It’s a question you may have asked yourself while going through the normal “end of summer, back to school” routine. I’ve asked myself this question what feels like a million times, both as a parent of four awesome children and as an educator of hundreds of children over the last twenty years as an early childhood educator and Director/Founder of One Step Ahead Learning Performing Arts Center in Orange, NJ.
Often times this question is sparked by the goals I have for my children’s educational success; every child that enters the doors of my school means the world to me and I want to give them the best experience possible. I want them to win and to do their best. For this to happen, I need their parents to play the most important role.
A new school year is a perfect opportunity for educators, parents and students to set a new course that will ensure success. What I want parents to know, is that it all starts at home. Yes parents, you can set the tone for a great academic year and a great year in in the development of your child’s gifts, talents and dreams. My parents, at One Step Ahead, are partners. Here are ten secrets I share with them.
The summer hours are soon to end, so it is best to give yourself some time to get your child adjusted to the school year bedtime schedule. Waiting until the last minute will guarantee you a sleepy first day.
2. Exercise the brain.
Start to review lessons from last year, read books with your child and work on areas of difficulty. The brain is a muscle and therefore it benefits from a warm up. If the summer has been mostly recreational, you can get them in learning mode NOW.
3. Start to sign your child up for fall activities that will get them away from the television.
Activities like sports, swim lessons, piano lessons, golf, acting classes, karate and a second language will help your child to discover gifts and talents they may possess. There are likely free opportunities in your community, but they fill up fast. If they have a small cost, consider making the investment into your child’s future, if you can. It will pay off.
4. Decorate your child’s room with an educational theme.
Use decorations that they can constantly learn from like posters, a globe, pictures, books, bedding etc. You can also decorate with things they make themselves.
5. Please, please, please put down the cell phone.
Give your children one on one attention daily with no distractions. You will be surprised at what they might say. Remember, you can never get these moments with them, at this age, back.
Make sure your child starts the year off healthy. Get those physicals, immunizations, eye exams and dental appointments done.
7. Ease up on the fast food. What your child consumes, matters.
We should all make an agreement to serve more home cooked meals to our children during the school year. We know every meal can’t be home cooked and planned out, but the more, the better.
8. Let’s continue to build our children’s self-esteem and confidence to the highest level.
Here are some beautiful adjectives to use when talking to your child; you are smart, awesome, super, fantastic, great, loveable, magnificent, the best brave, you are so kind and I love you. Your words of praise become their inner voice.
9. Out of the mouth of babes.
Children repeat what they hear. Please be conscious of the conversations you have around your children. Children are listening and love to mimic adult conversations. And they will bring them to school.
10. Get more involved this school year.
Your child’s school needs your support. Back to school nights, PTA conferences, performances, school programs fundraisers, etc., by all means be present when you can. A little goes a long way.
Please keep in mind that every day won’t be perfect. The goal is to do what you can, when you can. Incorporate these ten things into your daily life and you will see your children continue to soar. If you plant the seeds of success they will grow. And your child will always be one step ahead.
Marlene Mack Ayers is a 20-year early childhood educator, founder and director of One Step Ahead Learning Center, a celebrated performing arts preschool in the heart of East Orange, NJ. One Step Ahead serves over 120 students in a beautiful facility, with a growing staff and waiting list. OSALC is more than a traditional preschool. Marlene incorporated her love for the arts into her approach to early childhood, which includes daily exposure to arts education, a plethora of enrichment opportunities such as karate and cooking classes, and a yearly talent show. Marlene is also the producer of Divas of Day Care, a web show based on the daily life of her staff as they prepare students for upcoming performances. At the end of 2016, students from the four year old class stared in what later would become known as The Preschool Mannequin Challenge on social media. To date, the video has almost 13 million views and thousands of comments from people around the world. The preschoolers have been featured on the BET, Inside Edition, and The View.
Marlene is married with four children.
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