Back to school: A few tips to start the year 

click to enlarge After a summer of snacking, include more fruit in your child's meals. The healthy alternative can help provide a better learning atmosphere.
  • After a summer of snacking, include more fruit in your child's meals. The healthy alternative can help provide a better learning atmosphere.

School starts for our students next week and I am so excited to welcome everyone back. I know that getting into a school routine again can be a challenge for some families so I'd like to share tips on how to make a successful transition from summer to fall.

Reasonable bedtimes

I used to be a classroom teacher and a principal, so I've seen my share of sleepy kids during the first few weeks of school. If you haven't already, start settling your child into bed a little earlier if getting up on time for school is hard.

Upgrade your grocery list

If summer fun has led to a lot of salty or sweet snacks around the house, now is the time to toss the potato chips and stock up on nutritious foods. Buy fresh fruits and whole-grain breads, for instance, which are sometimes cheaper than processed food. For families on extremely tight budgets, the San Francisco Food Bank (sffoodbank.org) is a good resource.

Ask about your child's day

If you notice your child is nervous about school, try starting a conversation in a positive way. Ask open-ended questions like, "What was the best part of your day today?" Remember that "recess" or even "going home" are acceptable answers. Let your child talk about what he or she likes about school, no matter what it is.

Pay attention to older students

Teenagers have been going to school for years and you may think they have the routine down, but family still plays a key role in a teen's success. As with young children, set limits at bedtime. Most teens need eight hours of sleep to have a good day at school. If winding down at the end of the day is tough for your teen, try to hold on to the child's cellphones and video game controls — and even unplug the TV at bedtime — to reduce distractions. Don't be afraid to set boundaries, especially with teens, and try unplugging before bed yourself. They still need strong role models.

Simple organization for teens

The first few weeks of school for teens are all about getting organized. High school students are taking up to six classes a day — and juggling homework plus other responsibilities — so they need to use academic planners. Not sure if your teen has a planner? Ask! Don't have one? Some schools provide them for students, and stores are full of planners you can buy this time of year.

Once you have the planner, go through it briefly with your child to see what will be useful. As the year goes on, it's OK to ask your teen on a regular basis about any big assignments that are coming up and what he or she is doing to get them done. Teens need to know that you care about their schoolwork, and just checking in can be a big help.

I'm very excited for the learning that awaits our students this school year. Never forget that family members play a key role every day when you help your child arrive to school on time and ready to learn. Let's have a great year together!

Richard A. Carranza is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.
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