Whether your child will be starting preschool this fall, gearing up for middle school, or deciding where to send their college applications, you have an invaluable role to play in setting them up for success next school year. When it comes to helping our school-aged children, parents wear innumerable hats, from cheerleader and academic advisor to life coach and homework supervisor, especially during the summer months when your children will be spending more time at home, without the guidance of their teachers.
As a parent, you are already an expert on how to give your child the love and support they need. But your job doesn’t end there. You can also make a significant difference by encouraging their curiosity, teaching them to learn from their mistakes, and instilling a lifelong passion for learning.
Here are some practical things you can do this summer to help your child achieve their potential at school next year.
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Practice Preschool Skills and Routines
Your child’s first day at preschool will be a big step and one that’s worth preparing for over the summer. Spend some time discussing what they’ll do at preschool, such as reading stories and singing songs, meeting new friends, being away from home, taking naps, and listening to instructions from their teachers.
Use the summer months to practice things like carrying a backpack, sitting “criss-cross applesauce,” putting on and taking off coats and shoes, and using a lunchbox. You’ll probably want to visit the preschool with your child to familiarize themselves with their classroom (and hopefully their teacher). That way, they’ll spend the summer looking forward to the big day, rather than worrying about what it will be like.
Set Aside Time for Your Child to Read to You
If your elementary school-aged child is already an avid reader, that’s fantastic – do everything you can to encourage this throughout the summer. Take your child to the library regularly so that they can experience a wide range of books. This will help boost their literacy skills in preparation for moving up a grade next school year.
Not every child is a natural bookworm, though, and that’s perfectly fine. One way to nurture your child’s love of reading and boost their overall confidence is to ask them to read aloud to you every day. Just as you read to your child when they were younger, having your elementary school student read to you is a wonderful bonding experience for children and parents. It’s also a great way to incorporate a beneficial academic activity into your summer routine.
Help your child with pronunciation, vocabulary, and reading comprehension, and ask thought-provoking questions about the big ideas they’ve read about. In doing so, you’ll be preparing your child for the types of literacy-focused activities they’re likely to encounter at school next year, but in the relaxed and supportive environment of your home.
Create a Study Space at Home – and Start Using It
Although homework is probably the last thing your middle schooler wants to think about this summer, it’s worth getting them ready for the increased workload they’ll face next year. One helpful thing you can do over the summer is to figure out how, when, and where they’ll tackle their homework so that you don’t have any surprises in September. Consider creating a designated study space for your child and adding creative touches like a comfortable chair, colorful posters, or fun school supplies.
Middle school is a crucial time to develop good study and work habits that will last your child throughout high school, college, and beyond, and homework plays an essential role in developing those habits. In the proper environment and with the right support, homework can even be fun.
This summer, make a plan with your child for their homework routine. Discuss how long they’ll typically spend on homework each day, but also focus on how they’ll keep taking part in the activities they love, from sports teams and music practice to get-togethers with their friends and fun family hobbies. Try to convey that you think homework is essential and an excellent tool for learning, but not the only thing your child should be doing in their free time.
Additionally, many parents use the summer months to keep their children’s academic skills sharp, but in fun, creative ways. Choose an enrichment project that your child will enjoy doing independently (or with your help), such as researching their family tree, learning to code, or creative writing. Get your child used to spending at least half an hour a day on something with an academic focus (and sitting at their designated study space as they work), and they’ll have a much easier transition when they start bringing home lengthier assignments in the fall.
Support Your Child’s Higher Education Goals
It’s a huge step when your high schooler starts to think about college, and parents must take an active yet pragmatic role in supporting these plans. The summer is a great time to urge your child to dream big and think about their future. Your encouragement will also help motivate them to earn the best grades possible during their final years of high school and set themselves up for future success.
There are countless ways parents can help their children get off to a strong start on their higher education journey. Your support could involve enrolling them in an SAT prep class, driving them to college visits (which could also turn into a fun summer family road trip!), sharing your own experiences, or giving practical advice about career options.
Although the prospect of paying for college can be hugely daunting, the earlier your child applies for scholarships and financial aid, the better, so consider devoting some time this summer to financial planning for your child’s higher education journey. Regardless of your family’s financial situation, you can help put your child in the strongest position possible by helping them apply for scholarships and working with them to complete their FAFSA, so they are eligible for federal student aid.
Corbin Thompson is a writer, author, and occasional composer. He is a frequent contributor on bold.org, where he specializes in education and parenting content. He currently resides in San Francisco with his two sons and golden retriever.
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