Kids are not the only ones who suffer from the ‘summer slide.’ Parents have a difficult time thinking clearly at the end of the summer, too. The reason your brain feels like it’s still on vacation right before the school year begins is because you just spent two-and-a-half months recovering from the last school year. Then it’s usually during the hectic back-to-school phase when you struggle to remember all of the important priorities that seemed so clear right after school got out.
Maybe you left all those ideas about how to help your child have a better year at the beach or at the pool or at the pond. Wherever they went, they are no longer fresh in your mind. But this problem is easily resolved with a little preparation and planning before the current school year slips away.
Review how the academic year went for each of your children by covering these five steps before school is out of session:
Step 1: Review the past year
Academics - How did each child perform academically? Does anyone need extra help in any subjects? How about in any specific areas within subjects? Do you need to request a different class placement for next year? Now is the time to do so before school gets out.
Homework - How did each child manage the year’s homework load? Do you need to work on improving organizational skills in any child? Does each child have a designated homework area at home? How about a way to keep papers sorted so they don’t have to carry everything around? How can you set each child up for increased organizational success next year?
In-school extracurriculars - Was each child satisfied with in-school extracurricular activities? Do you need to contact any teachers to ask questions about next year? Do it now before summer vacation begins. Most teachers will not be available over the summer.
After-school activities - How about after-school activities? Was each child satisfied with what they chose? Was anyone over-scheduled? How about under-scheduled? Do you need to contact any coaches or administrators to ask about tryouts or auditions for activities next year? Now is the time to collect important dates and ask about fees you will be expected to pay.
Step 2: Assess patterns
If one of your children is underperforming in school and seems to have too many activities, is there a connection? Should you beef up on tutoring over the summer or cut down on after-school activities next year, or both? There is no one answer that works for every child, so consider what will best support and motivate each child based on personality and past experience. Strive for progress, not perfection. Let each child’s experience be a unique journey that unfolds year after year.
Step 3: Sort papers
Don’t start your summer with a lot of paper and digital clutter. Strive to retain only a few papers from each school year. If your child created many bulky projects, line them up for a quick photo shoot before tossing them in the recycle bin. Personally, I think sorting through each child’s papers and projects will give you insights about how to steer your child toward improvements next year. For example, your daughter may have reassured you all year that her spelling was just fine. But in reviewing her papers, you may notice points off for sloppy spelling across various classes; now you know what she needs to keep working on over the summer.
Step 4: Contact advisors
Feeling stuck about what to do to help improve your child’s school year? Do some research. Reach out for more help. See if the school can provide you with access to a specialist. This is especially important if you are feeling upset about trying to meet any of your children’s needs yourself. Parents often forget that there are resources, experts, and specialists all around them. You don’t have to figure it all out yourself. Rather than talking to friends or family members who may not know how to help, reach out in a more targeted manner and collect helpful data, so you can make more informed decisions for next year. The answers are out there, and your child is counting on you to find them.
Step 5: Visualize a better next year
At the end of the school year, sit down with your child and have a conversation about supporting them to have a better school year next year. First, congratulate them on everything they did well last year. Be especially complimentary about any improvements they made since the year prior. Then ask what they would like to change next year. Cover all the angles: academic, homework, in-school extracurriculars, and after-school activities.
You might be surprised by some of the answers you hear. Listen to everything they have to say and discuss what you learn with your partner. Then go back to your child with some concrete suggestions you think will help them have a better year next year. Your child may not be thrilled with every idea, but if you emphasize a more positive outcome, you can probably get them on board. Besides, summer is imminent, so they have plenty of time to get used to any ideas they may initially resist.
Make a cheat sheet for back to school
Taking all these steps will plant what can improve more firmly in your memory when school starts back up again. But just in case you have a busy summer planned and you are ready to get on with it, why not make yourself a cheat sheet for back-to-school time?
Schedule - Before the school year is done, get out your calendar or scheduling software and mark down any critical sign-up or fee deadlines for next year’s academics or activities. Be sure to consider each child and cover each of the four angles: academic, homework, in-school extracurriculars, and after-school activities.
List it all up - While everything is still fresh in your mind, make a master to-do list with actionable steps you need to take before school begins, such as ordering special clothing, equipment or performing workouts to get ready for athletic training. Make sure children who are mature enough update their own calendars, as well. Schedule dates to take care of any shopping that will need to be completed before school starts, so you can stretch summer out as long as possible.
Relax - Once you have a plan in hand, you can kick back and enjoy your summer, knowing that you have learned all you can from last year. Now you are ready to work together to help create a better year for your kids next year.
Christina is an author, journalist, and writing coach who is just as eager as the next parent to squeeze as much fun as she can out of summer. She prides herself in planning just a little better every year.
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