How to Finish the School Year Strong

I hear all you moms groaning about the circus that is May as we reach the end of the school year. No one wants to make school lunches anymore; we are all just throwing in whatever is in the pantry into our kids’ lunchboxes at this point. We are tired of signing daily folders and checking behavioral charts. I know I groaned—audibly—when I learned my daughter had yet another book fair and evening activity to go with it. (Please don’t tell her school librarian!) I’m tired of trying to keep up with my eighth grader’s schedule—does he have math tutoring or a band activity after school today? I’m exhausted with checking grades and trying to care that he didn’t get his math homework turned in on time. (Don’t tell him I said that.) May is rough. I hear you.

But there really is more to do before we can coast to summer. Here are a few things to keep in mind as we finish out the school year:

Parent conferences. Most elementary school teachers have their second round of parent/teacher conferences around this time. This will provide information on how well your son/daughter did throughout the year: the good, the bad, and the ugly. I know my daughter excels in reading but struggles in math. The conference will let me know how much growth she has experienced over the school year. Fingers crossed it’s quite a bit. If your teacher doesn’t schedule one, you might consider contacting him/her to set one up.

Course selections. At the secondary level, students will choose their classes for next year before the school year ends. Some classes are mandatory, of course, but some require students to make choices. Students generally meet with school counselors and choose their electives. If your son/daughter hasn’t filled you in, you might need to ask him/her about this. It’s important to know where your child’s interests and aptitudes lie. I know my son will try to make his decision based on important details such as where his friends will be and whether the class sounds “lame.” I will just step in to point out what he’s good at, what is required for college/graduation, and which classes might offer good experiences. It’s the classic case of the party pooper mom vs. the “I just want to have fun” kid, and we will meet somewhere in the middle.

STAAR test results. Standardized tests are here, and try as we would like to ignore them, they affect the next school year as much as that report card. Some tests have already been given, but others are coming up next week. The results of the STAAR test will generally be sent out around the end of May or with the report card after the school year ends. Study the results that are sent out to you. You need to know your son/daughter’s strengths and weaknesses so you can help him/her along. If you find the results confusing, call your school counselor for clarification.

Report cards. Final grades can be found out electronically usually before anything is mailed home. Of course, final grades are important and will affect the next classes your son/daughter will take in the upcoming school year. Beyond the actual passing/failing of classes, report cards will also give you information on your child’s growth and strengths and weaknesses. There are often great resources in the mail-outs that accompany report cards: information on summer programs, camps, and sometimes even online remedial programs. Don’t forget to read those!

Plan to beat the summer slide. Yes, it’s a real thing. The “summer slide” includes knowledge that students forget or lose over the summer. If your son/daughter struggles in a particular area, this might be already a concern. If your kid excels in school and doesn’t seem to have any issues, he/she can still forget and put the learning mindset aside. Plan to hit the library, join a summer reading program, and check out your school’s website for some fun learning websites. Planning a vacation? Kids can calculate distances, costs of hotels, etc. Planning a summer project like flower bed? Older kids can calculate the area of flower beds and how many plants can fit in that space. Kids can plan a meal and shop for it. Don’t skimp on swimming, outdoor movies, sleepovers, and other enjoyable summer activities—just incorporate some fun learning into the long days of summer.

So finish strong, moms! Summer is near, but we can survive May. Grit your teeth, put on your best lipstick, and see this school year to the end. You’ll be glad that you did the work. Soon we’ll be able to put on our sunglasses and sundresses and sip our favorite summer beverage on our lounge chairs. We deserve it after surviving another hectic school year!

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