While the winter break provides a much-needed rest for students, an opportunity to spend time with family and celebrate the holidays, it can also cause the undoing of many good habits our students have built up over the school year. This academic (as well as physical, nutritional and behavioral) “backsliding” can put students at a deficit when they return to school, making for a rough transition back to their usual school routine. To help find the balance between relaxation and productivity during the remainder of our winter break, I have included four suggestions below.
• Make time to read. For our parents of younger children, take the opportunity to sit down and read aloud to your kids, or ask them to read to you. Study after study has shown how critical oral reading is to a child’s literacy and vocabulary development, how it strengthens his or her cognitive and social-emotional development and benefits the relationship between parent and child. For our parents of older children, this is a great time to take a break from required reading and find a book or genre that will help develop a love of reading in your child. Even though our school libraries are closed during the break, our digital library service, Overdrive, makes e-books and audiobooks available to students and teachers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can access our digital library by visiting www.leanderisd.org and selecting Library Services under the Student Services section in the “Parents/Students” tab.
• Spend some time exploring. We regularly teach our students that being outside can relieve mental fatigue, reduce stress, improve concentration and promote positive health. With our mild winters and the growing list of amenities in our community, as well as all the greater Austin area has to offer, now is the perfect time to get out of the house and cross a new park, trail, museum or attraction off your list. Just to name a few options, you could go for a walk or bike ride along the Brushy Creek Trail, take the kids to the skatepark at Benbrook Ranch Park or Brushy Creek Sports Park, go camping at Windy Point Park on Lake Travis, explore the Texas Museum of Science & Technology or venture down to Austin to visit the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum or tour the Capitol.
• Take care of your body. Make no mistake, we all deserve to unwind a little during the holidays. But to avoid sending our kids’ growing bodies into shock upon returning to school on Jan. 2, do not fall prey to the winter break free-for-all. Try to maintain regular bedtimes and the healthful habits you have established over the school year to ensure our students return to the classroom ready to pick up where they left off.
• Check off some college-readiness items. College application and scholarship deadlines are approaching quickly. The deadline for the Feb. 11 ACT Exam is Jan. 13, and the March 11 SAT Exam deadline is Feb. 10. This week is a great time for students to spend some uninterrupted hours checking off items on their college prep list. They can also take advantage of online practice test resources, look for and schedule tours of prospective colleges, and parents can begin filling out their FAFSA application. If you are unsure of what you should be doing to prepare for post-high school life, visit the College- and Career-Readiness section in the “Parents/Students” tab of our website and click on Academic Planning to view checklists for every grade level.
I hope you and your families have an excellent break, take every advantage of your time off, and we look forward to starting 2017 as strong as we left 2016. Happy New Year!