The days are already slightly shorter though the heat is at times unbearable. The dog days have arrived and with them the end of summer vacation. As we turn our attention from lazy days at the pool and the beach to the school supply sales at our local stores, we need to be aware of how best to prepare our children to start this school year.
Decades of research demonstrate that summer learning loss, resulting in an average loss of one month of learning per year, is real and devastating for both individuals and the nation. The first step toward combating this loss is a step toward preparing any child for the upcoming school year: keep him actively engaged in learning. Avoid taking a “break” from leaning activities during the summer but rather making learning more hands-on and real-world. Depending on the age of the child, he or she can help with a variety of chores, including grocery or back-to-school shopping and meal preparation. These tasks can easily incorporate both reading and mathematics skills. Likewise, the last few weeks of summer are a great time for any student to take a last mini-vacation to a museum, to tour a local historical site, or to pick up a few good reads at the library.
Ease children back into the routine. So much of summer activity lacks routine that the shock of school routine can be a hurdle to student success. Avoid waiting until the week school begins to start waking everyone up early; instead start setting alarm clocks for about 15 minutes earlier every few days. Practice getting ready in the morning. Time everyone’s efforts so that the schedule is apparent. Construct a schedule for the week so that everyone knows what is expected in afternoons and evenings.
Prepare children (and yourself) mentally for the beginning of school. Make a list of what needs to be done before school starts. Mark a calendar that is visible for everyone and talk about what needs to get accomplished before school begins. Divide and conquer the list of tasks. For example, consider cleaning out closets and drawers of clothing that no longer fits and making way for a few new items. Donating these items to a local charity could also help a family who is less fortunate to prepare their children for school. Take stock of school supplies and shop for the essentials. Pack the backpacks.
Talk through any changes to teachers, schools, or routines with your children. Perhaps a trial run of the morning routine would help. While you are walking to the bus stop or driving to the school, talk about what children should expect in order to ease their concerns. Many schools have “unpack the backpack” afternoons when students and parents can come to see the classroom, meet the teacher, and put the supplies away. Consider this opportunity to help ease your children into their new environments.
As the commencement of a new school year approaches, do not forget the importance of sticking with the routine. From the very first day of school, reinforce the need to study and practice what your children do at school. The National Education Associate recommends 10 minutes of homework for each grade in school, so even if your child does not come home with specific homework, make time for reading books or practicing a math skill. Children do better mentally, emotionally, and academically when they know what to expect from each day.
About this author: Brianna Kelly writes on a regular basis for Giraffe Childcare, who have 18 locations based in Dublin, Ireland. She has over 5 years experience publishing articles on childcare education and parenting. Click here for more information about Giraffe.