A+ Advice for Parents

Q: Since spring break, my fourth-grade son seems to have "checked out." His teacher emailed that he participates less and pays less attention in class. He didn't turn in a report that was completed. He seemed more organized at the beginning of the school year. Do you think he's depressed?

A: No, unless there's something huge in his life you're not mentioning. I think he's a fourth-grader with spring fever.

"With the warm spring weather arriving, daylight savings time in effect and only a few months of school remaining, it's not uncommon for kids to lose motivation," notes Virginia educator Ann Dolin in a recent blog post at ectutoring.com.

"Motivation will ebb and flow during the school year," writes Dolin, who taught in the Fairfax, Virginia, schools for several years prior to founding Educational Connections Inc., a tutoring service. "This is a time when students are more focused in counting the days until summer than studying; parents are losing steam as well."

Dolin offers these tips to help your students get to the end of the school year:

-- Re-establish old routines. "If routines have gone by the wayside, it's not too late to put them back in place," suggests Dolin. "They foster a sense of order and can greatly reduce procrastination."

Ask yourself: What worked well in the fall? Does your son still have a set schedule for homework, dinner and bedtime? Does he still place his backpack in one spot, so he can grab it for school the next morning?

-- Reset a study time. Spring sports, school events and summer plans are distracting. "They're also more likely to be distracted by social media," says Dolin. "You really have to limit their choices. ... Set up a routine for a block of time, say 8 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., where social media is turned off and everyone in the family is device-free."

-- Monitor assignments (but don't do them). If homework isn't turned in, Dolin says to determine if your son is writing them down. Find out how your son's teacher gives homework. Does he or she post to Blackboard or your school's homework portal? Can your son take a picture of his homework with his phone? Some students never use their assignment book, no matter how much they're encouraged to.

Once you know what the assignments are, spend five minutes to list what needs to be done. Have him do them in order. "Maybe even watch him do the first problem or question, and then walk away," says Dolin.

If he gets stuck, Dolin suggests asking him, "Do you have notes on this? Where do you think you can find the information? Have you done a problem similar to this?"

-- Schedule long-range assignments: Spring fever can make a student forget assignments that aren't completed daily. Dolin says to ask your son what reports or projects he has and when he is going to do them. Have him plot key dates on a calendar (setting alerts if he uses a smartphone). If the plan seems reasonable, she says you should ask him, "When should we check in with each other?"

Dolin says this technique puts the responsibility for longer-term planning on your son's shoulders and teaches him how to hold himself accountable.

For more advice from Dolin, download her free ebook, "Help Your Disorganized Student," at ectutoring.com.

(Do you have a question about your child's education? Email it to Leanna@aplusadvice.com. Leanna Landsmann is an education writer who began her career as a classroom teacher. She has served on education commissions, visited classrooms in 49 states to observe best practices, and founded Principal for a Day in New York City.)

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