Local Religious education

The ABCs of back to school

by Jessica Langdon

Kids across the archdiocese will be packing up pencils, crayons and folders and zipping up their backpacks to head back to school in the next couple of weeks.

Families have plenty of homework cut out for them before the first bell ever rings, whether their kids are in elementary grades, middle school, high school, or beyond.

With that in mind, parents, principals, teachers and others offer these ABCs — all the way through XYZs — of how to start out a new school year on the right foot for students of all ages:



Always pray as soon as you wake up and throughout the day. Put your trust in God and you can never go wrong.”

— Micah Neff, principal of Our Lady of Unity School, Kansas City, Kan.




Take a break from electronics for an hour every night. Spend that time bonding as a family, maybe playing a board game, taking a walk, or going to the park.




“Make sure your college puts Christ at the center of everything. If they don’t, you, the student, can put Christ at the center of your education by doing a weekly Holy Hour, and making it a priority to meet and spend time with students who live their faith.”

— Father Brendan Rolling, OSB,

director of college ministry at

Benedictine College, Atchison




Dress code — Check to see if any changes were made over the summer.”

— Heather Huscher, principal of St. Matthew School, Topeka




 Establish routines — because those are good to have before school starts. An example might be a nightly decade of the rosary as a family.”

— Tonia Helm, principal of

St. Paul School, Olathe




Focus on faith.

“Pray together, attend Mass weekly, discuss the Gospel/homily.”

— Heather Huscher




Get ready together with your student to make sure they have everything for a good, healthy start to the school year.”

– Marihelen Bassett, secretary at

Xavier Elementary, Leavenworth, and mother of five grown children




Practice healthy habits. Teach children the importance of good hygiene — including hand- washing (scrub for as long as it takes to hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice). Remind little ones to cover coughs and sneezes.




 Immunizations, physicals and any forms that need to be filled out — take care of those chores immediately to avoid deadline pressure during the first weeks of school.



Jesus is our ever-present teacher,” Joan Horvat, assistant to the archdiocesan superintendent of schools, reminds parents as well as teachers. The Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas have this as their mission statement: “Be it known to all who enter these schools that Christ is the reason for these schools, the unseen but ever-present teacher in our classes, the model of our faculty, the inspiration of our students.”




Know that as much as you try to plan every detail, surprises will come up, so keep things as flexible as possible and try to enjoy the ride.




Learn to accept one another. God made each individual in his image and likeness.”

— Micah Neff




 Milk and cookies make a great pick-me-up for kids of any age during the school year, notes Amy Herbert, research and data specialist with the archdiocesan Catholic schools office.




 No pressure: “Relax, be patient and remember to pray for your child, your school and yourself.  Be prepared to have a great school year!”

— Mark Madsen, principal of

Hayden High School, Topeka




“Keep open communication with the teacher and let them know how to best reach you, whether it be by email, call, text, or note.”

— Marla Porting, first- and second-grade teacher at St. Michael School, Axtell




Pray as a family to prepare for the upcoming school year. Remember students, pastors, principals, teachers and all school employees in your prayers.”

– Karen Kroh, archdiocesan associate superintendent for student services




Quick breakfast! Kroh suggests something as

simple as oatmeal or a bagel with peanut butter to get the kids on top of their game in the mornings.




“Read, read, read!”

— Heather Huscher






“Get your child back on a schedule before school starts.”

— Dr. Bill Ford, president of St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Overland Park

(So what does that mean? Ending as early as possible the sleeping in until noon and the past-midnight bedtimes, so kids are well-rested and used to the school-year schedule by the first day.)

That said, Ford added, this year’s break is quickly winding down, so . . . “Enjoy the rest of the summer.”




Take time to thank your child’s teacher for their commitment.”

– Diane Liebsch, principal of Atchison Catholic Elementary School




Understand the mission of Catholic schools. Our mission is to form disciples in Christ.”

— Micah Neff




Volunteer. Let the teacher know if you are able to help out in the classroom or work on things at home.”

— Marla Porting




Pay attention to the weather when getting ready for a school day. Make sure kids are dressed for the temperatures. And speaking of weather, last school year didn’t bring any snow days, so if the kids get their way and this winter delivers one or two, make the most of the change in plans and do something special together.




    “X” out the temptation to overextend your family. Don’t let sports and other extracurricular activities drain all your time.




Remember that kids (no matter what grade they’re in) are only this young for a little while, so take plenty of pictures — including some on the first day of school — and cherish every moment of their youth.




Z’s are important – make sure your child gets the right amount of sleep every night for his or her age!

About the author

The Leaven

The Leaven is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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