The end of the summer break is almost nigh; what seemed to stretch out ahead of us like a lifetime of long summer days has passed by as quickly as the eagerly-contested sibling beach race, and days of school-runs, homework and playground pursuits beckon once again. This can feel a little unsettling at the best of times; perfectly natural as weeks of footloose freedom switch to something very different overnight.
The contrast in routine and general pace of life is stark. Days of (generally) warmer weather, fresh air and cherished time with family and close friends were, for many, plentiful. From the relaxed holiday vibes of waking up naturally –free of the dreaded drill of alarms, regimental roll-call of breakfast preparation, and repeated reminders for teeth and hair-brushing –it’s inevitable that preparing to go back to school will stir a sense of apprehension and disharmony for everyone involved. Thankfully, there are ways to flip this in to something positive and -with just a little forward planning –a time of enjoyment and excitement.
Balancing a variety of roles is something you’ve become something of an expert in –and this skill is brought in to sharp focus during term-time as the demands on you change from moment to moment. Yet it’s possible to lighten the load when it comes to preparing for a calm transition back in to school mode by getting your nearest and dearest involved and sharing the balancing act with you. Not only can this help with removing some of the pressure of responsibility from you, but it can also be a great source of empowerment and pride for those around you. With a simple three-point approach it’s possible to create that longed-for sense of calm and composure. Here’s how:
#1: Start as You Mean to Go On
It may sound a little odd to think about the return to school before the holidays have even started but getting off on the right foot before the break is key to moving through it with ease leading to that cool, calm return. Set aside a little quiet time –ideally before the holiday period kicks in –to jot down the key things that fall between the big break-up and the start of the new term. Start with known, pre-planned events like visits from family and friends and trips away, adding in things like work commitments, child-minding dates, and community events. Just having this mapped out takes what might otherwise feel a little overwhelming out of your head, turning in to something you can see; and the basis of your ‘summer masterplan’.
From here,other events can be added: aim for an even mix that includes fun things such as ideas for days out, and ‘must-do’ tasks like shopping for school uniforms and haircuts.
Involving the gang could involve splitting the plan in to chunks and tasking each member of your gang with a ‘mini-plan’ of one thing that’s fun, one educational, and one practical. Encourage creativity and imagination.
Helen, a teacher from the UK, and mum to eight and six-year-old boys tested this out last year, with great results: “with a little gentle encouragement, the boys set themselves a holiday challenge to learn about birds. As the weeks went by they became quite excited by it; learning to spot different species and finding out more about habitats. The great thing about this was that it continued throughout the holiday and could be done regardless of where we were”.So how did this help with a smooth return to school? “I set them the challenge replaying what they’d learned at the end of the break, and how this might help with new school projects. Knowing this was coming up kept them interested and gave them something positive to focus on as the end of summer loomed. It made things feel so much easier and calmer for us all...’”
#2: Keeping the School Routine Alive
The middle of the holiday is where the routine can begin to waver, so freshen things up with mini-challenges that are relevant to going back to school.For example, encouraging ideas for packed lunches and trying them out together at home, or swotting up on typical menus for those who stay for school lunches. This is also a good time to think about the back-to-school shop; make this exciting by taking a train somewhere new where the family can enjoy interspersing a little sightseeing with school shoe-shopping.
#3: The Final Countdown to School Start
The final weeks are a good time to gradually reintroduce routines like going to bed and getting up a little earlier. Bring some fun into breakfast-time by sharing the task of planning and preparing tasty treats; making an occasion of testing the culinary creations out and voting for those that might become easy-to-make term-time favourites.
A simple, flexible, three-point plan that can be easily adapted to suit you and your family –helping to keep everyone happy throughout the break, whilst making things easier for you. A little forward planning to make this year’s holiday a time to be enjoyed, with a return that’s something you can all ease in to feeling calm, relaxed and renewed.