As we move toward a new school year, wise families will learn something from the way the Vikings or Twins start their seasons. They don’t just arrive at the stadium for their first game. They prepare.

Here are six ways that families can help youngsters get ready for the soon-to-start school year.

1. Download a copy of the free “Reach for the Stars” catalog. This remarkable publication describes more than 120 activities for young people, kindergarten through high school. Whether a student is interested in, for example, chess, ducks, history, Legos, math, painting, poetry or more than 100 other fields, there are activities, events, opportunities and competitions available. This terrific free publication has been produced by the Synergy & Leadership Exchange in North Mankato, with assistance from educators and Jostens. You can find it here: http://bit.ly/2yK8rHJ.

2. Encourage youngsters to try at least one extracurricular activity this year, whether they learn about it from their school or from “Reach for the Stars.” As that publication explains, “These programs will help students discover and develop their interests, passions and talents.” These activities help young people have fun and feel more connected to school.

3. Say positive things about school, even if you had mixed experiences, as many of us did. What we tell kids has a big impact. You can describe one or more of your favorite classes or activities. Then reassure your children/teens that their favorite parts of school don’t have to be the same as yours, whether it was math class, band, chorus, tennis or whatever.

4. Ask if your students have any questions or concerns about school. This might be something as simple as not being sure where to hang a coat, what the teacher’s name is, where the classroom is or what bus to take home. The first time you ask, you might not get a response. So assure them that if they have questions, you’re eager to help find answers.

Wise school officials have open houses or individual family student/family/teacher conferences BEFORE school starts to help the year have a positive start. If your school doesn’t do this, consider a brief visit to the school to meet the teacher and find answers to questions.

5. Write an email or call your student’s teachers and principal. Explain that you want to help make this a very good year for everyone in the school, including but not limited to your youngsters. Effective educators welcome partnerships with families. While a family can be too intrusive, there are dozens of constructive ways to help. (Spoiler alert: An upcoming column will describe 50 ways families and community members can help at school.)

6. Make sure your kids begin their fall sleep schedule at least two days before school starts. While they may ask to stay up late on the last few days before school begins, wise families will help children and teens ease into the routine of a school year.

Preparation matters whether you’re an athlete, musician or a student. Getting ready can help students have a great year.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome, joe@centerforschoolchange.org.

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