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Getting a jump on academics in the new school year

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Small steps now, big difference later

Your child doesn’t want to think about algebra yet, and frankly, neither do you. Nor do you want to worry about science or Shakespeare. It’s summer! It’s still fun in the sun time! Well, yes, but the school year will be here before you know it and if you aren’t at least somewhat prepared, it will be shock to all of you! Knowledge loss during the summer season is real, and while you can’t prevent completely, you can mitigate it -- and make sure the whole family is really ready for the school year.

working-wtih-child-over-summer

Even if you are regulars at the library and your child is a math whiz and has never had issues in the past, there are things you can do to get a jump on the school year, both in terms of actual knowledge and reengaging the school mindset. Making sure reading lists and work packets are completed are part of that, yes, but it's also setting the stage for the school year: Planning homework space and planning transitions to the school year schedule are part of that. Being ready for the school year academically is a psychological transition for all of you.

Reading lists and work packets

Many schools give out reading lists and/or work packets for various subjects to be completed over the summer. This is not the school trying to be cruel. This is the school recognizing that some knowledge loss happens over summer breaks and trying to head it off. The school likely hopes that the work will be done incrementally over the summer -- but also knows it's just as likely that it will be crammed in all at the beginning to get it over with, or at the end just before school starts.

As a parent, however, you can insist on regular reading time over the summer, or even just the last few weeks of summer. Bedtime may be later and mornings may be lazier, but 20 minutes at either time to chip away at the summer reading list or math packet will help it feel less onerous to your child than waiting until the night before school. Even if your child resists.

Workbooks?

If you are particularly concerned about summer knowledge loss, you might want to consider picking up a workbook at the local book store and setting aside some time daily to renew and review and build up skills again. First thing in the morning -- after breakfast and before the beach, perhaps -- is a good time to spend 15 or 20 minutes completing a page or two. Slowly reengaging the learning routines of the school year now may help the school year feel like less of a shock to the system.

Planning homework space

Work packets, reading lists and workbooks likely are completed on the fly around the house, or even in the car or in a hammock. That's probably okay. It's summer, after all. But when the school year does start, a dedicated homework space needs to be ready for your child. While your child is cruising through the math packet on the couch, you could take those 20 minutes and start thinking about and/or preparing an appropriate and adequate homework space for your child. You know it's important, so make sure it's ready before the start of school.

Getting back to the school year schedule

It's tempting to keep the very altered summer schedule going right up to the last minute. The later bedtimes, the later rise times, the looser chore list. All those things are great in the summer -- but keeping them like that right up to the start of school may backfire! Without a transition time, your child (and you) may really struggle with adjusting to the school year demands.

Plan for a week or two of transition back to the earlier bedtimes and earlier rise time, and add in elements of the school year schedule slowly. This doesn't mean you can't have summer fun anymore -- you can! -- but all of you need to be ready for school, and appropriate rest and nutrition is as important to your child's ability to learn as the quality of the textbooks.

Summer is too short, and it may seem cruel to start preparing for school while the mercury is still so high, but you can continue to enjoy the summer while doing little things to be ready for the academic year. Just a few minutes a day of planning and/or engaging the mind makes a difference.

More on getting ready for the school year

Summer schooling: Preparing your young child for school
Summertime learning: How to keep your child's mind growing
7 Ways to stop summer brain drain


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