Getting into the School Routine after Summer Break

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
—William Butler Yeats, poet

Whenever your kids have a summer break from school, it may seem like an uphill battle to get them back into the school routine. Their sleep schedule may be off. Their enthusiasm may be low (or non-existent). And they may balk at going back to school. Whether your child goes to a year-round school or one that has a three-month summer break, consider these ideas to get kids back into the school routine.

Tips for . . .

  • all parents
    • Be compassionate. Summer breaks are like vacations. Think about what it’s like for you to make the transition back from a great vacation (yes, it’s not fair that kids get so many more breaks than you do, but try to focus on that tough transition).
    • Talk about the value of education. Even if school isn’t always easy, that doesn’t mean that it’s not important. Emphasize how working hard at school helps kids to succeed. Consider using some of the ideas on emphasizing the value of school from What Kids Need to Succeed.
    • Even though summer break is over, continue to have fun with your kids. Set aside some time each week to spend having fun together as a family.
    • parents with children ages birth to 5
    • Keep young children on the same daily routine (if possible) whether they’re going to preschool or not. This helps to keep their energy and moods at an even keel.
    • Teach your kids the differences between days. Many get confused as to why they go to child care five days a week and then stay home for two. Take a calendar and have them mark off the days. Consider color-coding the days so that “yellow” days mean preschool or child care and “orange” days mean home days.
    • Talk about the importance of “home time” and “school time” so that kids see the value in both (or talk about the importance of “play time” and “work time”).
    • parents with children ages 6 to 9
    • Help your child look forward to school. Purchase a “lucky pencil” or “lucky folder” for her to keep track of homework. Be enthusiastic about school. Your excitement will often rub off on her.
    • Be honest about the fatigue that can happen during the first week back to school after a long break. Encourage your child to take a short nap after school, if needed.
    • Talk about the benefits of summer breaks and the benefits of going to school. For example, it’s fun to choose what you want to do during breaks. It’s also exciting to learn new things and meet new kids at school.
    • parents with children ages 10 to 15
    • Don’t be surprised if you find that your child strongly resists going back to school. That’s normal. Many kids at this age love spending time with friends and would prefer to hang out with them outside of school. At the same time, other kids really look forward to going back to school.
    • Help your child name what he likes best about school. Even if it starts out only with lunch and recess, go with that. As the school year progresses, see which subjects begin to interest him.
    • Admit that some parts of school are hard. If you didn’t enjoy the junior high or middle school years, say so. But then talk about how much better high school is. That often helps kids to stick with the hard stuff.
    • parents with children ages 16 to 18
    • As older teens become more independent, they may become more resistant to school. Continue to emphasize how important a high school education is—and why. Show teens that the more education they acquire, the more money they make. See the chart on page 2 of the U.S. Census Bureau report “The Big Payoff.”
    • Focus on the parts of school your teen enjoys. Remind her of the soccer team, the newspaper staff, the choir, or another activity that she gets excited about.
    • Help your older teenager apply for a part-time job, apply to a college, or prepare for college-required tests (such as the ACT, or SAT). Older teenagers can get overwhelmed or paralyzed in doing some of these new, important tasks. Your guidance can be a big help.
  • Encourage your teen to connect with teachers that he likes. Having a good rapport with a teacher not only makes high school more interesting, but these teachers can also be helpful in writing job, college, and scholarship recommendations.

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