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.


Help your child update your family calendar

If you have more than one child to shepherd through this busy period you’ll need to keep an eye on scheduling conflicts. Sometimes you have to enlist other relatives and friends to cover all the concerts and big games. If your child plays a role in marking the calendar, he’ll see how he needs to budget his time for homework and still be able to attend all the rehearsals before the class play.

Beware of graduation escalation

There was a time when high school graduation was the one that mattered. Today, preschool, kindergarten, fifth-grade and middle-school graduations have become Major Events in many communities. Graduating from one school to another is certainly worth celebrating, but probably not worth breaking the family budget. Buying the expensive Hawaiian lei your child insists she needs for the fifth-grade graduation ceremony puts pressure on other parents to do the same. Talking to other parents ahead of time about holding down graduation costs can help you hold the line on your budget.

And finally …

You don’t have to bake the cookies. Buy them and enjoy a quiet hour reading with your child instead!

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