4 Tips for a smooth back-to-school transition after winter break

Jan 13, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. ET
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The excitement of the holiday season — and an extended vacation — can be both enlivening and disruptive. Bedtimes become later, schoolwork is temporarily forgotten and routines are altered in the face of travel and family engagements.

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Then, school arrives again. Whether this is your first back-to-school transition or one of many unruly experiences, there are ways to make it simpler and smoother. Here are four to try in 2016.

1. Review December classwork

The average winter break is one to two weeks in length. This may seem like a fairly brief period of time, but students can forget an astonishing amount of information between the start of vacation in December and returning to school in January. While some teachers devote several days or an entire week to review, you can — and should — conduct your own review session at home. Allocate the greatest amount of time to those subjects that your child is weakest in, but be sure to still address all the concepts she is learning. Winter break homework can also provide insight into which skills and content your student’s teacher feels are most important to remember.

2. Organize school materials in advance

We’ve all been there — your child is 20 minutes late to school — or you are 20 minutes late to work — because of an errant textbook or class project. The early morning hours can set the tone for your family’s whole day, and a frantic start can compound the difficulty of the back-to-school transition. To combat this problem, pack your student’s backpack and lunch the evening before, rather than waiting until the busy morning. You can even ask your child to help you. If your student is older, she may be able to complete this task herself, but be sure to verify that all of her materials are accounted for.

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3. Include physical play in your schedule

Many children enjoy their winter breaks with ice skating, running, sledding, throwing snowballs and the like. Abandoning this increased level of activity for roughly seven hours of sitting at a desk each day can be a true challenge for many students. If your child naturally has an abundance of energy (or if you notice her concentration flagging in the second half of the school year), build opportunities for physical play into your after-school schedule. For instance, perhaps you and your child play outside for an hour before she begins homework, or you enroll your student in a new extracurricular, like floor hockey or basketball.

4. Re-evaluate current routines

What worked for your family in the fall and early winter may not always suit you in late winter and spring — and that is perfectly alright. Maybe your child is now participating in an activity, like a club or a school play, that will require her to do her homework after dinner, rather than before it. Maybe her swim team practices were moved to the mornings, necessitating a new bedtime and morning routine. Now is the perfect time to consider all of your engagements, both new and old, and eliminate those routines that are cumbersome or ineffective — and then, replace them with new ones.

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For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit me at Varsity Tutors.