Learning Apps Perfect for Summer Road Trips

Here’s the truth about summer vacations as a family: Exploring a new place can be fun and exciting, but getting there? Well, that’s an entirely different story.

Driving (or flying!) cross-country for hours on end with bored children is not for the faint of heart. You may find yourself doing whatever it takes to keep the entire family entertained, quiet, and content. That just might mean you set aside normal screen time limits for the sake of your sanity.

And that’s okay!

In fact, screen time on the road can even be a good thing, especially if you can find some apps that keep kids entertained while teaching them something in the process. They get to stay academically engaged, and you get to enjoy the peace and quiet completely guilt-free. Win-win!

Before your next family vacation, make sure you download these three apps that make summer learning FUN (and long road trips just a bit more bearable!)

#1 DuoLingo

Available for free in both the App Store and Google Play, DuoLingo makes it fun to learn a new language. (And the app has over 30 languages to choose from!) Kids enjoy the bite-sized lessons, fun games, and progress tracker, and parents love that their child’s screen time is actually productive. Once you reach your destination, put away the screens and see how many new foods, animals, and objects your child can name in their new language!

#2 Prodigy Math Game

Move over, boring old flashcards. Today’s kids are loving Prodigy Math Game, the free fantasy game where players go on quests and duel characters. It looks and feels like today’s popular video games, but players must solve skill-building math questions to progress and win. This app is available in the App Store and Google Play and on web browsers. An added bonus we love: Parents can sign up for a free account to monitor their child’s progress, set goals, and give rewards to encourage more play!

#3 SkyView Lite

Once you arrive for vacation, let the learning and fun continue with the SkyView Lite app, free in the App Store. Simply point your iPhone, iPad, or iPod to the sky, and the app will help you identify stars, constellations, satellites, and more! This is a great app to revisit as a family every time you travel for an all-new stargazing experience in each place.

Learning apps are a great way to keep kids academically engaged (and quiet!) during long road trips. Once you’re back home, book some review + preview tutoring sessions to give your child the confidence they need to conquer a new grade. Request a tutor now for a stress-free start to a successful school year!

 

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The Summer Anxiety Parents Face

When I first started EC Tutoring 20 years ago, homework was normal, expected, and commonplace. Today, after years of pushback and debate, very few elementary schools assign much homework throughout the year.

Things have certainly changed. But is that change good?

On the plus side, parents are free to let their kids participate in extracurriculars or simply play outside without worrying about a late-night homework battle.

But without homework as a benchmark, it can be hard to know whether your child is up to speed academically. This can put more pressure on parents to figure out how to keep kids focused and motivated without being the bad guy.

That pressure can even carry over into the summer. In fact, it’s now common for parents to experience a new type of summer anxiety over questions like…

  • How can I help my child retain what they learned last year?
  • What should I be doing to help my child prepare for next year?
  • Does my child deserve a total break or should I keep them academically engaged? If so, how?
  • How much summer practice is enough? How much is too much?

 

If you’re feeling anxious over keeping your kid on track this summer, you are not alone.

This has become a common stressor for parents in the “post-homework” age. But you don’t have to carry the weight of your child’s academic progress on your shoulders alone.

We’re here to help!

Our summer tutors have years of experience in keeping elementary school kids academically engaged over the summer with special activities and games that make review and learning fun.

When your child is matched with a summer tutor, you can relax and enjoy your summer, knowing your child will enter next year confident and prepared.

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To get started, simply contact us to discuss whether summer tutoring is right for your child—and for your own mental health!

Don’t let anxiety over your child’s academic progress ruin your summer. We’re here to help, and we look forward to hearing from you soon!

 

And don’t miss out on this special discount on summer tutoring: Buy 12 sessions and get 15% off! Just contact us online or call 703-934-8282 to claim this offer.

 

Stress-free Ways to Keep Your Child on Track This Summer

Summer is underway, and your child has all sorts of plans for the months ahead. They’ll play at the beach! Swim in the pool! Build a spaceship out of Legos! Have a sleepover with friends!

