How to Ease the Transition Back to School after a Long Break

At our house, back to school is not easy.

My kids do not look forward to getting back to a school routine after a long break. My kids thrive on routine, and any change in routine requires a period of adjustment.

Over the years, I’ve created a few routines and ideas for helping kids who struggle with routine changes get back into school without creating stress, fears, or tears.

girl doing science experiment for back to school activity

How to Ease the Transition Back to School after a Long Break

Use these tips to make your own back-to-school experience happier!

1. Start with the Fun Stuff

My daughter’s favorite subject is science. She loves conducting experiments and learning about how the world works. She is a lot more likely to be responsive to a change in routine if that routine involves her favorite activity–science projects. I always try to plan a fun activity for our first day back to school.

Another option is playing educational games. There are lots of games that can be used to teach math, science, geography, history, and more! This is a fun way to get back into structured activities that your children will look forward to.

2. Create a Routine and Stick with It

Since routine is so important to my kids, they are much more accepting of getting back to school when we follow a strict routine. My eldest, “Monkey,” likes to create her own routine, so I include her in the new semester plan. She likes to assign a specific time and order for each subject in school.  If she is allowed that control, she is much happier about the return to school.

Some families do better when they plan an order for the day but not necessarily a strict schedule. In other words, you might decide to create a flow for your day so that your children know what comes next, but you might not want to assign strict times for each subject or other activity.

3. Start Small

After long breaks like Christmas break and summer break, we often start small and gradually increase our school to the full load over the course of a week. For example, on Monday we might do science and math. Then on Tuesday, we add English. On Wednesday, we add a couple more subjects until by Friday we are doing every subject. The slow build-up keeps it from being overwhelming to the children and to me.

4. Have One-on-One Time

My kids start to act out when they do not get enough one-on-one time. During a holiday break, they spend a lot of time playing on their own but get less parent face time. My kids respond well to one-on-one time, and I bet yours do too! However, if I ask them to do something alone (a hard school assignment or a difficult chore), they will get upset and – inevitably- conflict will occur. After a break, my kids like to see me right there in the trenches with them, either offering hands-on guidance in school, reading something to them, or doing chores together.

5. Spend Time in Review

Sometimes it seems that my kids forget an entire grade level during a long break. I know this is why many families choose to homeschool year-round, but for us it works better to take breaks during holidays and summer. If you feel like year-round homeschooling might work well for your family, though, our article, 10 Reasons Why Year-Round Homeschooling Is a Great Idea, will give you some information and even free printables to use for planning.

When school starts again, it helps make things easier if…well, if it is easy! I often go back and have the kids work on things they haven’t forgotten in order to build up their confidence before giving them something new to learn. This has worked well for us in preventing meltdowns and stress during the return to school. Many curriculum programs even have this review system built right into the textbooks.

These simple strategies have worked for us as we transition back to school after a long break. I find a little foresight goes a long way!

NOTE: If you’re struggling with getting back to school because of feeling burned out, please read Dear Burned Out Homeschool Mom. I think it will be an encouragement to you and will give you some strategies for dealing with burnout and hopefully preventing it from happening in the future.

Do you have ideas for easing the transition back to school after a long break? Please share your tips in the comments! 

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  1. Really great post, thank you for sharing.
    My kiddo’s thrive on routine as well, the last few weeks the routine has been gone.
    We are looking forward to getting back to it, but I know it won’t be easy going at first. Always some bumps in the road.
    Love the start small tip.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. This year we did A LOT of traveling over Christmas break, and returned home Sunday evening. With being gone, we really needed to get some rest and get our house back in order. This week, we are focusing on life skills… Learning how to organize, learning what to purge and what to do with it (trash or donate). It’s giving us enough work to be busy and engaged and still recoup from all the travels. I think next week will be a smoother transition back into school after a week of having to do lists and goals.

  3. I think getting back into the routine is the best way 🙂 I school year round, so taking that extra time to adjust is easy. Jumping right back into things after any type of break – Christmas, Easter, Vacation, etc – isn’t worth the frustration. Homeschool is about the HOME first – then the school.

  4. Many curriculum programs even have this review system built right into the textbooks.

    Could you give us a few curriculum names that do this well?

  5. As a homeschooling momma of 9 I have found that easing back into school after a break is best for us. I usually start back 2 days a week for 2 weeks then 3 days a week for 3 weeks before heading back into the full load! I also plan lots of fun trips and hands on stuff!!

  6. I’m going to ease my kids back in this year. I love the idea of easing them back in after Christmas break with home ec projects.

  7. I don’t really have any tips to add, but I just wanted to say thanks for this. We start back on Monday, and I needed to hear this.

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