School routine: 3 painless ways to start easing back in

WASHINGTON — Every summer has a rhythm to it. In June, the whole family is excited: Your kids are “free at last” and you’ve earned a break from the before- and after-school routine. The problem is August is coming to an end, and if you’re not careful, the beginning of school hits the whole family like a ton of bricks.

How can you and your children ease back in to school in a painless way?

Summer schoolwork

First off, 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 a last-minute scramble to finish up books, math packets and other summer assignments.

A great way to get summer reading done, especially if your child finds it a bit daunting, is to set aside time to Drop Everything and Read, or DEAR. This works best when everyone is getting in on the 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.

Morning routine

At least a week before the first day of school, it’s a good idea to address the difference in sleep schedule to get your kids (and you) adjusted before the first day.

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

Set the alarm clock a little bit earlier each day leading up to school, so that by the final few days of summer kids will be getting up at almost the same time they need to be ready for school.

But waking up is actually only half the equation: If 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.

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.

Reducing the first-day jitters

When school starts up again, parents tend to be most worried about academics. But for kids, it’s the two F’s: friends and fitting in. This is especially true during a transition year — to middle school or high school, when they’ll be headed to what seems like a whole new world of people, teachers and routines.

The school 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 in two ways:

Working their locker. Have them do a trial run three times with their locker combination to make sure they’re confident they can access it when they need to.

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

These details are simple, but they can make a surprisingly large difference in how kids feel about starting school again. The more you can help them build up their new routine, the smoother the first week will be.

Ann Dolin is the president of Educational Connections Tutoring.

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