As a parent, you want your child to enjoy a magical summer and make memories they’ll treasure well into adulthood.

But you also feel a sense of responsibility. 

You want your child to retain all the academic skills they learned last year.

You want your child to spend less time with screens and more time with books.

You want your child to arrive to school next year refreshed but prepared.

And you don’t want to be the bad guy to make all that happen!

 

Enter the EC Summer Tutoring Program.

The EC Summer Tutoring Program is your stress-free way to ensure your child stays on track all summer long without spoiling any of the magic of a childhood summer.

In fact, our tutors plan special activities and games to make learning fun, and many children actually look forward to these summer tutoring sessions!

“Our tutor was absolutely terrific! She always came prepared with great material for our daughter, and did a wonderful job with keeping her engaged throughout every session. Our daughter would look forward to each visit and was visibly excited before and after each of her sessions.”

-Mark Watson

To learn more and take advantage of this offer, just call 703-934-8282 now or click here to contact us online.

We can’t wait to make summer learning fun for your child… so you don’t have to!

 

PS: Don’t wait! Summer sessions must be used by September 2, so call 703-934-8282 now to take advantage of this special offer and keep your child on track this summer! 

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Fun Summer Activities to Keep Kids Academically Engaged

School is out, and summer is officially here!

Kids are happily embracing their newfound freedoms, entertaining themselves for hours on end, and never, ever complaining of boredom… right? Ok, maybe not.

If you’re looking for a way to beat the boredom and keep your kids academically engaged this summer, we’re here to help.

Our summer tutors are always coming up with fun, engaging ways to help students review what they learned last year, preview what they’ll learn next year, and keep executive function skills (like time management and project planning) sharp all summer long.

In this newsletter, we’re going to share a few of the most popular activities kids love doing with our tutors year after year.

Pick an activity to do with your child over the next few months, or contact us to have a tutor do the work for you. (Hey, you deserve some downtime this summer, too!)

 

For Elementary School Students: Cook the Perfect Pizza

This first activity not only keeps your kids entertained and academically engaged, but also takes care of the dreaded question: What’s for dinner?

Elementary school-aged kids love embarking on a mission to cook the perfect pizza. First, practice project planning as you work together to create a list of elements you’ll test on each pizza, like different types of pizza dough, cheeses, or toppings.

Then, strengthen money counting skills as you shop for ingredients together and track what you spend. Back at home, let your child practice measurements as you whip up different pizza creations.

Finally, review the basics of the scientific method as you track and report which combinations led to the best pizza of all time!

 

For Middle School Students: Launch a Rocket

Middle schoolers are at the perfect age to fall in love with the wonders of science—especially when you give them permission to set off an explosion! That’s why we recommend building, launching, and testing rockets with your middle school student to keep them academically engaged this summer.

First, review the scientific method and practice project planning skills to map out your summer-long science project, step-by-step.

 

For High School Students: Explore Adulthood

Many parents are surprised to find that the summer activities our high school tutoring students love the most revolve around real-life adulthood—like creating a budget or participating in a practice interview for their summer job.

High school kids are itching for independence, and the opportunity to learn practical life skills makes them feel like you’re taking them seriously.

This summer, help your high schooler create a budget to explore what it would cost to live on their own. Show them how to research the cost of apartments and groceries, explore how much their dream job will pay, and compile it all in a budgeting app.

Remember: The key here is to present this as a fun activity to prepare for adulthood—not a punishment or lecture sparked by a moment of frustration!

 

If you do try any of these activities, let us know how it goes! Share with us your ideas on our Facebook Page! We love hearing from you.

And if you like the idea of keeping your child engaged with fun summer activities but don’t have the time to tackle these projects yourself, click below to contact us. Our summer tutors are always happy to help!

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Summer Screen Time Struggles

Are you looking for a fun way to keep your kids active, engaged, and off their screens this summer? We can help! Click here to schedule a free consult and learn more about our special summer tutoring experience.

