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How to Savor Summer While You Get Them Ready For School

The End of SummerWhile children and teachers everywhere are looking wistfully at September drawing closer and closer on the calendar, many parents come mid-august are good and ready for the year to start. Is it starting to feel like too much unstructured time, too much of a good thing and too much time together? You’re not alone, believe me, but there are some things that even you, the eager-to-get-back-to-school-parent, might want to savor in the last days of summer. You can actually spend this last bit of summer doing a few small things that will help your child get ready for the new school year, all while savoring these last days.

These may seem like small things but they are things that usually take quite a bit of adjustment the first few weeks of school. And the best part is that you can do them while you enjoy the last few weeks by also taking advantage of some simple joys that summer holds.

If that bedtime has slowly crept to a later and later time as summer days are long and schedules are more lax, slowly start to bring your child’s bedtime back to the time it needs to be for them to wake in a reasonable mood on school days. This will be a huge help in having them start the year smoothly.

I’m talking no more than a fifteen minute difference at a time, making the change gradually will be easier on them and you, and can really help them get through that first week well-rested. Now as I give this advice, I painfully aware that this falls under the “do as I say not as I do” category.

I think this is a great idea and I think it can make a huge difference in your child’s adjustment to that first week of school, but I was never good at imposing it on myself. When I was teaching full-time, I was always up until at least midnight the night before the first day. While I always made it through the first day on the rush of excitement, it caught up with me and I was exhausted by the end of the week. Imposing an earlier bedtime will ensure your child is well rested for those first days and she can end the week as cheerily as she began it. Oh, and you can be the one shaking your head at the rest of us who were not so wise.

That being said, during these last few weeks of summer, take advantage of the other end of bedtime: allow you and your family at least one lazy summer morning. Get up slowly, stay in your pajamas, have your coffee and juice on the porch. It can feel so simple and yet so luxurious, and mornings like this are a rarity for most of us. If you work through the summer, see if there is a day you can go in a little late just to slow the pace and enjoy a nice relaxed morning with your family. Once the school year arrives, there will be plenty of room for rushing through your morning routine.

Perhaps you’ve enjoyed a good old-fashioned summer this year: the days have become relaxed and free for your children, they graze all day instead of having meals, they get up when they want, the younger ones are taking naps somewhere in a four-hour window…

Unscheduled time is invaluable and everyone should experience some, especially in our current society where we can all feel over-scheduled. Fall is about to bring its down-to-the-minute-structure, so now is the perfect time to help your children by easing them back into a more scheduled day. Start simply, say by having lunch at noon everyday. Make sure you all actually sit down. You can add from there. Even one structured activity can help your children get ready for a more scheduled day. Makes your life easier too, as kids thrive on predictability.

If possible, take an impromptu day trip during the week. As summer winds down, many families are away, so zoos, museums, and local sites are usually less busy. Plus flexibility within predictability is a winning combination: you can still have a sit down lunch at noon in the zoo! It’s a two-fer!

Get outside and soak up the last few warm days of summer! You can spend supervised time with your child going on a nature walk or to the park and take in your surroundings. Foster your child’s curiosity about how things work. Get their minds warmed up for critical and inquisitive thinking. Let them spend some fairly unsupervised time as well: running around exploring at their own pace, enjoying and getting to know the outside world.

I recently read a statistic that American children spend less than 10 percent of their lives outside. Most of us want our children to care about nature, to be stewards for the earth and the only way to truly do this is to have them feel at home in the outdoors. As school puts less and less emphasis on physical education and science, students spend less and less of their school day out of doors. Many schools have shortened or done away with recess, meaning that students can go for weeks without spending any of their day outdoors.

Take advantage of the summer days when you can spend time helping your child question and wonder at the original classroom: the great outdoors.

Finally, find a great summer book to with your child. Read your children your favorite chapter book from when you were a kid. Find a comfortable spot where you can snuggle up and really enjoy yourselves. If it’s a short book and you finish quickly, reread it. Let it be silly, let it be fun. With the rigors of school and modern technology it is a rare gift to be able to enjoy a book like this together, so take advantage of summer vacations longer lazy days to enjoy a book together.

While you and your child look forward to the quickly approaching school year, there is still time to create more summer memories. You can use these last few weeks and days not only preparing for the upcoming year, but also enjoying some quality time together. I hope these suggestions will help you and your children begin the school year a little more smoothly and the memories will be ones you can look back at fondly in the busy months of the year.

Author: Alison Kennedy

Alison has been teaching for over ten years in cities in the Northeast, where she has taught in public and charters schools. She has published curriculum with Yale University’s Yale/New Haven Teachers institute and Cal Poly Pamona’s Ahimsa Institute. She is taking the upcoming school year off from teaching to launch ABKadvantage a prekindergarten and kindergarten planning program that she hopes will empower parents to best help their children with their education and serve as a bridge of communication between parents and schools. She currently lives in Boston with her boys: her husband, son and dog. She can be reached at abkadvantage{at}gmail{dot}com

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