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My Parent, My Mentor


Back on the Horse Again


Small Steps Can Make the Back to School Rush Fun Again



August 01, 2009
School will be up and running before we know it. For some of us, we begin the slow release of summer's flexibility, getting our kids back on schedules and beginning to plan for fall. For others, we hang on tightly to the last freedoms of summer, accelerating the loose schedules until it is madness everywhere. I admit, I have been in that second category more than once. Summer and its freedom from academic and scheduling pressures are tough to let go. But one thing I have learned over time is that we really can have the best of both worlds, a little bit of freedom and preparation can coexist. We can play and plan. Here are some great tools to help you enjoy your last weeks of summer and still be ready for the bell to ring at school.

Warm up the engine

Start giving your child some drills in math. Math is the first thing to go over summer. Printing out one drill sheet a day for the last weeks of summer should do the trick. Web sites like www.mathfactcafe.com also offer online games and flash cards kids can work on. Not as fun as Uno, but not so bad either.

Make sure your child gets back to reading if they aren't already. Keep books, magazines or comics in the car and lying around. Make them read in 15-30 minute sittings, depending on their ages. All you are doing is warming up their engines before school starts—a great gift for them.

Master List

Create a master list of all loose ends of fall: clothing, registration for school or day care, haircuts, shoes and school supplies. Either create an all day event with your kids to gather the items (this sounds terrifying to me) or take an hour every day for a week to gather the items. When tasks are broken off into little steps, the minutia of the details can actually be framed into fun outings.

Make it Matter

Do something special every day that represents summer freedom: ice cream after dinner, star watching or going to the fair. Make each of these activities an event for you and your children. It's okay if you only have time for ice cream cones and a walk through the neighborhood. It's often the small events that mean so much to us.

Frame it

Kids respond to how we see things. When we view the world dispassionately and are jaded, we model that for our children and we block their joy. This doesn't mean we all have to be Pollyanna, but it does make sense for us to frame things for our kids in a way that allows them to be open and excited about life. For instance, "It's going to be so much fun getting all your school supplies. What kind of folders are you going to pick out?" This turns the trip into an adventure, instead of, "Can you believe they need all of this stuff? We never had all of these supplies when I was a kid."

Try some of these simple tools to juggle two things at once, basking in the joys of summer and getting ready for the year ahead.

To learn more about Maria, a mom, psychotherapist and writer, go to her wellness site, www.simplyputtogether.com . Ask for her FREE chore charts to get your school year started out right.

Maria Murphy is a speaker, consultant and writer. Her book and blog column can be found at www.simplyputtogether.com. Maria Murphy writes a monthly mentoring column for Tutor/Mentor Connection of Chicago, http/www.tutormentorconnection.org. Her column is distributed throughout mentoring agencies of N/E Florida through Kessler Mentoring Connection at http/www.mentoringconnection.org. She is also a columnist for My Nassau Sun, a subsidiary of the Jacksonville Times Union.
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