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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Keep Kids Motivated ’Til the End of the School Year

By Janeen Lewis

It’s an unusual ending to the school year. Instead of yearbook signings, field days, and end-of-the-year parties, kids are at home waiting to catch glimpses of their friends on Zoom. It’s a tough time for kids, and keeping them motivated to finish the school year strong is hard on parents. Here are 10 tips to keep your child on the path to the finish line.

1. Send the message that school is a priority. Communicate to children that school is important, even if it isn’t occurring at the school building. Continue to read together, check in with them on their assignments, and take an interest in what they are learning. Research one of their school topics or check out your local library’s website to find online access to learning tools and books.

2. Set a goal. Help your child set an academic goal they can achieve during the last weeks of school. Maybe they want to turn a B into an A, learn all their multiplication tables, or read a thousand pages. If they meet their goal, reward them with something simple like ice cream or a new school supply or book.

3. Stay on schedule. Kids need structure. They like to know what to expect, especially when times are tough. Try to keep routines like homework time, dinnertime, and bedtime. Make a conscious effort to keep the same schedule you had before virtual schooling began.

4. Replace supplies. By now your child’s notebooks, folders, pencils, and crayons probably look worn out. Replacing these inexpensive items and having them delivered to your house can be a quick pick-me-up that motivates your child.

5. Set up an outdoor classroom. Sometimes changing location gives a child that second wind they need to make it to the finish line. Let children have outdoor class time on the patio. When math problems are completed correctly, they can take a walk or ride bikes. Let them read in a hammock, lawn chair, or an outside tent. When they reach their goal, they can pass the football or shoot hoops. Plant a family garden as a science project, and let the kids make observations when they are taking a break from their schoolwork.

6. Hold an end-of-the-year countdown. There are many ways to count down the days until the end of the school year. Mark off days on a calendar, or put Popsicle sticks or marbles in a jar and remove one each day. Or share a special treat: For each child in your house, fill a container with the same number of Hershey’s kisses as days of school. “Kiss” the last days of school goodbye with one “countdown chocolate” each day.

7. Thank the teacher virtually. Teachers work hard, even when they are teaching virtually. Make a video or a take a picture of your child holding a sign with a message for his or her teacher. Then email it or use the teacher’s digital platform to send it to him or her. Your child could also decorate a card and write an encouraging note, and give it to the teacher when school resumes in the fall.

8. Plan a virtual recess. Kids crave social time, so, for them, not being able to see their friends is the hardest part of being out of school. Schedule a structured social time each day or week for your child to FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, or email a friend.

9. Make virtual sports or arts part of school. An important part of school is physical activity and the arts. Is your baseball player down because he misses throwing his curve ball? Maybe your martial arts lover is itching to practice her kicks. Why not sign up for virtual lessons? If you don’t have the right equipment it can easily be purchased online, and many instructors are setting up virtual venues. There are lots of virtual art classes, including “how to draw” lessons, free on YouTube.

10. Celebrate. Have a dance party in the den, a luau in the living room, or arrange a Zoom party to celebrate the last day of school. If you’re in doubt about what to do, ask the kids. Even when they have to find a virtual way to have a party, kids are clever and will find a creative way to celebrate!

Janeen Lewis is a freelance journalist, teacher, and mom to Andrew and Gracie. She loves to finish the school year strong with her students and family.