Summer sure has changed since you were a kid, hasn’t it? Where your parents had to beg you to come back inside for dinner, you may find yourself begging your child to put down the screens and head outside or read a book.

Screen time can be a point of tension year round, but without the distraction of school and homework, you may find the tech battle getting worse. We’re here to help! Check out these tips to stop the fight before it starts and keep your child academically engaged all summer long.

  • Tip #1: Communicate expectations now. Don’t wait until you’re angry to talk about screen time with your kids. Instead, sit down early in the summer to discuss how much screen time is appropriate and how your family will spend the summer days.
  • Tip #2: Discuss priorities, not just restrictions. Putting strict limits on screen time can just invite an argument. Try discussing the activities your kids must prioritize each day before they can play on their screens, like chores, summer reading, or outdoor play time.
  • Tip #3: Model healthy screen time. As much as we’d love for kids to do what we say, they almost always do what we do. Be conscious of how much time you’re spending on your own screen in front of your kids to keep pushback to a minimum.
  • Tip #4: Present your child with a fun alternative. Too much screen time is both an indicator and cause of boredom. Give your child a fun alternative to keep them mentally engaged over the break, like our summer tutoring experience.

Our tutors plan special games and hands-on activities to help your child beat boredom, stay academically engaged, prepare for the year ahead… and have fun!

Here’s what EC Tutoring parent Mark Watson had to say about his child’s summer tutoring experience:

Our tutor was absolutely terrific! She always came prepared with great material for our daughter, and did a wonderful job with keeping her engaged throughout every session. Our daughter would look forward to each visit and was visibly excited before and after each of her sessions.

Summer tutoring shouldn’t be a punishment or a drudgery. It’s actually a fun way to keep your kids academically and mentally engaged, and to minimize your screen time battles! Here’s how it works:

Step 1

 

Request a free consult to learn more about our summer tutoring experience.

Step 2

 

Meet your match, the tutor handpicked for your child’s needs and personality.

Step 3

 

Say goodbye to screen time battles and hello to a fun, academically engaging summer!

 

Still not sure the summer tutoring experience is right for your child? A free consult is a great, no-pressure opportunity for you to connect with our staff, discuss your goals for the summer, and see if we can help. Just click here to schedule a call. We look forward to talking with you!

Our Summer Tutoring Message for 2019

In 1978, I could not do long division.

And believe me, I tried.

There were just way too many steps.

It was confusing, frustrating, and I could never get it right.

Well, that summer (the summer between fourth and fifth grade) my mom got me a tutor, Mrs. Lewis.

I rode my bike to her house every week.

And you know what?

By the end of the summer, I could do long division!

I had mastered the steps and I felt great about myself.

So when I went to fifth grade, it was really the first time in my life I actually felt confident about math.

Now, I’m sure you’re not actually all that interested in my fifth grade math performance (and neither am I for that matter).

But it’s illustrative of what I want to share with you today…

Our take on summer tutoring for 2019: a time where grades, schedules, and distractions dominate during the year, often leaving an inadequate amount of time and focus available for learning to happen how we’d like it to.

Summer tutoring isn’t just for kids that are a little bit behind and need to get caught up because they can’t afford to lose any ground.

In fact, we frequently see kids that are doing just fine in school, do nothing over the summer, and subsequently fall behind the following year.

And that means more effort in the fall to catch back up during the most hectic, difficult, and distraction-filled time of the school year.

So this year, we’re making it simple.

Work with a tutor now through summer and save 15%.

You’ll get:

  • 12 sessions you can use anytime between now and September 2nd, 2019 before the school year starts back up.
  • Time dedicated to moving your child’s understanding and confidence forward using the review/preview method.
  • Your choice of a hand-selected tutor who is just right for your child, who can incorporate both accountability and fun to keep sessions productive and engaging over the summer.

