Family life

Scared to go back to school

When your kid is anxious about heading back to school, is it best to focus on activity sheets or enjoying the last days of summer?

back to school worksheets Isaac and Gillian work on activity sheets to sharpen their skills. Photo: Jennifer Pinarski

"I don't want to go to back to school," Isaac informed me as I tucked him into bed one night last week.

Well, of course he doesn't want to go back. At seven-and-a-half, he's perpetually in motion and sitting at a desk for five hours a day isn't something he's very good at—comments on his fidgeting and troubles focusing frequently appear on report cards. And, despite the cool, wet summer we've had in Ontario, we've crammed a lot of fun into it. That said, I hoped that the prospect of being reunited with his friends would be enough to have him looking forward to the first day of school.

"Why is that?" I asked.

Burying his head into his pillow, I heard him mumble something about cursive writing and multiplication tables.

"But those things are still months away, and you'll do great," I tried to reassure him.


"But I'm still worried. And what if it's not easy, like reading?"

Turns out it's not necessarily the end of summer he's anxious about, but mastering new skills.

Thinking back over the last few weeks, this confession makes sense. He'd asked for new math workbooks and requested that I look up cursive writing activity sheets online. He devoured the activity sheets as fast as I could print them. At the library, he stopped taking out the usual graphic novels, and chose longer novels and non-fiction books instead. Even in the kitchen, he'd ask me if he could help cook and bake, looking at the fractions of ingredients in the directions (1/2 cup of flour, for example) and then going off and drawing a graph to measure the ratios of different ingredients in the recipe.


I feel partially to blame for some of his reluctance to go back to school. Last year, while Isaac would work on his homework, he'd complain about how difficult the assignments were. In an effort to console him, I told him that grade two math was a breeze compared to what he'd learn in grade three. Indeed, I remember grade three being the most difficult year in elementary school for me— it was the grade were I learned to do multiplication, long division, write in cursive and compose three-part essays. I hated grade three, and now I'm worried that relaying my not-so-fond memories has set him on a path to anxiety in the last few weeks before school starts.

I'm torn. Do I break out even more workbooks and drills to help soothe some of his worry? Or do I skip the worksheets in favour of making sure the next 14 days of summer holiday are full of fun and stress-free?

How are your kids feeling about going back to school?

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.

This article was originally published on Aug 18, 2014

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with your baby's development, get the latest parenting content and receive special offers from our partners

I understand that I may withdraw my consent at any time.