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Just in case you missed the major displays at Wal-Mart of pink erasers, glue sticks and crazy socks, in roughly three weeks School Starts. If you are gasping, then you a. don’t have children, b. don’t shop, or c. don’t live in Utah. Mothers don’t need the colorful sale fliers to remind them. They’ve heard the slam of the door as their children race outside at the crack of dawn with a frenzied, desperate look in their eyes. These are the same children that couldn’t be dragged from bed the day after summer break began. But now, the clock is ticking and they’ve got a summer of plans to squeeze into each remaining day.

If your children have not already completed their summer reading list—hope they only have five pages left, because it’s not going to happen otherwise. The time to start a refresher daily dose of math reviews is, well, next year. And if they forgot everything they learned last year in these short months—don’t panic, so did everyone else. Except Alex Keaton. There’s always an Alex Keaton.

But there are some things you can do still to prepare them.

1. Experts have found that children who speak up in class—answer or ask questions—perform better. Get your child talking. Ask non-threatening questions that stimulate conversation. “What do you think is the answer to life, the universe and everything?” (Just kidding.) (42) But do ask questions.

2. Help them get organized. School is a return to structure, schedules and the end of Jell-O balloon fights. Break them in. Start scheduling their days bit by bit. At school they will be responsible for their supplies and belongings. Hold them to keeping care of their belongings now: dirty clothes in the laundry, dirty dishes in the dish washer, dirty pets not in the bed. Calendar all preparations so you and they don’t get caught in last minute rushes. Keep the calendar current all through the school year so that assignments are tackled in increments. No more: “Mom, the science fair is tomorrow and it’s half my grade.”

3. Prepare now a designated homework place with a place to keep his homework, supplies, good lighting, and no distractions. During homework times, other than the use of a computer for homework only, make the space a “no tech” zone. (This is also a good practice for family dinners.) No cell phones, iPods, remote controls etc. With a specific place for homework—the black hole of lost assignments becomes a thing of sci-fi.

In the meantime, pack a picnic and go enjoy the sunshine (or grab umbrellas and enjoy the rain). Times a wasting!

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