Most of all, it’s an opportunity for your child to finally get ahead of the game and feel great going into next year.

If you’re interested, click the link below to fill out a short questionnaire, and we’ll be in contact shortly to discuss.

Find the right tutor for your child this summer

“Things are going very well, thank you. Jaimee is really helping to make concepts less abstract for Kesha and working with her specifically on how to apply them in her work.” ~ Carol, EC Tutoring Parent

“Ivey has worked with Patrick several weeks now, and it is going well. We have found Patrick to be thoughtful, earnest, engaging, and patient. Ivey says the sessions are helpful, and our family is experiencing less stress and conflict around homework since Patrick and Ivey began working together.” Kennedy, EC Tutoring Parent

Summer Homework: A How-To Guide for Parents and Kids

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summer homework image1

It’s become a predictable yearly debate that rolls around every June:

Should my kids really be getting summer homework?

And if they do, how should we approach it so they actually learn something over the summer (rather than just doing busywork)?

Here’s the thing:

At some schools, kids are routinely overloaded with multiple books to read, and big math packets to complete.

At other schools? Nothing is assigned.

My personal opinion is that the right balance lies somewhere in the middle… Yes, we want kids to keep their minds sharp, but not at the expense of having fun over the summer.

So in this post I’ll cover:

  • My opinion on the age-old summer homework debate (in the video below)
  • How to handle the different types of work assigned to students over the summer
  • Some specific recommendations for what you can do as a parent to keep your kids engaged in the process, including a recent interview I did with WTOP’s Every Day is Kid’s Day podcast on the topic

And you’ll walk away with a better understanding of how to make the most out of homework (or lack thereof) this summer.

You can click one of the links below to jump to one of the sections of the guide:

How much is too much summer homework?
How to tackle summer reading (The Amazon Method)
How to handle math packets and workbooks
Creative ways to make Summer Learning fun

Or jump right in with the video below.

How much is too much? What the research says…

When kids do nothing at all in math and reading, the research shows that they can lose two to three months of learning progress over the summer.

Just think: That’s almost as if they decided to end the school year in March!

And if left alone, those losses accumulate over time with respect to their peers.

A 2007 study out of John’s Hopkins University showed that while students (on average) make similar gains in reading comprehension throughout the year, students without access to learning opportunities make no progress over the summer, while students with access outpace them year after year.

summer homework graph1

Ultimately, by the time they reach 5th grade, disadvantaged students are the equivalent of 3 full grade levels behind their advantaged peers in reading ability!

But, this trend need not apply to your son or daughter…

Because studies also show that kids who read just four books over the summer are able to almost completely eliminate that summer learning slide.

So here’s my take:

If your son or daughter is being required to…

  • Read three books, probably classics that they really don’t want to read
  • Write multiple essays
  • And complete stacks of math assignments

… that’s probably a bit overboard.

Yes, we want kids to keep their minds sharp, but not at the expense of having fun over the summer.

So my recommendation is to create a balance. Get your summer assignments done, but try to structure it in a way that makes learning fun.

Here’s how to do it…

Required vs. Recommended Summer Homework

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First off, we can break down summer homework assignments in terms of required vs. recommended.

Most schools send out a recommended reading list, and sometimes subject review packets to their students to complete over the summer.

And some actually require that their students complete a certain amount of those assignments over the summer, which are included in their grade for the upcoming school year.

Now, it does make sense to prioritize required assignments over recommended assignments… especially if your school went overboard with what they handed out.

But as long as it’s not too much material, regardless of whether reading is assigned or not, I recommend working with your child to map out a plan of attack for the summer to get it done (on their terms – see below).

How to tackle summer reading (The Amazon Method)

By far, the most popular category of summer homework assigned are reading lists.

And although most schools have a recommended reading list, they tend to be very broad (umm, should my 8-year-old really be reading MacBeth right now?)…

Specific reading requirements

Sometimes though, there are specific books that your student needs to read over the summer (see the “required” section above), especially high school students, and you’ll need to work with them to figure out a plan of attack.

