as you mean TO GO ON

Parenting - - In This Issue -

John Cowan on a new school year

John Cowan on get­ting ready for a new year at school.

You can start your kids off on a great aca­demic year while they are still on hol­i­day. Stud­ies show that Amer­i­can kids regress in their ed­u­ca­tion, on av­er­age, about a month over their sum­mer va­ca­tion. Over 13 years of ed­u­ca­tion, sum­mer hol­i­days put the av­er­age child back one whole year. But not all kids slide back over the hol­i­days – some ac­tu­ally re­turn to school ahead in the achieve­ment. The thing that makes the dif­fer­ence is read­ing for plea­sure – kids who read on hol­i­day re­tain their aca­demic per­for­mance and start the next year with a huge head start. Other things that will make a dif­fer­ence are stim­u­lat­ing, non-aca­demic learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences like travel and mu­seum vis­its, and not let­ting them mush their brains with too many video games and too lit­tle sleep.

Chil­dren are no more thrilled about get­ting back to work than we are and the idea of homework is par­tic­u­larly un­ap­peal­ing. Their imag­i­na­tion fills with a vi­sion of hours of drudgery. Let them know that you un­der­stand they need rest, fun and down time... but that school and homework is still very, very im­por­tant. In­stead of your mes­sage be­ing “Work! Work! Work!” try, “You prob­a­bly need half an hour on the X-box. Get stuck into your homework, show me that you’ve done it and then I’ll let you thrash me at a game”. It's an old tech­nique called Grandma's Rule – you can do what you want to do af­ter you have done what you have to do.” Pace is im­por­tant: pace their learn­ing, pace

their rest, pace their fun. Oth­er­wise they will de­velop the pat­tern that tyr­an­nizes so many of us: pro­cras­ti­nate, pro­cras­ti­nate, pro­cras­ti­nate, PANIC!

Rou­tines are im­por­tant – a child who thinks his whole night is go­ing to be hi­jacked by homework is go­ing to be de­mo­ti­vated; a child who knows that on ev­ery school night he has to be at his desk be­tween 7 and 8pm can han­dle that. Rou­tines go to pieces dur­ing school hol­i­days – get back into them quickly. School-term bed­times should be started even be­fore the end of the hol­i­days so your kids aren’t jet-lagged for the first week of term.

They should be able to get into their work quickly with­out hav­ing to spend half an hour clear­ing a space and find­ing pens and pen­cils. Here’s a tip: have a drawer or a box with all the things they might need – scis­sors, sticky tape, coloured pen­cils, a cal­cu­la­tor, what­ever. Take them shop­ping – most kids love new sta­tionery (or maybe it was just nerds like me).

Don’t stress your kid out with “If-you-don’t-work-su­per-hard- you-will-be-a-fail­ure-for­ever!” I don’t think many kids re­spond to our anx­i­ety well, but I think all of them re­spond well to our plea­sure and pride in their ef­fort and progress. Ex­press gen­uine in­ter­est in what they are learn­ing rather than just in the marks they are get­ting.

Fi­nally, if your child is suf­fer­ing from posthol­i­day blues... sym­pa­thise! I was on hol­i­day last week and I’ve found it very hard get­ting back into work. All of us get over the blues quicker with em­pa­thy, sup­port and gen­tle han­dling. Re­duce their backto-school anx­i­ety by help­ing them strate­gise – it’s amaz­ing how of­ten just putting ev­ery­thing down in a list can re­duce the ter­ror.

It's an old tech­nique called Grandma's Rule – “you can do what you want to do af­ter you have done what you have to do.”

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