Plan now to move kids from summer to school mode

There’s something about summer that spells the opposite of a schedule.

The days are impossibly long, and filled with an ever-changing roster of events. Bedtime varies, with kids often staying up into the night watching TV or hanging with friends.

All this serendipity will come to an end, though, when the bell rings for the first day of school. For Claremont students, that’s Wednesday, August 29.

After a leisurely summer, getting somewhere at 8 o’clock, looking pulled together and feeling ready to do school work, can be a rude awakening. There are some smart things parents can do to ensure the transition is a bit smoother.

The first and most important is to re-establish a routine, starting with the wake-up time. You can begin by setting the alarm for an hour earlier than you’ve been getting up. If you plan to have a last summer outing, why not use it as a sort of drill? Are you heading for the mountains or the beach? Plan to be on the road at the same time your kids will have to leave for school. Other ways to strengthen the sense of routine include striving for a regular meal schedule, encouraging daily bathing and aiming for a consistent bedtime.

If you have a child trading elementary school for intermediate school, or leaving junior high for high school, they may be experiencing extra start-of-school jitters. Big changes are never easy, and you may not be able to ease all of their apprehension. You can, however, foster greater comfort by helping your child familiarize themselves with their new campus. Consider heading for the school and taking a walk around the premises. The point is to demystify the unknown. 

There is often a lot of excitement mixed in with start-of-school nervousness. You can encourage the good kind of butterflies in the stomach—eager anticipation—by including your kids in back-to-school shopping. Kids love school supplies and the very act of picking out their notebooks, pens and lunchboxes can create a sense of ownership. Letting children pick out new school clothes can also make them more excited about getting up and ready. If you have a preteen or teen, you’re probably already doing this because, as any kid will tell you, parents are notoriously clueless when it comes to fashion.

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about summer learning loss. This is a state in which kids, their brains having lain fallow over the summer, forget information and generally become sluggish when it comes to comprehension and computation.

An article on the South Riverside News Network, called “First day jitters? Get kids up to speed,” has some good suggestions for alleviating any knowledge-loss and generally sharpening your kids’ brains. Bring out flashcards, the author suggests, revisiting important skills and concepts. A trip to the library or bookstore can also re-ignite school-readiness. For older kids, reading the newspaper together and talking about current events can help wake up those neurons. You might also consider renting a thought-provoking documentary or movie, using it as a platform for discussion.

How you work can be as important for achievement as what you know.

School success is built on organization, something that, in this chaotic world, kids crave. Help create an oasis of order by setting aside an area where your child can do his or her schoolwork. Allocate a desk or a table in a quiet spot in your home, with school supplies at the ready. You might want to hang a bulletin board where you can pin things like assignment sheets, cafeteria menus and school calendars. Consider setting up a whiteboard or chalkboard where your kid can write important notes down. Are you a DIY-type of person? Chalkboard paint is inexpensive, and can transform any wall or surface into a writing area.

An outstanding school year is about fulfilling and, ideally, exceeding expectations. Consider calling a meeting in which you and your children discuss what you hope to get out of the school year. Your teen may hope to master a foreign language, make more friends or make it onto the drill team. You may hope he or she will get all A’s and B’s, and reach out for help if they begin struggling with a subject. This kind of talk can help make sure everyone’s on the same page, and the same team, as the year begins.

Though her family is trying to “wring out every last drop of summer,” Claremonter Stephanie Selznick and her kids are facing the inevitable transition.

She and her 2 daughters, a fifth grader and an eighth grader, haven’t done much back-to-school shopping, largely because it’s been too hot, but they’re definitely in assessment mode. She’s been helping her kids look through their closets to see which tennis shoes are too tight and which jeans are too short. The girls have unzipped their old backpacks—left untouched since the last day of school—to sift through old papers and to discard pencils without erasers.

The girls have a list of what they need and have already picked up a couple of choice items: lined paper from Target, a couple pairs of jeans and a couple of T-shirts, but the bulk of the necessities have yet to be purchased. Ms. Selznick’s parents are planning to take them shopping in the next few days, buying each an outfit and a pair of tennis shoes, the kind of back-to-school tradition any kid would be on board with.

There are some fun, but school year-inappropriate habits that the family will have to shake.

“We got into a nightly routine of not eating dinner until 8 o’clock—with the heat, we weren’t hungry—and then staying up and watching the Olympics until we literally couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore,” Ms. Selznick said.

Luckily for Ms. Selznick, the Olympics are over. She admits to being a bit short on sleep considering her girls tend to wake up early even after a late night. And with the Olympics, so too, the summer holiday closes. Almost.

It’s been a fun summer, Ms. Selznick said, noting that her girls have been busy with activities like tennis, guitar and soccer, and have also enjoyed hanging out with friends and lounging by the pool. The family has also made a number of weekend trips, including jaunts to Big Bear, the beach and even to northern California. They prize such memory-making experiences, and will likely continue to hit the road right up to the last minute, staving off the inevitable.

“Summer comes and goes pretty quickly,” Ms. Selznick said. “School kind of creeps up on you before you know it.”

—Sarah Torribio


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