Most students anxiously await the start of winter break. But two short weeks later, the excitement of the season is over and they find themselves suddenly heading back to class for one of the busiest months of the year.
Each January, Educational Connections Director Erin Ebert notices the same patterns while speaking with concerned parents.
“They’ve been on break and away from academics for a couple of weeks. They’re also just kind of rusty with routine. And then they’re assigned a lot of work, that’s due quickly. So it’s like a perfect storm for students and that’s when everyone panics,” Ebert said.
I’ve watched this happen for 23 years and would argue January is the most important academic month of the year. The work tends to get more challenging and there’s usually a lot more of it before the end of the grading period! And it all amps up right after a two-week break where students have the luxury of sleeping in, relaxing and getting away from their weekday groove.
New Year doesn’t mean a new start for many students
When the clock strikes 12:00 AM on January first, a New Year begins, but most students in many parts of the country, including in Fairfax County Schools, are still stuck in the fall semester or second quarter.
That means they dive right into exams after minimal review time with their teachers. Papers and projects are due. Then report cards go out.
3 ways to help weather the perfect storm for students
Whether your school district ends the grading quarter before the holidays or after the winter break, there are little things you can do now to get your child ready for the busy season at school.
1. Simply ask your child what’s coming up
The best way to help your child weather the oncoming January storm is planning ahead! The workload tends to pile up fast in January. It can be easy to fall behind after the break and a few missed assignments or low test scores can make a big difference come report card time.
To help your child plan ahead, it’s helpful to talk with them about their workload before everyone gets too tied up in holiday festivities and events.
Here are some examples to start the conversation:
- “Do you have any big projects or papers coming up after the break?”
- “Which classes will you have exams for in January?”
- “Is anything due the week after New Year’s?”
Once you know what’s coming up, you can help them better prepare during their break instead of waiting until the Sunday night before they return to school.
2. Help your child use a planner to stay focused on upcoming assignments and tests
When they aren’t walking into school each day, it can be easy to forget small assignments or reminders from the teacher. If you have a child who is willing, sit down at the beginning of their break and map out the next few weeks.
It’s helpful to use a planner to help your child visualize when assignments are due and each upcoming test. You can keep it fun by also including family get-togethers and any parties or planned outings with friends.
Once everything is written down, many students find it easier to work backward. They can make plans for tackling any big projects or papers and even schedule in some study time during their two-week break.
3. Line up support now before your child is overwhelmed
In many families, it’s unlikely children will do a ton of schoolwork each day over the break. That means January could become extra busy.
Ebert suggests one of the bests things you can do is line up subject support and time management help as soon as possible rather than waiting until everybody’s stressed out in January.
“Even if the majority of the work is going to start then and it’s not going to be realistic for the student to do a lot over break. Just know that this is coming and go into the break with a plan so that when January comes, you have somebody in your child’s court.”
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There can be a lot of things to stress about this time of year. Worrying about your child’s academics shouldn’t be one of them!