It’s May, and the school year is almost over. Finally. Teachers are saying it. Parents are saying it. Parent‐teachers are saying it. And, as always, students are grateful the school year is finally coming to an end. So, how do students, teachers, and parents each finish strong while building a foundation for summer learning?
As of this past year, we are “All-Schoolers.” Regardless of your learning location or circumstances, there’s a good chance you have navigated one of the most challenging years of education in recent memory.
If you count yourself among the survivors of Education‐Meets‐Twister this past year, give yourself a high‐five. But don’t check out just yet. If we have learned anything this past school year, it’s that parents can play a crucial role in their students’ educational successes and reflection processes, whether they are being homeschooled or are in a more traditional education system.
4 Ways to Wrap Up the School Year Well
As you and your family prepare for the summer ahead, here are four solid ways to finish strong this school year and build momentum.
1. Write a Letter to Myself
This has been a unique school year! Normally, when families encounter seasons of stress, we tend to approach them alone. In other words, the world seemingly continues, and we try to act as though nothing has happened. However, this year has been an extraordinary exception. Across the world, everyone is experiencing some form of stress, loss, and change together. Despite our isolation, our experiences are not isolated.
Studies have proven countless times over that stress negatively impacts our ability to learn and grow. Those studies have also shown that often the best way to recover from seasons of stress is to walk through the stress rather than trying to escape it.
If we are in the middle of a negative situation, our reaction is to get away from that stress as fast as possible. But when stress is ongoing and beyond our control, psychologists tell us there are positive benefits from taking time to reflect.
Take Time to Reflect
Let’s make this practical. Together as a family, reflect on what this year has meant for you.
- Which things have made it difficult?
- What have you discovered about yourself and each other in the process?
- What does it make you appreciate in ways you may not have before?
Depending on the age of your kids, encourage them to write a letter to their “Future Self” to remind themselves what the year has been like. Before or after this conversation, you can model how to write about what has been hard, what has been fun, and what they want their future self to remember. If letter writing isn’t comfortable, an audio recording or video can work just as well.
Invite your kids to share their letters as a family. Speaking to our future selves can be cathartic, and sometimes hilarious. Most importantly, it helps us keep life in perspective and realign our beliefs to what matters most.
2. Bridge the Gaps
As parents, it can be easier to provide the proper educational supports when we know the areas where our kids struggle or excel. For instance, do we look at a robotics camp to help our daughter discover a new passion because she continually excels in math and loves design? Or, do we brainstorm ways to help her develop her writing skills? Understanding our children’s strengths and weaknesses can help build a bridge that is customized to their needs.
It’s worth mentioning that summer school might not always be the best option for your family. (And, especially after this past year, that may be one stressor too many). So, consider this: when our students encounter a complex subject or skill, such as reading and writing, the next best step might not be to sign them up for Essay Camp.
Instead, we should find ways to strengthen their writing skills using alternative methods that may not be available during the school year. One meaningful way could be to provide reading pieces focused on topics of high interest. Exposing our students to high-quality material introduces new content and various styles, which can lead to effective modeling or replication on an individual level.
Check with your child’s teacher, a local homeschool consultant, or a librarian for outside‐the‐box recommendations about what may be available in your area or resources that are subject-specific.
Keep in mind that it can be more manageable to bridge a gap area when there are not five other subjects to balance at the same time.
Connecting as a Family in a Tech Absorbed World
3. The Gift of a Thank You
One meaningful way to show gratitude is to send teachers a thank you for their effort. Many have taken extraordinary measures to keep classrooms running. As a former high school English teacher, it is mind-boggling to me what this past year has required teachers to do with lesson plans to maintain learning within a new environment.
In addition, how can we get our hands dirty with gratitude? Ask your family: Is there a service project we could do as a family that might expand our kids’ perspective that the world is bigger than their desk?
A month ago, my husband took our son on a ride-along with a local ministry providing services to the homeless community. My son was able to hand out lunches, pray for people, and learn more about life from someone else’s eyes.
These experiences can help us develop gratitude while building momentum for the upcoming season outside of school. Let’s finish this school year strong by looking for ways to express our appreciation for others tangibly.
4. Don’t Skip Summer Reading
Reading is often prescribed as the antidote to academic struggles; and, sometimes, for good reasons. Great books can open our world. And these books may personalize history in a meaningful way, which provides a much‐needed laugh or escape from reality. Beyond this, great books can inspire us to dream bigger and challenge us to think about our assumptions and beliefs.
The most important word in those sentences?
How do we find “great” books for our kids? Does that mean we point them to a list of classic authors who have been dead for hundreds of years? Do we direct them to modern award winners from the past century with the goal of exposing them to the real world? Do we insist on unabridged instead of paraphrased or, heaven forbid, an audiobook?
Summer learning and reading shouldn’t be painful. Just the other day, my ten‐year‐old begged me to hand over the summer reading list early. (And, no, this kiddo wasn’t an early reader who checked all the boxes of a bibliophile. This kiddo has special needs and only started reading confidently two years ago after multiple attempts to learn).
So, why the eagerness? Because reading great books is FUN — especially when we are flexible in our definition of what makes a book “great.” Additionally, we must establish the goal of why we want our children to love reading. Why are we pushing them to continue summer learning? Do we want them to read to better themselves and explore their world? Do we want to help them develop compassion for others, dream big, and have a better grasp of history and the progress of science? If so, check out my article on Summer Reading, the free For the Love of Reading list of book recommendations, and a neat stack of free Reading Program printables to make summer reading easier.
The Value of Finishing Strong This School Year
This year has taught us a lot about expanding and redefining the classroom. If we are willing to pause and reflect on the year, identify our children’s learning gaps so we can de‐mystify and support them, look to the needs of those around us, and inspire our kids to expand their world through great books, this school year will not be a loss. It will simply be different. The way we approach summer learning and prevent summer learning loss will also be different. And sometimes, different can be great.