Beating the Back-to-School Jitters

Are you beginning to feel the Back-to-School jitters? If so, you’re not alone! Everyone feels a little nervous about a new school year and a new adventure – students, parents and even teachers! We invited resident teaching and parenting expert Amy Brabenec to walk us through how to prepare for the first day of school and reduce our jitters to maybe just some gentle butterflies. 

An Almond Acres student in red uniform polo smiles while showing the inside of a book he is reading.

Take it away, Amy:

I am almost as excited for this school year as I was the very first year we opened! It feels like a fresh start with endless possibilities for creating our best school year yet! Here are some practical things to discuss and practice before school starts. 

You are safe! 

Teachers (all adults at school are teachers in some capacity!) have two jobs: keeping your students safe and learning. They take both jobs very seriously!

Meals

Some students are not used to making decisions about what to eat when, so they try to eat everything in their lunchbox during the morning snack time, leaving little to no food for lunch. That makes for a hungry afternoon! It’s worth a conversation ahead of time and maybe a practice run or two. 

Packaging and Containers 

Practice opening food packaging, juice pouches, and containers. I wish someone had suggested this to me when my children were little. I sent my son to school with containers he couldn’t open without making a giant mess, and I didn’t include any utensils! Did I think those would magically appear? Did I think the adults could open every child’s container for them? I don’t know. I’m just grateful his teachers were kind and non-judgmental when they explained what was happening! 

Lost & Found

Label everything with your child’s name. Label every little thing. 

Listening and Following Directions Fast, the First Time

Do your children stop and give you their attention when you say their name? When you give instructions, can they stop and do what you asked? For safety and scheduling reasons, we need students to respond to calls to attention and follow instructions. It takes practice, so make it fun. Try to beat yesterday’s record of how many times your child looked at you when you said their name, or track how fast they followed directions. 

Shoes 

If your child does not know how to tie shoes, consider whether they have the fine motor skills to learn right now. If so, teach them! If not, consider shoes without laces for school. 

Launch Pad

Consider a box or designated area as a launch pad for each child. The launch pad is where they will put everything they need for the next day. You could add a photo of the items or a written list to remind your child what they need!

Always Watching & Listening

We sometimes think our children are too busy playing to overhear our conversations. They pick up on more than we think. So, to prepare your child for school, consider how they might feel if they know you are sad because you will miss them while they are at school, or you are worried about how other students will treat them, etc. A child may think, “If my parents are sad or anxious, maybe I should be, too!” That isn’t to say we should be fake; our kiddos see right through that, too. But, we can be mindful of our impact.

Dropping Off

I was the parent who hung out too long. If my daughter cried at drop off, I held her and sometimes I cried, too. I felt awful leaving her upset, and the guilt was crushing. Her teachers would tell me that “She’s just fine as soon as you leave!” That would drive me crazy and hurt my feelings. Fast forward to becoming a kindergarten teacher who would be in family counseling soon after. Sure enough, the students who had a hard time leaving their parents were just fine within a minute or two after the parents departed. Lingering only made things worse. Our daughter struggled with anxiety and had very few coping skills as she got older because I tried to rescue her out of ever being uncomfortable. I share this because if I could do it all again, I absolutely would. I would tell her I love her and I’ll see her later, and I’d leave her in the capable, caring hands of her teachers. The unspoken message is, “I love you. You are safe. I feel good about you being here. You got this!”

Grand Opening & Meet the Staff

The week before school starts we have our Grand Opening & Meet the Staff event. It’s a fun, informal way to meet your teachers before the first day of school, which can help with some of those new-school-year jitters! It’s also a great time to meet other families. See ParentSquare for more details!

All That in a Nutshell

  • The AACA staff are excited about our upcoming school year, and we are committed to making it a great experience for ALL students!
  • Productive struggle is important in learning, so let your child work through wrestling a granola bar wrapper or having big feelings. You can give some pointers, but let them practice and celebrate their independence. 
  • Practice now is freedom later. If we practice the routines we need for each day, we build productive habits. Our brains are then free to focus on learning and building relationships at school!

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids! 

4 Tips to Stop the Summer Slide

Ahhhhh summer. A break from the school year routine that parents both long for and worry about: the sweet silence of the alarm clock, lunch boxes that stay tucked away in cupboards and the concern that children might lose the academic gains they worked so hard for.  

But just because school is out for the summer doesn’t mean the learning ends. Now is the perfect opportunity to make learning a little less formal and a lot more exploratory. Fear not–you don’t have to be a certified teacher to prevent the summer slide. Read on for 4 big tips and a list of fun activities that will keep your child’s skills fresh and won’t force you to visit Pinterest daily.

Three Almond Acres Charter Academy students smile for the camera. They are standing outside and each is wearing a red, yellow or blue uniform shirt. One student is wearing sunglasses.

1. Read, Read, Read

Summer is the perfect time to melt into a good book. Even 20 minutes a day of reading, whether independently or together, can help keep children’s fluency and comprehension skills fresh. Make reading an inviting summer afternoon activity for your child: Hang a hammock in a shady spot or pick a few beach reads and spend a couple hours under an umbrella. When you model reading alongside your children, they are much more likely to pick up a book. 