Block off some time at the beginning of summer (don’t let it wait until July!) to sit down and ask them:

“You have these 3 books you have to read this summer. How would you like to tackle these?”

And then let them answer. Help them formulate a (realistic) plan with their input, and they’ll but much more likely to follow it… and not end up in the last-minute reading rush on August 30th trying to get their summer reading done!

Flexible reading requirements

But on the other hand, if you do have some flexibility in terms of what your student is assigned to read over the summer, what I like to do is create a reading list tailored specifically towards the age or interests of your student.

And one of the best ways to do this is: Amazon!

Step 1: Go to Amazon.com and type in “Books for… [insert description of your child]”

For example, if I had a 7th grader at home I would search: “Books for middle school”

Or if I was looking for something more girl-oriented for my daughter I would search: “Books for middle school girls”

It’s amazing what books will pop up on the top of the list for kids…

Step 2: Review the list and make sure that the results are relevant (sometimes they require a little tweaking), and pay attention to the options on the sidebar where you can filter by subject, age rage, etc.

Then run them by your child and ask: “Which one of these do you want to read this summer?”

Look over the summaries and let them pick the books they want to read.

Word of caution: It’s not your responsibility as a parent to pass judgment and say:

“You know what honey, this year you’re not reading a graphic novel. You can only read books with words, no pictures.

We don’t want to do that as parents. We really want to let our kids decide, because when they’re invested, they’re much more likely to meet that four book goal over the summer.

Step 3: Either order online or head out to the library…

Make sure to do this before July 4th so the summer doesn’t get away from you, and use your list of books that you picked out.

Then, when you get your books back home…

Step 4: Sit down with them and make a plan.

Don’t assume your child will gleefully run up to his room and begin flipping the pages. They’re much more likely to read consistently if you have “READING TIME” marked off on the calendar at a consistent time each day.

You can even make it a family routine! Having everyone in the house reading at the same time will help encourage your child to get their reading done, especially if they’re reluctant or easily distracted.

Now, many kids are reluctant readers and may need a parent to help them get started… And you need to be willing to make the time to lend a hand.

This can be in the form of “you read a page, he reads a page” or for a really reluctant reader, “you read two pages and he reads one,” until he’s into the story.

Make this a habit, and before long you’ll have a bookworm on your hands!

How to handle math packets and workbooks

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The same principles hold true for other assigned work as well.

Don’t assume your child will be chipping away at those math packets one day at a time (and the thicker they are, the more daunting they’ll seem).

Truth be told: we get lots of calls from parents mid-August, panicked that their kid hasn’t read and annotated a three-hundred-page book and completed a bunch of review worksheets – even though the parent has reminded him at least ten times!

This situation isn’t unique.

The value to any summer learning is doing a little bit at a time over a long stretch. The brain retains information best in bit sized chunks, not by cramming.

And this is even more important for math because it’s a subject that continually builds on itself. So if you miss something early on, you’re probably going to have to back-track when you run into that same concept again in the future.

So just like with reading assignments, if your son or daughter are assigned a math packet (or any other type of subject packet) over the summer, make sure to site down and set the plan early.

Aside from your typical reading lists and workbooks though, you can also encourage learning in other (more fun!) ways this summer…

Creative ways to make Summer Learning fun

Below is a recent interview I did with WTOP’s Every Day is Kid’s Day podcast (interview starts at 0:53) on how to bring a fresh perspective to summer learning, and make things more fun and interesting for your son or daughter this year.

Give it a listen for some more tips on:

  • Using the Amazon Method to make summer reading more fun
  • Alternatives to summer workbooks that are actually fun and effective
  • Whether you should spend the time to try and “preview” material they’re going to see in the coming year
  • And a whole bunch of other useful ideas for staying engaged over the summer

Here are some of those great ways to get your child into learning, outside of school recommended assignments:

For writing: use a dialogue journal.

