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Preparing for a New School Year

Many students are preparing to return to in person schooling and after a year and a half of psychologically traumatizing turmoil, it is essential that parents and teachers (and learners) are given additional learning tools.

I am more and more interested in viewing and studying learning from a holistic perspective and I am convinced that this approach is how we are going to create successful lifelong learners.

Rest and Relax:

Whether it is meditation, sleeping, or just walking through a forest, relaxation is a major factor in learning. Sounds contradictory, right? There are a few holistic ways of looking at the reasons relaxing helps learning. From an emotional standpoint, you learn much better when your nervous system is using the parasympathetic pathways. This is nicknamed "rest and digest" which I think is the perfect name! When your nervous system and mind are calm and relaxed, you are much better at processing new information. From a brains science perspective, diffuse mode thinking is an essential way that our brains process information. Diffuse thinking is a concept I first learned about from Barbara Oakley, a learning researcher and professor of Engineering. Diffuse thinking is extremely important in learning because our brains make the most connections when they are in diffuse mode. Diffuse mode is when your imagination can run free yet make connections about all the new information you just learned and attach it to the information you already know. Cool, right?

Some things you can do:

- Walk barefoot on grass

- Go be in nature

- Meditate

- Jump on a trampoline

- Sleep

- Get acupuncture

- Do yoga

Get Organized!

We all know that once school starts, all the rapidly moving parts can feel overwhelming. One way that I like to prepare for school starting is to get organized ahead of time. Now unless your student has some really advanced executive functioning skills, they are probably going to need your help. Everyone organizes their school work differently, but this is how I have always done it (and it worked out really well for me!). I chose a color for each subject and bought both a notebook and a folder in each color. For example, math was always red, science was always green, English was blue, Foreign language was yellow, and any additional classes were orange, black, or purple. Not only did this help me stay organized, but if I had block classes in which I only had three classes per day, then I was never confused about which notebook I had to bring on which day. The colors helped me immensely that I went on to use this strategy in college!

Another part of getting organized is making sure you have a planner. This could be an entire blogpost in itself, but I will start with this: GET A PLANNER ASAP. If you are a parent and you have a kiddo with some attentional challenges, I highly recommend either the Work Smart Academic Planner or the Seeing My Time planner.

Planning Ahead:

Planning ahead starts with getting a large calendar for your student. Seriously. I used to use a whiteboard calendar but now I just use a giant monthly paper calendar. Plan out the month ahead of time and keep the calendar in plain sight!

If teachers send their syllabus ahead of the first day of school, make sure to put all the important dates on the monthly calendar. This saved me so many times in college and it will work in middle and high school, too. Just make sure you write in pencil since teachers often adjust their schedule throughout the year.

I hope you found these tips useful. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

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