How to transition your kid’s schedule from summer “chill” mode to school mode

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How to transition your kid’s schedule from summer “chill” mode to school mode

July 31, 2019

For lots of kids, the hardest part of back-to-school season is trading in the carefree, lazy days of summer for a strict school year schedule. When the school year starts there are stricter wake-up times, packed schedules, full backpacks and, usually, new rules and obligations and expectations to juggle.

These are big changes! Here are a few things to help make the transition a little smoother:

1. Start around July and go SLOW.
School is not what you want to think about in July, but going from summer mode to school mode takes time. Begin the transition process a few weeks before school starts. Make changes little by little to avoid a shock to everyone’s system. Begin with talking to your kids about what they’re looking forward to, what they’re worried about, and how to deal with what they’re worried about. To make it less stressful, think of activities you can still do all year round, or plan a get together or getaway with the family in the Fall that the kids can look forward to.

2. Think about sleep schedules.
Summer mornings can be (wonderfully) lazy affairs in your house; mornings during the school year can be frazzling. The kids are tired. You’re tired. It’s hard on everybody. Avoid this back-to-school morning stress by getting your family’s sleep schedule back on track early.

Maybe one to two weeks before school begins, move bedtime earlier, which can naturally make morning wake-ups happen earlier. Once the first day arrives, the kids feel a little more ready ready and not as sleepy.

SLOW is the key. We parents know that kids’ bodies and brains don’t just fall asleep because the clock says it’s time. There’s an internal rhythm at play that needs to be nudged a little at a time. Slowly transitioning to an earlier bedtime and wake-up time is especially important for adolescents, whose biology naturally steers them toward a later sleep schedule.

Some things to make it easier to establish a better sleep routine:
*Have a set bedtime routine, like brush teeth then read a book, then lights out.
*Move up bedtime by only five or 10 minutes each night.
*Turn off technology screens at least an hour before sleep!

3. Slowly ease into a routine.
Most kids have a predictable routine during their school year. They know when lessons starts, when lunch time is and when lessons are done.

Come summer, however, that schedule goes out the window, along with the alarm clock and set mealtimes. It’s a good idea to have a non-strict, light schedule for some things that kids can expect every day. It could be a set time for lunch, for example, and even if your schedule is spontaneous and carefree, you can still make an effort to eat lunch at a regular time and finish each day with your nighttime routine.

4. Have one or two structured activities in the summer.
Have some books? Schedule the kids to read 10 minutes every day after lunch. Raising chickens? Build a coop for them and have the kids help you paint it. Growing vegetables? The kids can take a few minutes every morning to water the vegetables and flowers throughout your home. All of this encourages your kids to accomplish tasks, much as they do during the school year.

5. Check in with teachers (or check in with yourself, if you’re the teacher!).
Talking with your children’s teachers before school or co-op starts is a great way to get the details on what to expect, especially regarding routine.

Attend back-to-school events or open houses. Teachers are typically happy to share information or make specific suggestions to help kids get ready for their classroom. If you home school, visit and read home education blogs as a sort of “teacher in-service” to give yourself an idea of goals for the upcoming school year, and to feel more prepared.

6. Remember, it’s okay to realize that change is hard.
Even if you do your best to set routines and increase sleep hours, it will be hard because being home all summer is so different from being in school and doing formal lessons.  Stick to your routines at home.  When kids know what to expect at home, it becomes a safe, cozy place to be, no matter what life throws at them. Kids need enough sleep to think their best thoughts. They need enough nutrition to think, grow, and develop.
Enjoy your kids, and enjoy the rest of your summer!