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Ultimate School Survival Guide

A parent’s primer for a successful school year

After nearly three months of basically no bedtime, fun with Grandma and cousins, swimming, trips to the beach and sleeping in—bam!—the new school year has arrived.

You were surely bombarded with lots of back-to-school information—reading lists, supply lists, names of kids in the class, perhaps—but we want to give you a list of a different sort: resources to keep your kid (and you!) happy, healthy and engaged this school year.

Kids Need Zzzzz’s to Make A’s

It’s no secret that tired kids (and adults) don’t perform well. Brains need downtime in order to form new pathways. Sufficient sleep is vital for cognitive function, memory, mood and good health.

In 2015 the National Sleep Foundation released their recommendations for the ideal amount of sleep: Kids 3–5 should get 10–13 hours per night; school-age children ages 6–13 require 9–11 hours each night.

The experts’ sound sleep advice? Create a cave-like atmosphere in the kids’ rooms. Make them cool, dark, quiet and void of distractions like electronics.

If you think sleep might be an issue for your little one—whether you worry she’s not getting enough or sleeping too much—schedule an appointment with the pediatrician. The doctor might suggest diet changes, a better before-bed routine or a sleep study. After all, adults aren’t the only ones who suffer from disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia.

In-House Homework Help

While tutors once focused on helping children who were falling behind in a certain subject, they are now being hired to guide students through a challenging course or insure that your son’s grades match or excel above his peers’.

Teachers might have recommendations and school districts often provide lists of potential tutors online, but companies like Club Z, Varsity Tutors, Grade Potential, DallasHomeTutors.com, In-Home Tutors Dallas, Learn & Grow, and Frog Tutoring offer in-home tutoring services to students in grades K–12 (Varsity Tutors, Grade Potential and In-Home Tutors Dallas actually start with kids in pre-K) throughout Dallas-Fort Worth, saving you time in the car and making your child feel more relaxed and comfortable. Expect to pay an hourly rate that can vary from $25 to $68 for these tutors equipped to help kids with a myriad of subjects, including test prep.

Club Z, 888/434-2582 // clubztutoring.com

DallasHomeTutors.com, 972/559-4484 // dallashometutors.com

Frog Tutoring, 817/840-7732 // frogtutoring.com

Grade Potential, 888/978-3364 // gradepotentialtutoring.com

In-Home Tutors Dallas, 214/347-9400 // inhometutorsdallas.com

Learn & Grow, 972/672-5037 // lgtutoring.com

Varsity Tutors, 214/206-7940 // varsitytutors.com

Shop Smarter

Even if shopping secondhand isn’t your thing, sell the kids’ gently used clothing to make extra spending money you can use elsewhere. Once Upon a Child and Kid to Kid have locations across North Texas and pay cash on the spot for lightly worn shoes and clothing. Small Pockets in Dallas accepts high-end items on consignment, but only pays you when your items sell.

Kid to Kid, multiple locations // kidtokid.com/texas

Once Upon a Child, multiple locations // onceuponachild.com

Small Pockets, Dallas // smallpockets.biz

Serve Healthier Snacks

A well-stocked fridge and pantry are key to curbing after-school hunger pangs without spoiling your little’s appetite, and preparing snacks for eating on the way to lacrosse practice or piano lessons prevents you from making an ill-advised fast-food pit-stop. Local grocers stock freshly cut fruit and veggies, or pull up to Start, Snap Kitchen or Wholesome Grub to pick up health-friendly meals and snacks without getting out of your car.

Snap Kitchen, multiple locations // snapkitchen.com

Start, multiple locations // startrestaurant.net

Wholesome Grub, Plano, 972/964-4782 // wholesomegrub.com

For healthy snacks at home, Lauren Williams, clinical dietitian at Cook Children’s in Fort Worth, and Laura Walker, former clinical dietitian at Children’s Health, have these suggestions:

  • A small apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter
  • Celery or carrot sticks with two tablespoons of hummus or low-fat salad dressing
  • 15–20 small pretzels with one low-fat cheese stick
  • Three cups of air-popped popcorn (without butter)
  • One slice of whole wheat bread with one piece of low-fat turkey and mustard
  • Salsa with cucumbers, jicama, or celery sticks
  • Brown rice cakes
  • Trail mix with dried unsweetened fruit
  • Kale chips

Aim to keep snacks between 150 and 200 calories. “Any more than that and kids will be too full for dinner,” Walker advises. She also says water is best and to avoid juice or sports drinks with sweeteners and artificial colors. “You can add in cucumber slices with mint or lemon, lime or orange juice to mineral water for flavor. All of these are good choices to replenish lost electrolytes after sports or outdoor activities.”

