Five ways to get your kids back into school mode after summer
Next term, my son will be going into the fourth grade. Returning to school life after the long summer break is beyond difficult - it takes him three months to get back into the routine and remember he is there to work. Is there anything we should do this summer, while still allowing him to enjoy the time off?
When I read this question, I knew there would be more than one parent with similar concerns. Your son struggles in such a way that some summer schoolwork and routine is needed to ease him back into school life.
If you had written, "Meghan, I want my son to learn more, be better, be faster, be more competitive and excel in a subject in which he already has some mastery," my answer would have been, "Mmmm, no".
A couple of handouts for children who already have mastery? Sure. Some iPad games? OK. Some functional maths? Yup. Beyond that, parents begin to push children out of a need to serve their own egos, worries and competitiveness. Children of these parents should be sent away to camp for the entire summer.
But here we are talking about a young man who, after being out of the school routine, really has trouble getting back into the swing of it. He is losing learning time and confidence, and you are undoubtedly losing sleep in anguish and frustration.
Here are some tips to help your son.
Take it easy
Don't go full-throttle on worksheets, timed tests and flash cards. Just the thought of them will send most young children running for the hills. Your son has been dreaming of summer fun and he will balk at the mention of schoolwork and routine. The more you push, the more he will push back. So, use a light touch with all of this.
Make it fun
As much as I decry some technology as the downfall of humanity, there are some really smart people making great maths apps. Get your son to look at Commonsensemedia.org (or another similar website that rates appropriate content for specific ages) and find the apps that he likes best. As long as they are age appropriate, they're fine.
Make it easy
Ask his teachers for worksheets (or recommendations) that are both a grade below and on grade level. Give the "easy" worksheets in the beginning of the summer. This will build his confidence. As he breezes through them, add more challenging worksheets. I am recommending worksheets because pencil to paper is important for handwriting skills and brain growth. Pick a time, set aside about 15 minutes, and have everyone in the family practise something. For me, it's crossword puzzles. For my little ones, it is writing letters or grade-level work in maths or writing. The group aspect of this makes everything more palatable.
Look at the summer as a whole and try to figure out what you can reasonably do. Consider leaving the worksheets at home for the week you go to the beach. If he has been working well and without complaint, think about doing something fun (ice cream for breakfast, anyone?) to celebrate. If he doesn't feel well and is exhausted, let it go.
Hug. (Repeat all summer.) Weather the eye rolls and sighs with patience and good humour. Tell him you are proud of his dedication to the family practice time. Share your progress with your crosswords with the family. And when autumn is a little easier, remind him that he practised all summer. Well done, all of you.
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