Getting back into school mode after the holidays can be hard—for kids and for parents. These seven tips can help you jump-start the second half of the school year and make sure everything’s on track.
1. Take stock of how the first half went.
To make the most of the second half of the school year, it’s useful to look back at the first half. One way is to make a list of everything that went well and everything that didn’t. Consider all relevant aspects: academic, social and behavioral. As you look back, think about ways to build on the successes. Also, think about what went wrong and why, and how you or your child can change things for the better.
2. Treat it like a new beginning.
As school starts up again, act as if you’re preparing for the start of the school year. Review your child’s IEP or 504 plan if she has one. Refresh your memory about her school services or accommodations. Take a look at her first report card, past homework and assignments.
3. Talk with your child about school.
Connecting with your child is a great way to help her transition back. Instead of one big talk, try to have several shorter conversations with her. Share your thoughts with her about how the first half of the year has gone. If she’s reluctant to talk, try asking open-ended questions like “what are you looking forward to at school in the spring?” or “what do you hope will be different at school?”
4. Schedule a meeting, but don’t pounce.
Whether or not there were problems before the break, try to meet with the teacher as soon as possible. Ideally, that means reaching out the first week everyone is back. But remember that the teacher is also coming back from a break and needs to re-establish classroom rules and routines for students. Give the teacher at least two days before reaching out. If your concerns are about existing services, consider setting up an IEP meeting.
5. Time changes to happen within two to three weeks.
As school gets underway, you may identify things you’d like to change for the second half of the year—changes like adding services or having your child work with a tutor or switch classes. Timing is important. Don’t rush changes, but don’t let them linger either. A good rule of thumb is to make changes within two to three weeks after the start of school. Also remember it’s easier for the school to make changes at the end of a second marking or grading period (which for most schools is late January).
6. Focus on just one or two high-impact changes.
If the first part of the year hasn’t gone well, you may be tempted to change your child’s entire program. This can be difficult for the school to do. It can also be disruptive for your child. Instead, consider focusing on one or two changes that will have the greatest impact for your child. Then try to make them happen.
7. Get a roadmap for the rest of the year.
Part of jump-starting the second half of the school year is having a good idea of what will happen next. Ask your child’s teacher for a roadmap of the marking period ahead. Make sure to identify any big milestones, projects or events at school or for any particular classes. You’ll be better able to help if you know what’s coming. And you’ll have time to make schedule adjustments for your child and yourself if needed.