5 Things to Know About Elementary School

Here’s what you need to know to help your kids start the school year strong.


1. Get Involved

Elementary school is an excellent time to plug in to parent involvement opportunities. According to the nonprofit research center Child Trends, parent attendance at school activities and events increased 10 percent between 1999 and 2012. Pencil the school’s first parent-teacher organization meeting on your calendar and try to attend — you’ll learn about events and activities that can enhance your child’s back-to-school experience.

2. Undercover Volunteer

At that first PTA meeting, be on the lookout for volunteer opportunities. Schools need your help, and when parents volunteer at school, students and teachers benefit. Parental involvement in school is linked to better grades and fewer behavior problems for their children, as well as increased teacher job satisfaction, according to Child Trends.

You don’t need an open calendar to help at school. Working parents, those who have small children at home, and those who can’t spare an entire day for a school field trip can still contribute. Contact your child’s teacher and ask how you can help.

3. Work From Home

Get ready for homework. Although homework loads will likely be light for the youngest elementary students — think kindergarten and first grade —  early elementary years are a great time to plan ahead for upper elementary grades, when homework begins in earnest. Designate a spot for school papers, and a calendar where you and your child can track assignments and due dates. Practice basic reading and math facts at home. Ask your child’s teacher for a list of sight words that your child needs to know by the end of kindergarten and review them each week.   

4. Sleep Scene

Don’t let the back-to-school hustle and bustle steal your child’s sleep. Experts say young students are chronically sleep-deprived. According to New York Times bestselling author Po Bronson, author of “NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children,” today’s children get an hour less sleep than they did a generation ago, and sleep deprivation can bring on ADHD-like symptoms including inability to pay attention, mood swings and academic difficulty. Students ages 5-7 may still need up to 12 hours of sleep per night, while kids age 8 and older may still require up to 10 hours of sleep per night.

If bedtimes were late during summer, gradually transition your child back to a school-year sleep routine by waking him 20 to 30 minutes earlier in the morning, and turning lights out earlier each evening.

5. Tech Talk

Expect students to encounter technology early, even in kindergarten, says Molly Anderson, a technology teacher at Cotswold Elementary School in Charlotte. Classrooms in her school have Smart Boards — the digital equivalent of a chalkboard — and students begin learning keyboarding skills in kindergarten.

“Today’s students know how to use a touch screen, but parents often don’t realize that students need to be able to operate a desktop computer and a keyboard for school testing,” Anderson says.

“BYOT” programs enable students to bring their own devices to school to be used for research or special projects. Cotswold Elementary and other schools employ firewalls to block inappropriate internet content while kids are using their devices at school.

Malia Jacobson is a nationally published journalist and mom of three.

SEE ALSO: 5 Things to Know About Middle School and 5 Things to Know About High School

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