1. Spend some time with your child talking about where her very own study space will be this coming year. Take inventory of supplies on hand and look at the desk or table to see what might be needed. Talk about moving on to a new grade and that it will be great to have some enhanced supplies for the new year ahead. Brainstorm a list together -- multicolor highlighters? Fun shaped sticky notes? How about a few colored files and an adult-style desktop file holder to label?
2. Think about the décor around the study area. Can a cubicle be painted? A new desk pad created or bought? A special desktop reminder of the summer like a shell paperweight?
3. Make a trip to a big-box or dollar store with your child and together pick out supplies to outfit your child's study area. Talk as you walk around the store ... "What do you think will help you study?"
4. Start setting the alarm clock earlier in the morning and ease into an earlier bedtime routine.
5. As soon as the bus schedule is published by your school district, walk to the school bus stop and talk about the morning and afternoon routine.
6. Plan a few late summer picnic lunches together and make a list of what you pack for the picnic. Then when it's time to pack school lunches, pull out the picnic list and use those as a "picnic menu school lunch." Instead of school lunch, your child will remember a real picnic.
7. Take a look at your school or district's website and hunt for information about your child's new curriculum. (Curriculum information is also found on state department of education websites.) Look for the "big-picture" learnings ahead. For example, the big part of first grade is learning to read. This is a good time to buy or cut out some alphabet letters and practice the sounds the letters make and how to put them together into words and phrases. Buy or borrow some "easy readers" to put around the house. Third grade is the big "multiplication and long division" year. Talk about some easy multiplication word problems and find a multiplication/division flash card set.
8. Find a child who has just finished the grade your child will be starting. Have a get-together and prompt the conversation with, "What were some of the great things you did in school last year?" Your child is sure to hear about some fun things ahead.
9. If your child's school has a summer reading list or a grade-level reading list, head to the library and pick up a few of the books to read and talk about together.
10. Talk about, "What are YOU excited about learning this year?"
11. Buy your child a journal to write about his/her "Adventures in XX Grade." It can be a diary of the year ahead. Have her start the diary now and write about the end-of-summer activities and encourage your child to write how s/he is feeling about the school year ahead.
12. Finally, don't forget about technology! Help your child learn to search for information on the Internet. Teach your child some search words about topics pertinent to the year ahead. When a good site comes up, help your child find cool pictures and fun activities related to, say, volcanoes, dinosaurs, space, or other motivating topics. The Internet is opening up learning to all of us and the sooner a child learns to find her own answers, the sooner she is on the way to being a lifelong learner. And now it's time to put together a backpack stocked full of supplies for the new school year!