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5 Ways to prepare kids for back to school

The 2016 – 17 school year will begin soon, and parents can help prevent back-to-school jitters by preparing their family ahead of time, according to local educators.

Public school begins Aug. 15 in Spartanburg County and Aug. 16 in Greenville and Pickens counties. To prepare you and your children, follow these tips.

Get into a routine

The Upstate educators with whom we spoke unanimously agreed that getting your children back on a routine at least one week before the first day of school is the most important way to prepare them for a new school year.

“Make sure that you get your child familiar with what the routine will be like for the new school year,” said Kelly Hellams, principal of Summit Drive Elementary School and mom to a second-grader. “It helps keep the first few days back from seeming so long and tiring.”

Tippi Sadler, a second-grade teacher at Chris Church Episcopal School, said sleeping schedules are the key.

“Start by making sure they go to bed earlier and get up at the same time as they would for school,” she said. “Parents can also really help by getting them to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner around what the school schedule will be.”

Not only will this help kids prepare for the new school year, it will also help parents ease back into the routine too, Hellams said.

Get supplies ready early

Most parents have busy schedules year round, but they shouldn’t put off preparing for back-to-school until the last minute.

Melissa Burns, principal at Sara Collins Elementary, said parents can find supply lists on most school websites and at many local stores the month before school starts back.

“Make sure all materials, clothes, etc. are prepared a few days in advance, so they will be ready to head out the door on time in order to get to school on time,” she said.

Kellams suggested taking your child with you to pick out supplies.

“I think it helps them to be involved in that process and to pick out some of the supplies they’d like to have,” she said. “It makes them feel included.”

Plus, South Carolina’s tax-free weekend is Aug. 5 – 7.

Attend back-to-school events

Schools will advertise meet-the-teacher events on their websites that parents should always attend if possible, Hellams said.

“These help get parents and students familiar with their teachers so the first day of school isn’t quite so intimidating for students,” she said.

Shiree Turner-Fowler, a kindergarten teacher at Hollis Elementary and Greenville County Schools 2015 – 2016 Teacher of the Year, said the child’s family and the school working together is important for a student’s success. Teachers only want success for their students, so they need to establish a partnership with their parents, she said.

“Our parents aren’t always able to participate in the traditional way, such as going to all of the events and meetings we have at school, because a lot of our parents work at odd hours, but to at least know your child’s teacher and to know how to communicate with them is crucial,” she said.

As a parent of a young child herself, Turner-Fowler said she’s not always able to attend school events because of work commitments, but she stays in touch with her daughter’s teachers to make sure her daughter has all of the tools she needs to succeed.

“Making sure their child is in that seat every day is parental involvement,” she said. “Making sure their child is reading every night is parental involvement. It doesn’t have to look the traditional way we’re used to for parents to be involved. We have to empower our families by letting parents know that simply getting their children to school every day is involvement.”

Be positive

Students might grouse and complain about their new routine, but parents can guide them to have a better attitude by having a positive one themselves.

“Talk positively with children about the new exciting adventures and opportunities they will have starting a new school year,” Burns said.

Once school starts, she encourages parents to talk with children about their days at school, specifically asking them what they enjoyed.

Sadler said positive encouragement can go a long way in a child’s success.

“Parents want their child to start off strong,” she said. “Kids have a hard time adjusting when they go back into school, so parents should be supportive.”

Read, read, and read more

Again, the educators questioned unanimously agreed that one of the best ways to get ready for a back-to-school routine is to encourage reading.

“Begin or continue reading with your child every day at least 10 to 20 minutes or writing about memories about their summer to start or continue developing reading and writing skills,” Burns said.

Sadler said there are many websites and apps available, such as and, that offer free and fun lessons that can help ease kids back into learning.

“As a teacher, having kids continue reading over summer is so important,” Sadler said. “Even if it’s parents reading to their children before bed, it keeps them learning even when school is out so that when they return to school, it’s easier for them to adjust.”