Jul 17, 2013

Preparing for School - 4 ways to Defeat Zombie Children

For many of you {out in bloggy land}, your summer vacation is barely 4 weeks old.  We've been experiencing this fun for nearly 8 weeks, and in 3 short weeks (on August 7th) my kids will be going back to school.

Despite my best efforts and well-laid plans, our summer has been chaotic and not as structured as I might like.  We tried to focus on summer time balance... and slowly the less fun aspects: the educational things like writing and/or math fell by the wayside and the more fun aspects: the outdoor play, day trips to the hills, and t.v. and video games gained momentum.

Recently I had one of those anxiety dreams (you know the type, it's Prom and your date comes to pick you up for the dance and you haven't bought your dress and your hair is unwashed and not fixed up).  I figured it was related to my children's zombie-like behavior and their need for brains.

School is starting in three weeks and when I gave my 3rd grader an addition worksheet with two digit numbers on top and bottom she couldn't remember how to carry the one.   I gave my 5th grader a multiplication table to fill out and it took him nearly 30 minutes.

I nearly had an anxiety attack thinking about doing homework with these two for the first couple of weeks of school.  {I hate homework.  I hated it when I was in school, I have no interest in doing it now}.

So... what to do?  Do I give up and pass the hardship off to their teachers??  
I could.  But I chose instead to try to find, dust off and reattach their mushy brains, so they can be ready for school in a short few weeks.
Why should I?  Why should you?  Does it really matter?

Yes.  It really does. My kids need my help.  If I don't do anything, they will be shell-shocked the first week of school.  The transition will be painful.  They will feel like they are dragging their lifeless brain through the first few weeks of school and they will be just one more zombie face in the classroom. 

Help your kids stand out from the zombies...

Get their brains back into the swing of things by easing them into a schedule.  Of course it's still summer vacation, and of course they should still have fun and be able to relax.  It will ease both their and your transition inertia if you go slowly (as opposed to waiting until the night before school starts and throwing them in). 

Things to think about: What time do they go to bed?  What time should they go to bed when school starts?  What time do they wake up?  What time should they (and you) wake up when school starts?  About three weeks before, start shifting bedtime and wake-up time fifteen minutes every couple of days. (Depending on how far "off schedule" you have gotten).  For the full week before they start school, have them go to bed and wake up at "school time".

We are creatures of habit:  if your kids wake up and watch t.v. or play video games every day during summer, but can't do so during the school year, you might need to "back the bus up" and start delaying the time they can watch t.v.  For example:  my kids get to watch an hour of t.v. every morning at 8am during the summer, which is the same time we leave to go to school during the school year.  The week before they start school, instead of watching t.v. at 8am, we will be getting up and walking to school (or the park by the school), to get their minds and bodies ready for the action.  {They can watch t.v. at 9am}.

Our afternoons are full of "screen time" during the summer, yet, during the school year they have homework and the practice of instruments, so we will shift afternoon screen time and have 30-60 minutes of "homework" and practice time, just to get their minds and bodies re-centered around learning and engaged in intellectual pursuits, rather than mindlessly staring at the computer, wii or netflix.

Some ideas: print out math worksheets to get your kids used to such savagery again, have a daily DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) time that you enforce (and participate in), give your kids some writing prompts and have them practice writing sentences or paragraphs every day (or be really mean, and make them write sentences like "Treat others the way you want to be treated" when they fight with their sibling as a way to both discipline and force writing practice).

MATH resources : One website I discovered allows for infinite possibilities in worksheets: Math-Aids.com , for math games: Cool Math Games.

Can you remember summer vacation when you were a kid?  Sleeping in, staying up late, no homework, freedom, no pressures, no grades, just playing.  Why would anyone WANT to go back to school?

I've been reflecting on how much my kids have fully embraced summer this year (in younger years they couldn't wait to get back to school), but this year we are all dreading school a little bit. 

The best way to defeat that zombie attitude is to get excited about it yourself.  Take your kids and buy some back-to-school supplies.  Get a new backpack or lunch box.  Get some organizing tools for yourself.  Enjoy the excitement of new possibilities, new friends and a new year. 

If you want your kids to get excited, you need to get excited! 

Another area where kids can get excited is getting to see all of the friends they haven't seen all summer!  I do my best as a mom to provide opportunities to see their friends from school over the summer, but it's not the same as seeing the "whole gang" during the school year.  I know that some kids are naturally shy or timid, so this is a great way to help break the ice for them as well:

Schedule a park day for as many kids in their class or friend group as you can contact sometime in the last couple of weeks before school.  We did this last year the Sunday afternoon before school started and it was a wonderful way to touch base and got my kids ready to start school on the first day.  Sometimes kids (and us) get focused on what we will have to give up when school gets going, that we forget how much we enjoy the different aspects of the school year.

A positive attitude and an understanding and compassionate heart can go a long way to ease the transition back to school.  Let your kids know that you understand how they feel when they moan about school starting, and remind them of the friends they will see and new things they will learn with a genuine smile and excitement in your voice and your kids will come around to your way of thinking. 

Now I am off to torture... ahem... encourage my children away from Zombie ways with some worksheets.  Good luck and happy END OF SUMMER!

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