Backfill and Prepare to Help Kids Overcome School Anxiety

The following post is from Jennifer Burke, a lifelong educator:

source: MC Quinn

“Mom, my stomach hurts. Can I stay home today?”  “I hate school!”

If you hear this frequently, you may have a struggling learner. For these students, school is anything but enjoyable.

Don’t wait for things to get better – usually they don’t.

Without parental involvement and support, worn-out students continue to spiral down until their motivation is non-existent. To increase the opportunities for success next year, plan your summer strategy now.

Students who barely keep up in school need to do two things: catch up and look ahead.

Those may sound juxtaposed, but filling in gaps and preparing for new material works both ends. Here are some ideas on how to do that:

To backfill:

Determine if reading or math is the greatest challenge. (E-mail the teacher now if you aren’t sure.)  Start working on material that is easy for your child – usually a level below the grade they are just completing. For a cost of about $20 per year, you can print grade-specific reading materials from or

There are two key skills: decoding – which means figuring out how to say the word – and comprehension – which is understanding what was read. If decoding is hard, go back to basic phonics. If comprehension is hard, have your child stop at the end of every page or paragraph to tell you what they just read.

Try to help your child “see a movie in their head” as they read, something that good readers do naturally. Talk about the beginning, middle and end. Discuss the main character and make predictions about what might happen next.

Once they are comfortable with fiction, add some non-fiction. Use graphic organizers, available free on the Internet, to better understand the information read.

To fill in math gaps, start with the basics. Students who don’t have their basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts memorized usually struggle in math. Use flash cards and online timed games to increase their speed of recall. Once the facts are solidly in place, work on the skill that your student had the most trouble with this past year. is a great resource for that.

Get prepared!

Give your child a chance to look at next year’s work ahead of time.  Ask the school office if you can borrow a copy of the materials that your child will use come fall.  By introducing the new material now, your child can approach it at a slower pace.  When they see the subjects again in the fall, they will have the advantage of already being familiar with them.

Commit to a flexible schedule!

You don’t have to spend the whole summer doing school work.  An hour a day would be a great investment in your child’s academic future.  Allow your child to have input into the timing and they will take more ownership of the process.

They may not thank you now, but they will definitely thank you later!

What school activities do you do during the summer to boost your child’s readiness for next year?

Jennifer is passionate about children and education. She homeschooled her two sons for five years, established and directed a Christian school in Maryland for 20 years, and currently teaches in a public school in a Chicago suburb. She loves investing in relationships and delights in every moment that she spends with her family.