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One of the best ways to get your child comfortable with writing on a regular basis is to make a game out of it.

So try designating a “special” notebook or journal that lives in your kid’s room that you can use to communicate with them through writing.

Then, simply leave them a note each day, that they read and respond to.

Maybe you say something like, “I noticed how you helped your brother pick up those puzzle pieces. What a nice idea. How did you know he needed your help?”

Leave the journal on his bed and allow him to write back that evening. The next day, you respond.

And be sure not to fix grammar or spelling, just let these be a carefree way to practice writing and even illustrations.

At the end of the summer, not only will they have improved their writing skills, but you’ll also have an amazing keepsake to look back on for years to come.

For reading: listen to audiobooks!

Don’t forget that audio books can be very helpful for developing comprehension and fluency.

Studies show that when kids want to read a book just above their level and listen to the book while following along with the lines, they improve their skills more than if they read independently.

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So using a site like Audible.com or going to your local library website to download audio versions of the books your son or daughter has picked out (or has assigned) for the summer isn’t cheating, it’s just another way to “open the door” to getting them involved in reading.

Plus, it’s great for long summer road trips!

For math: play (math) games on the iPad.

For most of us, it’s a constant battle to keep our kids AWAY from the devices over the summer… but it need not be either or.

One of the best ways to “bridge the gap” is to give your child the opportunity to use educational apps or websites on their phone or iPad that will keep them learning, without feeling like math always has to involve drudgery.

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Multiplication.com is great site for staying sharp on math facts. And pretty much every elementary schooler needs to practice their addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division over the summer to stay sharp.

Funbrain.com is also perfect for allowing a little screen time in-between reading or homework sessions, while still learning at the same time.

For learning that’s fun: find local adventures!

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Yes, you could have your kids spend their summer doing workbooks and refresher material, and that would probably help them stay sharp… but most kids find that to be a drag on their motivation to learn.

Instead, find a local museum or science center and take field trip!

Use the outing to ask your kids to guide the learning session and pick out what they want to explore… and then tell you about it.

And then watch in amazement at how excited they are, not even realizing that they’re “learning,” but just enjoying the moment and experiencing something new.

Summer camps are great for this too, so do some Googling and find out what’s going on in your area.

Now let’s hear from you..

How have you handled the balance between required summer schoolwork and fun?

What have you done that’s helpful in your family to keep summer learning alive without going overboard?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

The School Routine: 8 Painless Ways To Start Easing Back In

school routine image1Every summer has a rhythm to it…

In June, the whole family is excited! Your kids are “free at last,” and you’ve finally earned yourself a well-deserved break from the before and after school routine.

Then July rolls around. Prime vacation time. It’s the middle of summer and everyone is ready to get away… whether that’s to the beach, to visit family, or just for a road trip or two.

Some pro-active families are keeping up with reading and maybe some practice assignments here and there… but for most, schoolwork couldn’t seem further away.

Then there’s August… the “wind-down” month. Maybe you’re getting in some last minute vacation time, but everyone has the first day of school in the back of their minds, whether they care to admit it or not.

And although summer should be enjoyed, the problem is: if you’re not careful, August is gone, and the first day of school hits the whole family like a ton of bricks.

Your kids are…

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Image credit: JON_CF

…trying to scramble last minute to get their summer reading done so that they’re not left behind in class.

…now having to sacrifice most of their previously free time to do homework and study – something they haven’t done in months.

…waking up WAY earlier.

And you’re having to manage them through that whole process, not to mention adjusting your schedule to pack lunches, get them to school on time, and make sure they’re actually getting their assignments done.

But, there is an alternative…

In today’s post, we’ll cover 8 things we recommend you start now, so that you can slowly ease the family back into the school routine without it being such a shock to the system.

Not only will this be more comfortable for everyone involved, it’ll also set the stage for a more successful school year once the end of August does finally hit. Getting off on the right foot sets a great tone for the rest of the year and leave the whole family better off in the process.

