7 Tips for a Smooth Back-to-School Transition

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Nobody likes to see summer end. When I was a kid growing up in New York, school always started the Wednesday after Labor Day. We dreaded it. But by that time the weather was getting cooler; the town pool was closed for the season. You didn’t feel like you were missing out. Nowadays, it seems as if schools are starting earlier and earlier. In some parts of the country, kids are headed back at the beginning of August—when summer’s in full swing.

What’s a parent to do when the last thing their kids want to do is head back to the classroom? Here are a few tips to help get your kids into a school frame of mind and ease them into a new and productive school year.

 Pick a fantastic chapter book and read it aloud (or partner read it) to your child. Typically, kids’ listening comprehension is much higher than their reading comprehension. That means that when you read aloud to your child, she can focus on enjoying the story, rather than trying to decode it. This exposes your child to complicated (and perhaps more emotionally relevant) plots and ideas.
The last stretch of summer break is a perfect time to start a read-aloud book that is at a higher reading level to get your child excited about books and reading again. As you read, you can talk about the story by asking questions like, “What do you think will happen next?” “Why do you think the character did that?” “What would you do if you if you were in the book?” “Did you like the ending?” All of these questions are great preparation for going back to school. To help choose a great read-aloud books, here is my Top 30 List of the Best Read-Aloud Books for Kids.

 

 Make technology work for you. For kids who can’t get enough of digital devices, download apps that actually teach them something and help keep their skills sharp over the summer. This will prime their brains for learning and get them into a positive school frame of mind. Any success they can have in skill acquisition before school starts can make them feel more confident and self-assured when school begins. For preschoolers, Hooked on Phonics The Big Reading Show is an iOS app that teaches phonemic awareness—the building blocks of reading. Smart Cart helps with numbers, letters, colors, and shapes. For Kindergarten, and now first grade(!), Learn to Read by Hooked on Phonics is a great online solution. And for children second grade and up who are struggling, Hooked on Phonics Reading Pro helps fill in gaps in phonemic development.

 

 Start practicing the school routine two weeks before school actually starts. All of us want to stock up on sleep as much as we possibly can before school starts. Trust me, it will stink, but it will help in the long run if you start practicing getting kids to bed on time in order to get them up in time for the bus. Our body clocks take a while to reset themselves after the summer. We’re better off easing into the schedule slowly, rather than forcing our kids (and ourselves) to change overnight.

 Take them back-to-school shopping. That was always my favorite part of starting school. Even if you’re on a tight budget, there’s nothing like the smell of a brand-new box of crayons or a new book to get kids excited about going back to school. A quick  shopping trip can build anticipation with a little something new and exciting for the school year, if at all possible.

 

 Throw a Back-to-School Barbecue. Choose the first weekend after school starts. Let your kids invite a friend. Just because school has started doesn’t mean that the summer is over. Enjoy the last vestiges of summer by celebrating the start of a new year of learning and growing, all together.

 

 Make a morning and evening schedule for your kids. Print it out. Go over it with them to make sure they are on board. Setting up expectations is key to achieving results. There are no excuses if your kids know the plan in advance!  You can add pictures for younger children who are not yet reading.

 

 Attend any Back-to-School events your child’s school offers. Many elementary schools have a set time before school starts when students can visit their new classroom, meet their teacher, or even attend a back-to-school picnic. These events can be difficult to get to for parents who work outside the home, but they can really help get your child excited about the new school year. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Grandparents, babysitters, or other friends’ parents might be happy to take your child to the events.

 

Remember: learning opens the doors of opportunity. As much as we can, it’s great when we can model excitement and a positive attitude about the start of a new school year. It’s a fresh start and offers hope of great new things to come . . . Besides, the end of the school year will be here before we know it, and we’ll soon find ourselves starting it all over again.

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