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Easing the School Transition

Will your kids be ready when the school year starts in September?


Easing the School TransitionAssuming your child is doing well academically (specifically in reading and math), summer should be a time for recreation, outdoor activities, and family adventures. But there are things that parents can do during the last month of summer to ensure their kids are ready when the school year starts in September.

Make summer learning fun.

Research shows that children who do not read during the summer can get behind. Sharon Jones, a second-grade teacher in Millburn, says, “Children should use the summer to read for pleasure. Take trips to the library and bookstore.” Let kids read about topics that interest them. Even comic books and magazine are fine—the objective is to just keep them reading. Play  games like Scrabble, Boggle, and Bananas.

Encourage writing and creativity by having kids keep a summer/trip journal or scrapbook about their summer adventures. Have them write the weekly grocery list or pretend they are movie/restaurant critics and have them write reviews. I have my 9-year-old son write letters to his sister and his friends at sleepaway camp. It keeps him writing and working on his penmanship without feeling like it’s homework.

Practice math facts in fun ways. Encourage kids to count money from a jar or play card games such as Crazy Eights.

For a child that is struggling academically, use August as an opportunity to catch up. Parents can work with the child themselves using workbooks, or if financially able, hire a tutor. Jones says, “It is important for children to feel confident when entering a new grade level.”

Work on independence skills.

Jen Reilly, a kindergarten teacher from Summit, says. “I love when parents have worked on skills with their children such as being able to zip and unzip backpacks... putting a coat on and off, and how to hang up items on a hook, etc. Also, a big plus is when the children know how to open their lunch/snack containers...I find it makes for a much smoother transition.”

Have older kids spend a few days cleaning their rooms and desks so that they can start the year fresh and organized. Select in advance a study spot for homework that is either in their room or in a common space, based on how they work best. Designate a place for book bags, shoes, keys, etc.

Be prepared.

A few weeks before school starts, try to ease kids back into a regular routine. Staying up late and sleeping in are perks of the summer, but it is important to get kids back on schedule. Jones advises, “Occasionally, a family will take a summer vacation that extends beyond summer, but I think it’s really important that children are present for the first day of school.”

Ask older kids in the beginning of August if they have completed their summer assignments. It is stressful and unnecessary to spend Labor Day weekend overwhelmed with schoolwork.

Do fall shopping in early August to avoid the last-minute dash. Download the class supply list and stick to it. In addition to being a waste of money, Jones says, “Extra equipment...can be a monumental distraction, especially in the younger grades.”

Buy some school clothes but not too much. It’s too hot for  fall clothes, and kids may want to get a sense of what others are wearing before committing to a wardrobe.

Emphasize the positives.

Although it’s hard to say goodbye to lazy summer days, remind kids that school can also be fun. Let them choose a special meal for the first day of school. Remind them of the friends they have missed. And finally, plan a few playdates with school friends so they have a chance to get reacquainted.

Randi Mazzella, a mother of three, is a freelance writer from Short Hills.

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