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Five Tips to Get Ready for the Last Days of School

The last days of school can stretch the family budget and stress the savviest parents. But with a little planning, you can relax and enjoy the season of school plays, class parties and graduations.

By GreatSchools Staff

The last weeks of the school year can stretch the stamina and budget of any parent.

You and your child will want to say thank you to the adults who have helped your child learn and grow this year, from the classroom teacher to the soccer coach and the bus driver. But the cost of all those individual gifts adds up fast.

You'll want to attend the class play and band recital, and figure out a way to get your child to all the rehearsals. You'll almost certainly be asked to bake cookies for the class party.

You and your child will probably also have questions about the coming school year: Will the teacher be a good match for your child? Will your child's best friend be in the same class?

Add a little anxiety about summer plans that are still coming together and you've got a recipe for stress.

Our GreatSchools staff has celebrated dozens of graduations and grappled with many end-of-the-year crises. We realized that there were tips we wish someone had shared with us. We offer some here in hopes that by planning ahead, you can spend less time buying last-minute gifts for the teacher and more time applauding your child's successes as the school year comes to a close.

Prepare for the next school year now

If you're concerned about the teacher, class or program your child will be assigned next year, don't wait to find out how the system works at your school or the new school your child will attend. May and June are hectic months for principals and guidance counselors, so it's best to give the school any information you'll want them to consider as soon as you can.

Does your child benefit from a particular style of teaching? Now is the time to speak up. That doesn't mean asking for the teacher "everyone" wants because a teacher who is great for one child may not be right for yours, and school administrators are more likely to respond to "fit" issues rather than requests for specific teachers.

Write a letter to the principal (or the guidance counselor in middle or high schools) that explains your child's needs to officials and documents your concerns. You might write, for example, "I believe Alex will perform better in a classroom with a teacher who uses a gentle, guiding approach. That's why I am requesting Mr. X."

Think twice before asking to have your child's best friend in her class. Most kids are quick to make new friends, a life skill that serves them well. But there are exceptions, and this is the time to raise the issue, if you haven't already. If you are concerned, for example, that your child has become too dependent on another child, you may want to talk to the principal or teacher about separating them. Follow up your letter with a phone call.

Plan your gift to the teacher

Getting together with other parents to honor important teachers in your child's life can be less expensive than going it alone, and the gift you give can be priceless. But it takes a little planning. You might organize parents to decorate the teacher's lounge and host a staff lunch there, have each child contribute a page to a class scrapbook, or ask the businesses in your community to contribute gift certificates to your school's teachers. Whatever course you choose, it's easier to do now, than scramble the night before the last day of school.

Beat spring slump

It can be tough to maintain the homework routine when it feels like it's time for summer. Do you need to try new strategies to help your child keep up the momentum? Try the online homework help sites in Go Online for Homework Help. For general tips about fighting homework battles read Coping with Homework Horrors on GreatSchools.org.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

10/19/2009:
"Dear Parents: My two children are grown now. I remember how stressed out I was when my son first had homework. It was a large cross-word puzzle. After thinking about it later, I believe I over-reacted. I believe he had the assignment wrong. That is where a parent needs to have had some contact with the school before you get too stressed out about the homework. You can get an address to go online or just wait until you get a chance to talk to the teacher and have him/her explain what the homework will look like. (Keep in mind, many years ago I just stressed out over my son's homework and the episode caused much trouble for our family because I did not have my ducks in a row starting at the b eginning of school. Many years later, I call my son and want to apologize to him for being so frustrated. School is for learning and if parents get upset about homework, chances are the child will not have positive feelings about homework the remainder of school years. Learning takes place when peop! le are calm and sure about the circumstances. >From a mother, grandmother, and teacher, Keep yourself under control because the years fly by. "
05/18/2009:
"I stumbsled on this site. You are wonerful!! We are three weeks away from the last day of school and there are a couple areas here that are going to help a lot. Thanks"
05/30/2008:
"It is goood but I think it suggests that you have to do these things. But as suggestions they are great. Me as a parent, personally think that I will give all my kids gifts for their teachers. I see that this was written in 2006 which isn't that long ago, so I will follow what it says because I trust that it is right. Thank you so much for these helpful hints and I will be sure to tell my friends with kids to visit this website. Thanks"
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