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Parent: Celebrate the End of the Year!

Celebrate the End of the Year!


If your house is anything like mine, Spring is 27x faster than any other season. It seems like one minute you’re hunting for snow gloves during the morning rush and the next minute the school is sending home an end of the year report.

Even though summer is knocking on your door, it’s worth it to take a minute or two to formally button up the school year. Here’s how:

As a parent you are part-consumer, part-partner, part-cheerleader of the school. You cannot fulfill any of those roles very efficiently if you don’t give the school some feedback on how they are doing.

Look back

If you're lucky enough to go to a school where your child creates a portfolio of work or has a capstone project, your job is easy! You can sit down (maybe with a plate of cookies) and see all the great work your child has done. Ask questions like:

  • Show me the part of which you’re the most proud. Why this part?

  • What part of this challenged you the most? The least?

  • If you could do it again, what would you do differently? Why?

  • What helped you be successful on this part?

If your child’s school doesn’t help them create a portfolio, you can still do something like this. Kids often bring home tons of old work in the last few weeks of school. Save everything in a big bag. (I also do this throughout the year) Then, plop the bag down in front of your child and ask them to pick 5 to 10 things they want to save so that they can remember what they learned this year.

Sit down and ask them to tell you about the things they chose to keep and why they chose them. Ask them to think about a few new skills they learned this year and what they are hoping to keep learning about next year. Did I mention you should do this over a plate of cookies?

I keep these five things in a file box in a folder with the grade level on it. Then, when your child is older they can look back at something their 7 year-old-self thought was worth saving.

Even if you have no student work at all to look at, you can still have a conversation. I’m a big fan of structured, one-on-one conversation (accompanied by something tasty, of course). So sit down with your child, just the two of you, and talk about what he or she learned. Your child could start by just filling in these sentences:

I used to…but now...

If I could go back and do something differently, I’d…

I enjoyed learning…because....


Express Gratitude

Now is the perfect time to say ‘thank you’ to the teacher. Now before you start hyper-ventilating, remember, this needn’t be elaborate or stress-inducing. Think ‘heartfelt’ instead.

Sit down with your child and talk about how, specifically, the teacher has helped them grow and learn this year. Write a simple note that tells the teacher one or two specific things. Short and sweet and specific—the perfect formula for a thank you note.

If you have younger kids (or even older kids), take a picture of them with their teacher and tuck it away in your photo library. They’ll appreciate it when they’re older. Those first few teachers make such a difference in the academic life of a child.

If you do want to get the teacher a gift, I’m a big fan of gift card to a local bookstore. Teachers do a lot of learning over the summer and they’ll put it to good use. They also could buy something for their classroom. Gift cards to movie theaters, science museums, sports arenas or a restaurant are also nice. But once again, don’t feel like you have break the bank here. Go for personal and genuine for the win.

Look Ahead

Summer is a great time for your child to sit and veg in front of a screen, doing nothing for hours on end.

Just kiddin’!

Summer learning should be fun and flexible and easy. Here is a “Do-it-Yourself Summer Camp” that I’ve used in the past. Your local library, science museum, or children’s museum probably have some good programs. Don’t forget about Khan Academy, AdaptedMind, RAZ kids, Newsela. There are also apps like Bedtime Math which make it easy to talk about the math concepts you don’t want your child to forget. There are books like the Parent Playbooks which give simple fun learning activities to do at home. And here are more book lists than you could ever dream of.

In short, let summer be a time when your kids can really explore what they want and make time for their passions. Make a consistent effort to do a little something everyday, but let your child dictate what that “little something” is going to be. You might be surprised at what they gravitate toward.

And then, when you write the introductory letter to next year's teacher, you'll have lots to say!

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