This article was written by Ali Solomon - a NYC public middle school art teacher for the past 15 years. She's written for The Huffington Post, McSweeney's, and Scary Mommy, among others. Find more of her work at her blog, Facebook page, or Twitter.
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Before you can say "no water balloons near the computer," summer will end and the little ones will be marching back to the routines of school. This abrupt shift from 24-7 fun to rigid structure can cause a tremendous amount of anxiety for even the most studious of kids. Easy solution: ruin summer. Destroy it. Follow these tips for obliterating the last waning days of freedom, and the youngsters will be eagerly sprinting for school in no time.
1. Set their alarm clock 10 minutes earlier each morning.
This doesn't solve the problem of a child refusing to go to bed until the sun has completely disappeared beyond the horizon (usually around 9:30pm), but at least they will feel your pain of being woken up mid-REM cycle.
2. Replace fun beach reads with their summer reading assignments.
So long, Teen Vogue, Captain Underpants, and Vampire Diaries; hello, A Brave New World. Children will be less inclined to laze away the day leafing through garbage reading if you supplant their Spongebob comics with Steinbeck.
3. Plan a family trip to their school parking lot.
Simply seeing their September stomping ground will remind them that there are far worse places to spend August than Aunt Linda's house in Poughkeepsie.
4. Turn their summer activities into "learning experiences."
A jaunt to the beach is an excuse to educate about wildlife preservation and tidal irregularities. The playground is the place to learn about microbes, state safety regulations, and communicable diseases. No trip to the park is complete without science experiments testing soil for chemical pollution, or ponds for contamination. All this "learning" will make your child anxious to leave the natural environment for relatively toxin-free school.
5. Create a daily schedule.
To get your child back in the swing of a school day, allow for spending no more than 45 minutes on any activity (eating, sleeping, bathing, watching hour-long tv programs). Invent subjects for them to rotate through, like "Math Problems Related to Sharing With Your Little Sister," "Cleaning Sand Out of Your Soggy Water Shoes," or "Putting Your Seashell Collection Away Before Mommy Steps on it Again." Set up a bell system to ensure the schedule is followed. Make sure the bell goes off in the middle of Moana, right before the climactic battle sequence.
6. Introduce your child to their teacher.
Surreptitiously find out who their teacher will be in the fall. Learn where she vacations in late summer, and arrange to randomly bump into her in Cape Cod while she's sunning herself on a pool deck. This totally not-awkward meet-and-greet will allow your child to get to know their teacher in a more relaxed setting, while you can scope what she's drinking in order to plan the perfect holiday gift.
7. Start assigning homework.
Why should the teachers have all the fun? Instead of trekking to yet another water park, practice those multiplication tables inside and out. Dance the night away to the melodic cadence of Rosetta Stone's beginner Spanish verbs. After your kids have thumbed through the latest Highlights magazine, sit them down at the kitchen table for some reading comprehension questions: Where was the fedora lurking in the Hidden Pictures? What social more did Goofus botch this time? And what are the six differences between those two pictures?
8. Create a countdown clock of remaining summer vacation time.
Every day, remind your child how many weeks, days, minutes, and seconds they have left before school starts up again. The ticking clock will cause them to snap, and they'll end up pining for the start of the school year just to relieve themselves of the pressure of making each moment count.
Summer days are long, and you just made them much, much longer. But your kids will thank you once school starts up again and the fun resumes.