Oh, by February and March we are all so tired of winter; so tired of the snow, the cold, the gloomy days, and the calendar showing spring still weeks away. But this is not the time to let your children slip into the winter blahs. The period of time between Christmas vacation and spring break is the most critical period of learning in the entire school year.
After summer vacation children start the school year on an average of six weeks behind their academic level of the spring. Consequently the first month or two of school focuses on review, establishing school routines, and getting to know your child’s needs as a learner.
In Oshkosh a few weeks are spent on individual assessments in reading, spelling and math. By November third to fifth graders are taking the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam. During this time real teaching and learning does go on, but there are also breaks for Halloween parties, teacher conferences, and Thanksgiving vacation.
Then comes December with extra practice for holiday concerts, parties, and all of the excitement of the month. Teachers lament—just give me a chance to teach!
But alas in January teachers now know their students well and tailor instruction to meet individual needs. Uninterrupted days enable students to delve into deeper learning. Time to be curious and do research. Time to read for long stretches, necessary for deep comprehension. Time to discuss books with friends. Time to problem solve in small groups. Time to think. The weeks between January and March are the most prolific period of learning in the entire school year.
Parents play a critical role in helping their children make the most of this time. Keeping your children healthy and in school every day is the first step. Being mindful of the importance of nutritious meals, practicing good hygiene, and getting nine to ten hours of sleep each night will help fight off those cold germs and keep your child mentally sharp.
Follow up with school work at home and encourage good study habits. Keep spirits high with fun evening and weekend activities—playing board games, making a snowman, or visiting a new museum in a nearby city. And as always children need time to play! But this is not the time to pull your child out of school for a week to beat the lines at Disneyworld.
Yes, the winter blahs are pushing hard and trying to break down the door. But parents can beat it back and help their children have a most successful school year.