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Is it just me or does going back to school this year (and let’s be honest, maybe every year) seem so abrupt? It’s like zero to 60mph - those idyllic days spent lounging by the pool and slurping ice cream cones suddenly transform into sitting at a desk for hours on end, along with the myriad of regiments that attending school entails.
Should we just resign ourselves to back-to-school being a shock to the system? Parenting and homeschool guru Jennifer Pepito says this transition doesn’t have to feel so sudden.
In the first episode of MOMlitics Season 2, Pepito talks about why maintaining at least some structure for kids throughout the summer is so important, and how to incorporate learning into everyday activities.
Jennifer Pepito’s advice on easing the transition back to school:
Start some routines: Pepito suggests that several weeks to a month before the start of school, start asking a bit more of your kids; for example, incorporating 20 minutes of math and writing every day. Parents should also prioritize reading out loud as well as meaningful connection time. You can check out the Peaceful Press Connection Challenge here.
Manage expectations: For kids, summertime often comes with high expectations for constant fun. Instead of planning special treats and excursions at random, Pepito suggests setting a goal, such as a home improvement project the family can do together. When the goal is completed, you can celebrate with a memorable day trip or other special activity.
Clean up kids’ diets: Pepito says a proper diet and healthy sleep schedule are essential to support a child’s immune system, maximize the absorption of what they’re learning - not to mention importance of diet and sleep for returning to sitting at a desk for much of the day and reducing behavioral problems at school. This is also important for moms and dads, as Pepito notes that it’s more difficult for parents to be patient and kind with our kids when we’re unhealthy and sleep deprived.
Remember that time flies: Shh, don’t let on that you’re excited for the peace and quiet from 9 to 3pm, if that applies to your family situation. Pepito says kids will internalize that. Instead, focus back-to-school conversations on how much you’ll miss them. “Each season in our children’s lives is so precious and the more we can validate how precious it is, the more they will feel like precious people, and act that way. People who feel loved will act more lovable than people who are constantly perceived and treated as if they’re an annoyance,” she adds.
Forgive your kids: Pepito says grudges aren’t productive to parents nor to children. She has a ‘forgiveness prayer’ she regularly prays, because she says it helps to verbally process parenting challenges with God in order to release those difficult emotions. In private, not in front of or with her children, she’ll pray something like: Dear God, thank you forgiving me. Because of your forgiveness, I choose to forgive my child. I forgive you, child, for melting down in the grocery store. I forgive you for being so antagonistic and for disobeying.
At-home learning activity ideas to review skills and ease back into an academic routine:
For math, try playing Monopoly or Right Start math card games.
For reading, try the command game: write down and read simple verbs, then act them out (e.g. jump, run, clap). You can also play the word labeling game: write simple household object nouns onto index cards and set them out for your child. The child reads each word and puts the “lamp” card by the lamp, “table” card by the table, and so on.
Imaginative play, such as playing restaurant, school, pirates, etc. is also invaluable to a child’s development. Pepito notes that too much screen time diminishes kids’ imagination and ability to create their own play.
Browse Jennifer Pepito’s other parenting tips and curriculum guides here.