What Can Parents Do Over the Summer to Prepare Their Child for School?

As we head into mid-summer, parents are asking how to prepare their child for the upcoming school year.

Responding to this question reminds me of the time that I served as a Head of School and elementary school principal. During the summer, I would reflect back on the previous school year and spend time identifying the areas where our students were adversely impacted. Then, I would strategize ways that we could compensate for these deficiencies in the upcoming school year.

Today, parents can apply the same strategy to their own children by asking the following two-part question, “Where has my child been adversely impacted this past school year … and, what can I do over the summer to accommodate?” Here are three suggestions:

1) Read, read, read. An effective way to enhance your child’s academic performance in school is to encourage reading. Despite the best efforts of our teachers, I believe that a “learning loss” has occurred as a direct result of remote learning over the past two school years. How parents accommodate for their child’s academic regression requires a more personalized approach, but it begins with the realization that students who perform well in school (and enjoy learning) are most likely voracious readers. Set time aside to read this summer!

2) Play dates. Students in grades K-12 have been deprived of face-to-face, authentic, social interactions that generations of children before them have experienced. Think back to the days when you were the age of your child … this is the time when we formed lifelong friendships, made mistakes by saying the wrong thing, learned to read body language and interpret facial expressions, interacted with friends who came from diverse backgrounds and/or socioeconomic status, or simply nurtured our creativity through play. Assuming current COVID- restrictions remain lifted, nurture a summer experience where your child can engage with peers.

3) Less technology. Two years ago, we were imploring parents to turn off the screen. In contrast, last school year, our child’s classroom was the screen. While I am grateful to Zoom for salvaging the classroom experience this school year, perhaps it is time for the pendulum to shift back towards a “turn off the screen” mandate? What can parents encourage their children to do instead? Go for a walk on the beach, play catch with a buddy, cultivate the sustainable garden, or snuggle with the family pet. A return to “real life” (not virtual) activities may be the antidote hat the COVID generation benefits from as a way to foster gratitude, humility, and kindness, while simultaneously instilling a sense of compassion, open-mindedness, and fulfillment. Turn off the screens.

Simply put, I invite parents to reflect upon their own child’s experience this past school year and to realize that our children missed out on having fun at school. From my perspective, that is the primary deficiency that needs to be compensated for over the summer. Have fun this summer!

By Tim Kusserow

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