I can hear the sighs of relief everywhere as the school year winds to a close. Parents are exhausted from a year of vigilance and practice, driving and waiting. Teachers have given everything they have to their classes, and hope they are ready to move on. Advocates and psychologists like myself are looking forward to a break from leaving the house at 5:30 to be at a 7 AM school observation, or from multiple school meetings in a single day, plus a stack of IEPs to analyze at night.
And the kids…your kids are counting the hours to what they see as “freedom”—time off, fewer tasks to complete, no spelling lists or math tests, no book reports and sitting still for hours. You can’t really blame them. They’ve been putting out energy since September.
But here’s the thing—everything in the entire universe moves towards entropy (dis-order, or dis-organization, in other words), without focused effort to prevent it.
What does that mean for you and your children?
How do parents help prevent this slide into “the land of lost skills”? As the experts on your child, you already know what to do. Here it is in a simple checklist:
- Identify the 3-5 skills of most importance that your child has been working on this year. Do this with your child’s input. Consult the tasks on your whiteboard.
- Re-write the whiteboard with these “summer skills”.
- Plan a weekly practice schedule. Work around vacations and camps, but be creative in finding time to practice—use early morning (kids wake up early because it’s light, but have time before camp), time spent in the car or while waiting for a sibling, while dinner is being made, or an hour per day on the weekend.
- Include “rewards” that your child chooses—weekly ones for younger kids, a special trip to a water park or arcade for an older one, a sleepover party, etc.
- If your child has a learning disability, consider skilled tutoring. If the school offers only group summer school that will be a “re-do” of stuff taught during the year (often not much better than babysitting), find something that will be of more help to your child. Try to find the money for 1-2 hours per week to focus on the most critical areas of need. I am always amazed at how much progress children make with individual speech therapy, reading or executive-functioning tutoring sessions over the summer.
- As you did during the year, “check off” the practice or tutoring that is done. Use colors and make it look snazzy. Talk about your child’s efforts at dinner. Consider putting the reading lists or summer goals of siblings on the whiteboard, too.
Summer can be a time to really focus on goals that kids care about—swimming, horseback riding, video game or Minecraft skills. Help your children work on some school-related areas of need, and you will be setting them up for a stronger school year in September.
Have a wonderful summer! As always, feel free to comment or to contact me with any questions or concerns.