Parent Participation

Hats off to parents who volunteer their time to support their children’s schools—a move that’s been shown to positively impact teachers’ job satisfaction and student motivation. Whether your school encourages in-class participation, such as reading to kids (or listening to them read), or prefers parents keep to serving on the PTA, look for ways to get involved.

Some teachers opt to assign duties to parents on an as-needed basis; others want room parents to handle the delegation of tasks. If a demanding job (or littles at home) prohibits your in-class involvement, ask to perform activities off-campus such as cutting out items for bulletin boards. Or donate teacher wishlist supplies, like books and other learning tools.

Join the PTA. There’s no better way to know what’s going on inside the school that that.

Choose only the tasks or volunteer duties that you have the time for. It’s always better to underpromise and overdeliver.

Off-Beat After-School Enrichment

There’s no shortage of after-school classes, activities and sports for kids to explore. Need proof? Check out our DFWEverything guide at dfwchild.com/everything.

This fall, why not look for something a bit more unexpected than the requisite soccer or dance classes?

Let kids spend the afternoon or weekend learning a second (or third) language such as French, Spanish, German, Japanese or even Czech in a private or group setting. Prices vary, but lessons start at about $200 per semester or $25 per session.

Alliance Française de Dallas, Dallas, 214/234-0165 // afdallas.org

Dallas Goethe Center, 469/708-8342 // dallasgoethecenter.org

Fort Worth Japanese Language School, Fort Worth, 817/294-5004 // fwjs.org

Spanish Schoolhouse, Multiple locations, 972/618-2500 // spanishschoolhouse.com

Václav Havel Czech School of Dallas, Dallas, 214/881-6474 // czechschoolofdallas.org

Coding seems to be the wave of the technological future. Sign tech-savvy littles up for an after-school coding club. Expect to pay about $5–$12 per student for each session if the UTD club or Brainopolis comes to your school campus. iCode tuition ranges from $170–$259 per month.

Brainopolis, multiple locations, 469/371-6193 // brainopolis.org

iCode, multiple locataions, 469/608-7023 // icodeschool.com

University of Texas at Dallas’ Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, Richardson, 972/357-6893 // utdallas.edu/k12

Have an active little one in your life? Sign kids ages 4 and older up for horseback riding and jumping lessons through Bridlewood Stables & Equestrian Center or Summer Hill Farms, both of which offer group and private lessons. Circle D Ranch also offers after school private or group roping and barrel lessons to riders ages 8 and older. Expect to pay about $65 per hour-long lesson, with discounts for group lessons or package rates.

Or sign kids ages 8 and older up for group or private fencing lessons at Cutting Edge Fencing Center or Gold Blade Fencing Center. Take children ages 9 and older to Texas Archery Academy’s indoor range to learn technique, safety and shooting etiquette. Expect to pay about $10–$30 per session; some equipment and member fees are extra.

Bridlewood Stables & Equestrian Center, Flower Mound, 972/355-7866 // bridlewoodequestrian.com

Circle D Ranch, Hickory Creek, 214/335-6404 // circledranchboardinglessonstrainingtexas.com

Summer Hill Farms, Flower Mound, 817/875-9082 // summerhillfarms.org

Cutting Edge Fencing Center, North Richland Hills, 817/428-5599 // cuttingedgefencing.com

Gold Blade Fencing Center, Southlake, 817/416-0822 // goldbladefencing.com

Texas Archery Club & Academy, Plano, 214/960-4088 // texasarchery.info

Encourage kids who love helping in the kitchen to hone their culinary skills during a class at Young Chefs Academy, where preschoolers to teens are grouped by age. Classes start at $35 each or $89 per month; prices vary by location.
Young Chefs Academy, multiple locations // youngchefsacademy.com

Encourage kids to try something completely out of their comfort zone. The Lone Star Circus School teaches budding circus performers the thrill of the art—without having to run away from home to experience it. Classes for ages 3 and older help kids learn trapeze, hula hoops and more while building self-confidence, responsibility, poise, teamwork and self-discipline. Prices start at $20 per hour.

The Lone Star Circus School, Addison, 214/206-1449 // lonestarcircus.com

Or enlist them to volunteer after school. Check Wee Volunteer and ask at your community’s library, senior center and activity center for afternoon volunteer opportunities for students. While Boy and Girl Scouts and Junior Achievement are national organizations with solid reputations, with a little investigating, you can find other outlets for growing kids’ character, including your place of worship.

Wee Volunteer // weevolunteer.org