While we all cling to summer and its reality of easygoing schedules for as long as we possibly can, the days are growing shorter and the schoolyear is right around the corner. "Many kids are excited about seeing friends they haven't seen since June, but some find it hard to adjust to the new schedule when they are so accustomed to the carefree cadence of summer," observes Kan Chen, director of Chyten Education Services in Bayside. But from transitioning your kids' sleep schedules in advance to maintaining some of the good habits they developed during the previous schoolyear, there are things you can do to help them get their groove back. We asked local experts:
How can I help my child ease the transition from summer to back-to-school?
"Here are a few different ideas to help ease a child's transition:
1. Take the child to (re)visit the school and/or meet the teacher, so that the child is familiar with the surroundings and staff and won't feel overwhelmed with too many novel things at once.
2. Discuss any concerns the child has about new friends, new teachers, new subjects-anything that might be a cause for anxiety.
3. Shop for back-to-school supplies and clothes together so that the child feels supported and integral to the process.
4. Establish bedtime and wakeup routines that will carry through the schoolyear, including lessening late-night tv and computer screen time, setting out clothes for the next day, and establishing a sleep time.
5. Establish a homework time at least two weeks before the summer ends. Use the allotted time before school starts to read together, or with older children make up some math, science or social studies review questions based on last year's material."
-Dr. Hannah Sinha, director, The Montessori School of New York International
"It would be easy to say that if your summer was lax with little attention on academics, perhaps some structured summer reading or classes would have helped prepare for the impending onslaught of tight schedules and homework. If your child was involved in summer activities and camps, you might hear how he or she never had time to just play. No single solution will unanimously make these or any children cheer for the start of school. Expect complaints and resistance. Luckily, it seems there is a singular root to this problem, which, if addressed, may ease the changeover.
Think to times you have made your child go and do...anything. Were there complaints and resistance or glee and praise? As a teacher, I know my response! With that obvious answer in mind, our whole goal should be to do what all parental tacticians do: find a way to make the child want to do the thing we want without knowing that we are manipulating the circumstances and/or that we are even interested.
In my experience, mentors and role models who are not related or guardians, but who sympathize with your goals to promote a joy of learning, can be most helpful. Presently, I am serving in that role for a number of students in The ROC Summer Camp. I take topics they like (one recent example: dinosaurs) and creatively facilitate an enjoyable academic experience (same example: a dino-name pronunciation game to improve our reading skills), thus maintaining that educational productivity, while seemingly aloof from the school pressures. This are what cause all the back-to-school boo-hoos."
-Tom "Mr. Geek" Hershner, teacher, Think Robot and The ROC (Resource and Opportunity Center) for Homeschoolers, East Village
"First: Try not to plan a vacation where the child comes back and is off to school the following Monday. Usually a 2-week separation from the end of the family vacation to the start of school will give sufficient time for a child to adjust.
It is also very important to regulate children's sleep patterns, as their circadian rhythms are probably off-synch due to the summer break. Depending on the child, it would be a good idea to slowly begin setting their bedtimes to an earlier hour one to two weeks prior to the start of school. Though there is no magical number of hours of sleep a child should get, 9 to 10 hours of sleep per night is generally recommended. Of course, if you have a teenager all bets are off!
Taking your child "back to school shopping" a week before school starts is a subtle reminder to them of what's imminent. Nothing says I am going back to school like going to the local stationery/office superstore and picking up pencils, pens, notebooks and other supplies.
Having children read a few books over the summer also helps, as it keeps their minds and imaginations engaged. Let them choose the topic to read (it should be fun for them). Reading something is always better than not reading!
Lastly, talk with your children: Start a conversation to see if they have anything that may be bothering them, and let them know that you will always be there to back them up if needed."
-Kan Chan, director, Chyten Educational Services of Bayside