If your child needs a little extra motivation, our local Paso Robles library has a wonderful summer reading program called Read Beyond the Beaten Path. After signing up, children of all ages are encouraged to track their reading minutes, participate in reading challenges and win prizes. Librarians are also an incredible source of recommendations if you need a new series for the voracious reader in your life or a graphic novel to jumpstart a more hesitant reader. 

2. Attend our Expanded Learning Opportunity Program

Want a little more structure for your child’s summer learning? Almond Acres is hosting a summer Expanded Learning Opportunity Program from July 5-29 with Program Director, Amy Brabenec. K-8 students are invited to attend to work on fundamental skills for an extra 4-9 hours. If you are interested, contact Amy Brabenec at abrabenec@almondacres.com

3. Keep it Low Key

Ditch the workbooks and flashcards. Learning happens all around us when we engage our senses, talk to people and get moving. Here are a few simple activities to sharpen thinking and develop creativity when your child says “I’m bored”: 

  • Get Outside 

Move your body, use your senses, expand your world and get messy. Tune up your bike and ride on a trail. Swim. Hike. Play at a playground. Movement is essential to stimulating your brain!

  • Keep a Journal 

Encourage writing every day by keeping a journal of daily activities or a travel log of adventures. Include memory scraps like wristbands or ticket stubs and draw pictures of plants and animals you see on a hike. Even beginning writers can draw and add captions to their journals. 

  • Write Postcards

Bring addresses and stamps if you are traveling and have your child send postcards to friends, grandparents and teachers. 

  • Play Games 

A deck of cards provides a million and one opportunities to practice math skills. Kids and adults, alike, love family games like Sequence and Zingo. If you have a middle schooler who loves strategy, you can’t go wrong with Exploding Kittens

  • Practice Money Skills

Put your child in charge of the money for an activity. Pay for ice cream in cash and calculate how much you are due back. Older kids can learn about the family budget by meal planning and shopping for groceries. 

  • Plan a Road Trip 

Older kids can organize and plan a family trip. Incorporate map reading skills, elapsed time and calculating mileage and gas cost (ouch!) for a day trip. If a National Park is on your travel agenda, don’t forget that all 4th graders and their family have free admission and access to history, geology and geography lessons.

  • Get Creative

Keep simple art supplies ready to spark creativity: paper, scissors, glue and paint have endless possibilities. Kids of all ages love the squishy novelty of Air Dry Clay. Your budding movie director can even turn those clay creations into an original Stop Motion Studio video. Beads and string are also super popular with all ages and help develop hand/eye coordination and concentration. 

4. Target Specific Needs

There is generally no need to fill your child’s day with a full curriculum. But if you are aware of specific areas in which your child may need a little more attention, you can keep the summer vibe going by targeting skills in a daily, low-pressure practice session.

For example, if your kindergartener needs more practice with identifying the sounds of letters, you can spend 5-10 minutes a day working with Bob Books or an app that turns phonics into a game. If your 3rd grader wants to be quicker at multiplication facts, play a card game together each day to practice until he’s fluent. Kids can have the restful summer break they crave while still strengthening skills with a quick daily habit. 

Almond Acres looks forward to welcoming your child back to school in September after a restful and rejuvenating summer break. Have fun together and come back to tell us all about it! 

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids! 

Growing Great Families

At Almond Acres Charter Academy, we don’t just grow great kids—we grow great families, too!  Our school’s mission is to provide an education that addresses all aspects of a child’s life to create balanced, happy learners. Parents and families are our partners in this mission. We believe in building the circle of influence around children to nurture all that each child is and is becoming.  

When you enroll your child at AACA you gain a community that rallies around children and families. One of the ways we do that is through our Growing Great Families series led by Executive Director Bob Borgault, aka Mr. B. Growing Great Families is a weekly community event that welcomes parents and caregivers to come together to learn something new on topics of interest in education and parenting.

Almond Acres Charter Academy director Bob Bourgault and parents of AACA students pose for a photo with handouts after a Growing Great Families class at Post Robles Market Walk

All parents are invited to attend our weekly sessions held on Wednesdays at 9 a.m. Meetings are held in person at Paso Robles Market Walk and simultaneously via Zoom, so all can join! Enrolled parents are also able to access printed materials through our Parent Square app. 

Mr. B. usually spends the first part of the hour discussing our Habit of the Week and provides a mini-lesson on a new topic, such as neurons, creating a family mission statement, or ways to communicate with your children. He uses current research alongside his years of teaching and ministry experience to crack open these topics in an interesting and helpful way.  

After the mini-lesson, we hold a general Q&A and a time to hear from families. So many wonderful discussions and relationships come out of this weekly gathering.

Powerpoint slide from Almond Acres Charter Academy that states Growing Great Kids. Affirm, stretch and Celebrate

Parenting is a challenging journey for everyone. Whether you are seeking parenting tips, a little more insight into what your child gains at AACA, alignment with our curriculum or even social connections with other parents, we think you will gain so much from our Growing Great Families series. Join us as we AFFIRM, STRETCH and CELEBRATE our role as parents and find out just what makes our community a family.  

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!