Summer Work Finish Line


Even with classes at area schools resuming in the next one to three weeks, your child may still need to finish up summer work. Below are some strategies that teachers and tutors use to help get students through long-term assignments. They may be helpful in your household as you prepare for the start of the school year.

Check in

No matter how responsible your child seems to be, verify that she has completed her work. Children who are behind on assignments are not always forthright about the work that needs to be done. In some cases kids just do not realize how much work remains or how few days they have to complete it. In other cases, children who know they are behind use obfuscation as a way of avoiding potentially uncomfortable conversations about deadlines with their parents.

Pull out your calculators and calendars

Pacing assignments can be hard for elementary and middle school-aged children. Work with your child to set a daily goal for the amount of work that needs to be completed. Define exactly how many pages must be done in worksheet packets and divide the remaining pages in summer reading books by the number of days left in summer break. Once you have done this initial estimation, I recommend making judgments about stopping places together and marking those points with a pencil or a sticky note; book chapters vary in length, and worksheets can require different amounts of time and attention.

Estimate the time needed

Once you have found a daily workload, estimate how much time needs to be set aside each day to complete that work. Then communicate your expectations about what time of day the work will take place. Anyone can doom the best work schedule to failure with procrastination.

Define expectations

It is natural for children to want to bargain or find exceptions to rules. If you are willing to grant exceptions to the work plan, define what those exceptions might be ahead of time. On the other hand, if there is no play date, family event, or level of fatigue that would cause you to revise the summer work schedule, make that plain too.

Try not to nag

It is easy to fall into the cycle of making frequent reminders and nagging children to complete school assignments. After all, we adults worry that past procrastination predicts future trouble getting caught up on work. However, regular lecturing can condition children not to start their work unless and until an adult is communicating that it is an emergency. It also sends a message to children that you do not trust them. If, however, you have planned out the exact amount of work that needs to done and the days and times when you expect for it to be completed, that should obviate the need for reminders and nagging. If you still see avoidance behaviors after setting these parameters, then imposing reasonable consequences can be a better option than lecturing. Delay the start of a desired activity – going to a movie, a play date, screen time – until your child can demonstrate that he is caught up with that day’s work.

My best wishes to all families who are getting ready for the start of the school year! May these last few days of vacation be good ones.

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