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Kids head back to school in January: Here's what parents should remember

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Of all the breaks during the school year, the winter holidays are the toughest to return from. It doesn’t have the hope and optimism that the start of school offers or the light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel energy surge that Spring Break offers. The first days back in January can be bleak, exhausting, and depressing.

Perversely, January is also the most important month of the school year. January is when the work gets more complex and the number of assignments ramps up. Plus, semester grades are imminent and can hinge on that last test or paper of the semester.

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January is when capable students dig deep and rise to the challenge. Your capable student can rise to the challenge too, and with some firm, but loving guidance from you, they will succeed.

The single most important thing you can do as a tutor/mom is to keep your child on top of their planner. The tests, quizzes, papers, and projects fly fast in the winter, and it is easy to fall behind and start having to play catch up instead of having enough time to do quality work. Just a few missed homework assignments can be the difference between an “A” and a “B” on the report card.

Remember to plan ahead by starting the school week on Saturday. Use the weekend to get ahead of recurring assignments like vocabulary review and to work on upcoming big assignments in chunks. When I was a tutor, the first meeting in January was focused on filling out the planner and making plans for tackling the big assignments.

When filling out the planner, remember you are a tutor, not a dictator. When I met with the students I tutored, we always had a discussion about their planners and how they would manage their time. If the student didn’t have ownership of their plans, they often wouldn’t even bother to take the planner home.

Have a comfortable conversation with your child, and have them write in the planner all due dates and obligations, and don’t forget to include the fun stuff, too. It’s likely that you will see faster than they do which discretionary activities they should eliminate, but I suggest that you sit back and allow them to see the reality of their schedule as it unfolds. Give them the dignity of deciding on their own that going to watch the basketball game on Tuesday night is not a good idea, even if “all of my friends will be there.”

January can be bleak and difficult, but you can tutor your child through it. If you can keep them on track with the planner and realistic with their time, you will have gone a long way to helping your child to be a capable student. I think you each deserve one of these as a reward. This one is hot and this one is frozen. Delicious either way.

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Maureen Paschal is a freelance writer, a tutor, a teacher-librarian, and a mom of four almost grown kids. She blogs at Raising The Capable Student where her goal is helping parents to keep family life a priority and school success in perspective. Her work has been featured in On Parenting from the Washington Post, Grown and Flown, Perfection Pending, and Today Parents.

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