9 tips to keep grade-schoolers from “checking out” at the end of the school year

By Rayma Griffin, MA, MEd

It’s not uncommon for kids with learning and thinking differences to “check out” at the end of the school year. Since they often face extra challenges in school, they may be stressed out and tired from all the work they’ve put in already. And with summer vacation (and a break from schoolwork) in sight, they may become anxious — even irritable.

You can help kids stay on track with end-of-year assignments and tests. Use these tips to keep grade-schoolers from “checking out.”

1. Keep bedtime the same every night.

There are lots of celebrations and activities at the end of the year. It can be hard for kids to unwind at bedtime and get to sleep at the usual time. To help your child wind down, try planning a soothing activity after dinner.

For example, you could set up a “campfire” time before bed. Turn the lights down low, light a candle, and tell a story. Or you could set aside 20 minutes before bedtime to work on a puzzle together. That way, your child will be relaxed when it’s time for bed.

2. Stick to healthy foods.

With end-of-year parties and events come lots of unhealthy foods like cupcakes and pizza. And while it’s good to celebrate and enjoy, try not to let your child have too much junk food. Healthy and regular meals will help your child stay fueled for those final tests. Avoid skipping breakfast, and keep healthy snacks on hand.

3. Get outside.

Take advantage of rising temperatures. Encourage your child to take a quick bike ride or go for a walk before starting homework. Kids can even study or do homework outside. The change of scenery can make doing schoolwork more fun — and creative. For instance, they can practice spelling words with sidewalk chalk on the pavement. Or you can make up a game of jumping jacks to help reinforce math facts.

4. Create a countdown calendar.

While there are lots of fun events coming up, there still are school responsibilities. Have your child mark end-of-year activities, assignments, and tests on a calendar. Mixing celebrations with assignment due dates can help kids stay engaged with both.

5. Build in incentives.

Avoid schoolwork blues by adding rewards and fun breaks into your child’s daily routine. For example, write down a favorite reward next to a project or test your child is dreading. Seeing the reward next to it can motivate kids to power through final assignments and other school demands.

6. Prep for exams.

Older grade-schoolers may be taking end-of-year exams for the first time. These tests can be overwhelming, especially for kids with learning and thinking differences. 

Check in with your child’s teacher to learn as much as you can about the tests. If your child has an or a , ask about available accommodations for standardized tests. Find out the test formats, which study guides are being used, and how the teacher is helping kids prepare. This can help you replicate that study prep at home. And consider whether your child needs an end-of-year tutor for extra help.

7. Get involved with school activities.

The end of the school year isn’t just tiring for your child. All the extra activities and homework help can take a toll on you, too. But when parents stay engaged in kids’ activities, it can motivate kids to stay engaged. For instance, you might volunteer to chaperone a field trip. If that’s not possible, you can offer to help with something less time-consuming, like being on the phone chain to help with end-of-year planning.

8. Ramp up the cheering section.

Being your child’s biggest fan is even more important as the school year winds down. It can boost self-confidence and keep kids on task. Be sure to keep your praise specific and honest. And call out the small steps your child makes toward completing tasks. (An accomplishments box is a great way to help kids visualize “wins.”)

9. Make time to talk together.

Encourage your child to share what’s going on in school. Ask specific questions that require more than a yes or no answer. This can help kids stay excited about their work and other school activities. It also reminds them that you’re there to help them work through challenges. Do your best to make time to talk every day. Try to avoid multitasking while you chat. And find ways to respond with empathy when kids are having a difficult time.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Rayma Griffin, MA, MEd has spent 40 years working with children with learning and thinking differences in the classroom and as an administrator.