As the summer break ends, moms and dads rejoice that their youngsters will once again be ensconced in all things educational.
But many parents and educators wonder what the cost of that summer freedom is for the young minds they’re entrusted with. After several weeks off, many students return unaccustomed to a grueling school schedule. For some children, it can be a rude awakening to suddenly be expected to be ready for school after becoming accustomed to sleeping late and leisurely beginning the day.
“Kids need the rest the summer months provide,” said Diane LaSalle, director of enrollment at the Pasadena Waldorf School. “We believe it brings our students back invigorated. Of course, summer school is an important resource for students that are struggling and those who want to continue to build certain skill.”
Enforcing school-year bedtime schedules at least two or three days before the first day of school will reduce the chances of an overly sleepy or cranky child in the morning. If possible, check with your child’s school for any resources or class materials available ahead of time. Having the child (and parents) familiarize themselves with the material to be studied during the school year will give students a feeling of preparedness that also helps to ease the transition.
Setting aside a few minutes during at least one meal per day to have a family discussion on what’s exciting about the new school year keeps the focus on the positive aspects of change, rather than allowing children to dwell on the more daunting aspects, such as making new friends and keeping grades up.
Marc Alongi, director of curriculum, instruction and student support at Sequoyah School in Pasadena told the Weekly that back-to-school educational prep need not be the chore it often becomes.
“Making family reading, writing and math time is essential,” Alongi said. “Weekly trips to the local library keep young minds stimulated and kids reading. It’s about creating a culture within the family for learning.”
Alongi suggests parents look at the many computer apps available for supplemental and specialized learning.
There are age-appropriate apps and websites for children of every age. As the parent of a 5-year-old, my husband and I discovered ABCmouse.com, and find it to be a wonderful resource to keep preschool, kindergarten and early elementary school-aged children current with schoolwork in a fun and playful way. In preparing our daughter for kindergarten, we chose to focus on the new opportunities and friends she can make and how exciting learning new concepts can be.
Leap Frog makes a variety of toys, videos and devices to teach and reinforce educational themes learned in class, as does Vtech. School and education-themed movies and videos are a popular choice for family time and do a great job of entertaining, as well as informing. Alongi recommends the remake of the ground-breaking series “Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’” with Neil Degrasse Tyson for older children, as well as the animated film “Flatland.” Despite it’s math focus, it’s a fun movie that all can appreciate.
Courtney Alfred, a teacher at Eliot Middle School in Altadena and the parent of a young child, says getting kids ready for learning again doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition. She readies her child for school by printing out worksheets from online sources and purchases inexpensive workbooks from discount stores.
“Jigsaw puzzles and word searches are also great tools for kids, as are chapter books for the older kids,” she states. “Have your kids read to you — often. It stimulates their minds.” Alfred said. “We do lots of letters — all day. Everywhere we go, we make a game of spelling out words we see on the street.”
And it’s OK to keep your child’s mind sharp during summer with book reports, flash cards and review material, according to Rachel MacDonald, assistant director at Sylvan Learning Center in San Marino. Sylvan offers reading, math, study skills, writing and SAT prep courses specially geared for students heading back to school.
“Keep the ball rolling and keep them from falling behind, and it’s also useful for closing learning gaps — or filling them in,” MacDonald said.