1.Get the ball rolling on summer reading or other assignments

school routine image3First, make sure you set aside some time to address any required assignments or a reading list that may have been provided by your child’s school.

If you can catch it now, and then plan out time to work on those assignments, you can avoid that last-minute scramble to finish up books, math packets, and other summer assignments during the days leading up to the start of school.

A great way to get summer reading done, especially if your child finds it a bit daunting, is to set aside time for DEAR (Drop Everything and Read). This works best when everyone is getting in on the “DEAR” action… so come up with a time as a family (after lunch, after dinner, etc.) where everyone in the house puts down what they’re doing, turns off all electronics, and sits down to read.

2. Start the sleep schedule shift

If you’re looking for a recipe for disaster, spend 3 months getting your kids used to staying up late with a lazy 10am wake-up, and then abruptly force them out of bed at 6am to head off to learn for 6 hours straight.

Well without realizing it, this is exactly what happens to most of our families in the lead up to the start of school. Whoops!

Now of course we’d never intentionally send our kids off to school in a zombie-like sleep deprived state, but it is important to keep in mind that study after study shows that loss of sleep for kids can negatively impact not only their performance in school, but also their physical and mental health.

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Image credit: Adrian Sampson

So that being said, it’s a good idea to address the summer vs. school year sleep schedule difference at least one week before school starts to get your kids (and you) adjusted before the first day.

First, schedule a family meeting to sit down and establish what that schedule is going to look like. What time are you going to wake up? And what time to does bedtime need to be in order to get enough sleep each night?

Then, each day leading up to school, set the alarm clock a little bit earlier so that by the final day of that week, they’ll be getting up at almost the same time they need to get up in order to be ready for school. So if that’s 6am, the schedule might look like this

Day 1 – 9:00 am wake-up
Day 2 – 8:30 am wake-up
Day 3 – 8:00 am wake-up
Day 4 – 7:30 am wake-up
Day 5 – 7:00 am wake-up
Day 6 – 6:30 am wake-up
Day 7 – 6:00 am wake-up

But waking up is actually only half of the equation, because is your child isn’t also starting to wind back bedtime, it’s going to be harder and harder for them to stick to the schedule and they’ll start losing sleep before school even starts! Not good.

So the second part of this trick is to also set a bedtime alarm that follows a similar adjustment schedule. There may be some moaning and groaning, but if you make sure to explain and set the expectations up front, it will help your son or daughter understand why they’re doing it. Plus they’ll (hopefully) be tired enough by waking up earlier that this isn’t too much of a “task.”

Execute this plan, and you can help smooth out one of the biggest “shocks to the system” when starting school again.

3. Start the morning routine

Now the “waking up” piece of the puzzle is taken care of, your family is getting ready to wake up on time for school. But then what do they do after that?

That might seem like a silly question, but having a morning routine established that makes sure your son or daughter are off to school in the morning with everything they need each day is another key component of reducing stress and disorganization during the school week for the whole family.

Because there generally isn’t a structured routine in the morning during the summer, all too often, even if everyone is up on time, mornings during the first week of school turn into a mad dash of collecting backpacks, school supplies, lunches and breakfast before ushering everyone out the door.

So when you have that family meeting to establish the new wake-up schedule, also take some time to discuss what needs to happen each morning. Talk it through so that the expectations are clear, and include some “night-before” preparation as well to make mornings easier.

Then, to take it a step further, actually turn it into a fun visual checklist for them to follow that you can post on the fridge or front door.

During the lead up to school, practice waking up at the set time and then slowly adding in steps of the new routine – whether that’s getting dressed and brushing their teeth, getting their backpack ready (try the Launching Pad!), or making sure to be at the table ready for breakfast…

And before you know it, the first day is here and they’re off to school with everything they need.

4. Plan out lunches ahead of time

Okay ready for another one we usually don’t think about until the first week of school?

Packing. Lunches.

