Get in the Groove for Back-to-School

August 2011, By Cheryl Feuer Gedzelman

School is starting in one month. Will your child be ready to learn? While some children have been practicing math and reading all summer, others were too busy having fun. Luckily, it only takes a few weeks to get into shape.

Reading for Pleasure

Has your child been reading this summer? Reading for pleasure is the best way to prepare for school. Just by reading, your child will improve her comprehension, fluency, vocabulary and writing skills. She may enjoy reading graphic novels, magazines, websites, novels, short stories or nonfiction. Visit a library, bookstore or website. Try an e-book. If your child won’t read independently, have a daily family reading time that fits in your schedule. You can read side by side. If necessary, read out loud together, taking turns. Going on vacation? Read at airports, on airplanes or at the hotel. Read the guide book!

Listening to Books

Did you know that your child is never too old to be read to? Listening to books is relaxing and, like reading, makes you form images in your mind. Going on a road trip? Bring recorded books. You can check out recorded books from the library or download them from the library onto your MP3 player.

Writing and Keyboarding

Is your child in the mood to write an essay assigned by you? That doesn’t sound like fun, so let’s be creative. How about designing a website or starting a blog? Your child can easily create a website through bloggers.com or wordpress.com. Send a letter or email to grandma, keep a journal or scrapbook of your vacation or review books or movies. Your child can actually post a book review on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com—cool! Does she have a favorite author? She might send her a letter with praise and questions. Many writers respond.

Practice Math

If math was difficult during the past school year, it might be worthwhile to get a review book. This does not mean your child needs to complete the whole thing. She should try several problems from each page just to review. For those problems that aren’t so easy, she should get help so she can become a pro. Don’t do the whole workbook in one night. How about 30 minutes per day? You can order grade-level workbooks online, such as Math Made Easy, through amazon.com.

Summer Assignments

Many schools require a summer assignment that is due when school starts. Your child should not wait until the last minute to complete this and she should take enough time to do a super job. If she has a math packet, she should spread the work out over time so she doesn’t have to tackle too much at once.

When to Hire a Tutor

Does your child need some structure? It may be hard to get serious about academics during the dog days of summer. A tutor can provide a structured hour of education and keep it fun with math games, choice reading and a variety of writing. Many people hire a tutor in August to review material from the past year, go over weak areas or begin SAT or ACT prep before the burden of school and homework begins. A tutor can also help with summer assignments.

Organization and Time Management

Is your child organizationally challenged? The best time to get an academic coach or tutor is the week school starts. The tutor can help organize notebooks and supplies and help design a system to keep everything where it belongs. Some students do best with folders, some like to have a binder for each subject and others prefer one giant binder. The tutor can also help keep daily and long-term homework assignments manageable. Over time, the tutor or coach will help students create and maintain individual systems and help keep them organized and on task.

Study Skills

Does your child need more effective study skills? Again, the best time to get a tutor or coach is the first week of school. The tutor can work with your child to develop personalized, efficient and effective study skills for each subject.

Review Last Year: What Went Well

If your child had a tutor who was a big help, continue the tutor, at least at the beginning of the year. If your child had a helpful therapist, continue that as well.

Be Proactive : What were Last Year’s Challenges?

Was math a difficult area all year? Don’t wait. Hire a tutor right at the beginning of the year to get a super start. Does your child have special needs? Don’t wait. Set up a meeting with your child’s teachers and counselors for September. Once they know your child’s challenges, they can be proactive as well. Ask the teachers and counselor to let you know as soon as there is a problem—don’t wait for things to get out of hand.

Getting in the Mood for School

Are last year’s backpacks and lunch boxes still in perfectly good shape? If your budget allows, consider getting new ones anyway. Look at your child’s school supply list online and buy at least some of the materials. Don’t wait until the rush right before school starts. Purchasing new supplies will get your children excited about starting school.

Continue Having Fun the Rest of the Summer

Remember, school doesn’t start until the end of August or early September. Summer is a great time to relax, swim and vacation. But the days are long, and by squeezing in some reading, writing and math before school starts, your children will have a great chance to start school ready to learn.

Get Ready, Get Set to Go Back to School

  • Buy school supplies; most school websites have a list
  • Buy a new backpack and lunch box
  • Buy a few new school clothes
  • Complete your summer assignment without waiting until the last minute
  • Make sure you are reading for pleasure
  • Practice writing: email, blog, website, journal, etc.
  • Practice keyboarding
  • Practice math: get a review book
  • If any areas from last year need improvement, consider a tutor
  • If organization is a persistent problem, consider a tutor for September
  • If you’re taking SAT or ACT in the fall, consider reviewing before school starts
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