By Kristen DiCerbo, chief learning officer at Khan Academy
It is that time—after spring break—when the stretch from now to the end of the school year can seem like a long slog. Here are some tips to help kids beat the mid-semester blahs and lean into learning this spring.
Switch things up. Routines are getting old and boring. Find ways to shake up the sameness of the day; this can be as simple as creating a new study spot or finding a new after-school snack. Even better, have a brainstorming session with your child to come up with a new learning activity together. Embracing a child’s natural curiosity encourages them to continue to ask more questions and engage in the world, which can help them succeed now and in the future. The new learning activity could be anything from origami to dribbling a soccer ball to understanding why the sky looks blue. Engaging the brain in something new stimulates fresh thinking and revitalizes our energy.
Make sure kids know they can ask for help. By this point in the year, skills are starting to build on each other. If your child missed some school or didn’t quite master some of those earlier skills, they may start to struggle this time of year. Make sure they know they can ask for help from you and from their teacher. If they ask for help at an inconvenient time, try to stay patient and offer them a specific time when you will be able to sit down with them. Remember, if you don’t know how to help, it is okay to admit that. You can then look for answers together or help your child feel empowered to ask the teacher. Some children don’t feel comfortable asking the teacher for help, sometimes because they are shy and sometimes because children are embarrassed to admit they don’t know something. You can ask your child why they aren’t comfortable. You can role play with them to help them advocate for themselves. You can say, “Pretend I’m your teacher” and have them practice what they will say.
Embrace healthy basics. While it’s not always easy in our busy lives, the basic things that keep kids healthy also set them up to learn well. So, do your best to make sure kids eat well, get plenty of sleep, and have the opportunity to physically get moving every day. You’ve likely noticed the impact of sleep on your child’s mood. Lack of sleep also makes it more difficult to concentrate in school. Sleep is a time when children’s brains consolidate memories and process the things they learned during the day. So, adequate sleep is important for both acquiring new information and retaining that information over time. Physical activity can be done inside: have an afternoon dance party in the kitchen, find a yoga routine on YouTube, or see who can climb a set of stairs the fastest. As the weather warms up, encourage your kids to take a break from screens and schoolwork to go outside if they can. When a child is stuck on a math problem or having a hard time with a book report, fresh air and a quick walk can do wonders.