This is definitely one of those things where if you get off to a good start with some healthy habits, they can be pretty easy to maintain. But if you get off to a rocky start (e.g. sending them to school with a few bucks, which if we’re honest are probably spent on snacks…) it can be hard to change those habits mid-stream.

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Image credit: Melissa

So let’s get the routine down now. Again, have a sit down with your kids and brainstorm a few different easy lunch ideas that they’d like to eat, but will also be healthy enough to keep their energy levels up throughout the school day (and avoid the post-lunch crash).

A good formula for this is (more details here):

  • A fruit and veggie
  • Protein
  • A drink
  • A small dessert
  • Whatever else rounds out the meal

The week before (the magic time window) is a great time to go shopping and start making lunches again so that the whole family gets back into the swing of it before the big day.

5. Organize the homework space and gather up school supplies

Now it’s time to take stock of what needs to happen after the school day – primarily, where homework and studying gets done!

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Identify a few places your child can do homework this year (the bedroom isn’t a great idea) and give the spots you’ve select a once-over to determine what you might need. Then make a list and plan a trip to the local office supply store to get what you need.

Now, if your son or daughter is on the younger side, many schools provide a list of materials you’ll need for the start of school (and sometimes teachers will make modifications), so it’s probably a good idea to plan your school supply run after you’ve been to the open house…

6. Attend the open house

Most schools have an open house. Make the commitment to go, even if you’ve heard it all before. Here’s why:

When school starts up again, parents tend to most worried about… you guessed it… academics.

What are the requirements?

When are the tests?

What does my son or daughter need to know in order to perform well and learn what they need to?

Now’s the time to start engaging with the process and answering those questions for yourself so that you know what the expectations are going into the new year.

For your kids though? It’s the two F’s: friends and fitting in.

This is especially true during a transition year, either to middle school or high school, when they’re going to be encountering what seems like a whole new world of people, teachers, and routines.

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Thankfully, the open house will help with all of these things. As parents we can get a sense of the requirements being put on our kids, and our kids can start the process of getting comfortable in their new environment by:

(1) Working their locker. Have them do a trial run 3 times with their locker combination to make sure they’re confident they can get in and out when they need to.

(2) Walking the path from class to class. Again, do this with them 3 times during the open house so that they know where they’re going, and feel comfortable during the day.

Although simple, these small details my a surprisingly large difference in how kids feel about starting school again. So the more you can help them build up their new routine, the smoother the first week will be.

7. Make a checklist

Now having family meetings and going to the open house are all well and good… But it’s easy enough to get caught up in trying to squeeze the most out of the end of summer and forget to tackle your school lead-up preparation until it’s too late.

To make sure that doesn’t happen, after the open house, make a checklist of what you need to have ready for the start of school. Make sure everyone in the family has something to do so that the burden isn’t only on you.

Then, pick a regular time each week (or day if you’re close to the start of school) to go over what’s left as a family. You don’t have to be a taskmaster, but you do have to set some accountabilities for the family so that everyone is better off when the school year hits.

8. Get involved from the start (and put yourself in their shoes)

And finally, if nothing else make sure you’re setting the tone for the school year right at the start by making the commitment to be involved.

Be sure to discuss not only where homework will be done but at about what time it should start. Discuss these logistics with your child and get their input. And then apply that same process to each important aspect of their school lives.

Being involved doesn’t mean micro-managing their schedule and how they accomplish their schoolwork… but it does mean having the discussion with them about it.

Perhaps most importantly, when you’re doing this, put yourself in their shoes:

  • What are they thinking about?
  • What things are they worried about that you might take for granted?
  • And what can you do to help (in a way that gives them the autonomy they need to feel in control)?

Ask these questions on a regular basis, and for the most part, it’ll be hard to go wrong.

So that’s it! Eight ways you can re-start the engines on the school routine now

…so that when that first day of school hits, you, your kids, and the whole family will be ready for smooth sailing this year.

And if you have any other suggestions for how to make this school year the best one yet, just leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!