shopping for clothes and supplies.

Shelly Norris, principal at Arts Academy at Bella Vista in Clovis, said parents need to start easing children back into the school routine now. She advised sending them to bed early and encouraging them to read, if they haven’t been doing so all summer. Norris also said parents should talk with their children about any excitement, anxiety or concerns they may have about the upcoming school year.

“Their entire routine doesn’t need to and should not come to a screeching halt when school starts,” Norris said. “Parents need to ease their children into this transition by beginning an appropriate bedtime and eliminating jitters by making a point to spend time talking to children about what school is going to look like, especially if it will be their first year, and also visit each child’s school and school Web site.”

The same bedtime advice is echoed on the Web site, which offers back-to-school tips. Editor Cynthia Townley Ewer said, “The first day of school is no time for a drastic adjustment of household sleep schedules. Instead, ease children back into a school year routine gradually.”

In addition to sending children to bed earlier, Ewer said children should also wake earlier, too, at about the time they will have to rise for school.

For Christian’s mother, Amanda Johnson, the back-to-school transition will be a smooth ride because Christian has been taking swimming lessons at 9 a.m. all summer.

“He’s an early riser, and starting since (Wednesday), he has had to go to bed by 8:30 p.m.,” Johnson said. Christian’s also been reading all summer and even reviewing math and science books from the previous year. He will be entering middle school at W.E. Lindsey.

But for Johnson’s son Michael, the transition will be more dramatic. She hopes he will be starting preschool in a Head Start program, but he is exhibiting mixed feelings.

The 3-year-old has never been in a group setting without family members, although he has been developing social skills by taking swimming lessons with other children and accompanying his mom who is a Habitat for Humanity volunteer.

On a WorldNow Web site, Osborne F. Abbey Jr., vice president of the education for Nobel Learning Communities, offers advice for preschoolers and kindergartners in detaching from mom. “If you’re child hasn’t been in a group situation, look for opportunities before the start of kindergarten,” he said. “Similarly, if your child hasn’t spent a half day or longer with a non-family member, try to make that happen before school.”

According to Norris, the school transition can sometimes be more dramatic for parents than children. Norris recalled with a laugh when one of her own children began school and a teacher told her to go home because her presence was making the transition difficult for her child.

Clovis High School Senior Counselor Melissa Winn had particular advice for high school students who also can have back-to-school jitters.

“I think the number-one thing about being successful at high school is being at school, making sure students are at school every day,” Winn said. “Students should also have their minds mentally set on having a successful year, and if they are new students or sophomores, they should attend a new student orientation at 9 a.m. on Aug. 14.”

School start dates

Area schools open on the following dates:

• Aug. 13 – Dora and Elida

• Aug. 14 – Portales

• Aug. 15 – Floyd

• Aug. 20 – Clovis Christian Academy

• Aug. 27 – Clovis Community College, Eastern New Mexico University

• Sept. 4 – Faith Triumphant School (Portales)

Back-to-school tips

• A week or two before school starts, children should go to bed at the time they will have to go to bed when school starts.

• A week or two before school starts, children should wake around the time they will have to rise once school is in session to avoid a dramatic schedule change.

• Children should be mentally prepared to begin school by reading, and if young by going over colors, shapes, their full name and pertinent information such as parents’ names, address and telephone number.

• If children will be going to a new school, take them on a tour of the school and to meet teachers and staff. Also visit the school’s Web site.

• If children have a new bus stop or will be walking home or riding a bike for the first time, walk or drive with them through the new route before school starts.

• Take advantage of school open houses and orientations before school starts.

• Make sure children have appropriate school supplies.

• Parents should be prepared to attend the first day with preschoolers and kindergartners who have problems “detaching,” but should also be prepared to step back, if necessary, to ease the transition.

• Parents should get organized and develop a centralized site for all family calendars and schedules to keep up with school and extracurricular activities throughout the year.

• Help children adapt to new meal routines at school by planning meals and snacks to accustom little ones to rituals of the school day.

• Research shows children perform better when they eat a healthy breakfast and lunch. Remember this when grocery shopping for children who take their own lunch or snacks.

• Develop a wardrobe needs list for each child.

• To avoid a hectic morning the first day of school, set the breakfast table the night before, lay out children’s clothing, and if necessary formulate a bathroom schedule for multi-child households.

• Create a nightly homework schedule so children know what to expect once school begins. Include time for relaxation.

Sources: WorldNow,, Arts Academy at Bella Vista, Clovis