Summer + school = exams. That's it. There is no other answer to that equation. My own teenager is about to do her summer exams before starting GCSEs next year, and Easter has meant revision, revision, revision. I can just about remember my Biology osmosis and photosynthesis, but when it comes to algebra linear sequences I can only make sympathetic noises.
I always remember summer term at school meaning fun sports like rounders instead of horrible hockey. The uniform changed to ankle socks and a dress, and salad appeared on the school menu instead of stew. After exams, we still couldn't relax until we'd endured the dreaded Sports Day.
For me now, the summer term means the extra sunlight shows how dirty my windows really are, the cat'll need a new batch of flea treatment, and this would be a good time to book the chimney sweep. I'm not even going to think about the garden.
For my kids, it's now one week away from exams. During Easter we went shopping for revision stationery; chunky notebooks, protractors, stickers and fluorescent markers. I seem lucky to have children who, to my astonishment, actually like doing exams. I'm reluctant to take credit, but I have done my very best to encourage them that they are a necessary evil, and it's far more fun to do well in them than not.
It's hard to help when they get to GCSE level. All you can do is encourage, sympathise, feed and soothe, and give them a few incentives to study when they argue that the sun is shining and they want to hang out with their friends.
My golden rules so far seem to work.
1. Show an interest in what they're doing but don't 'interfere'.
2. Go over their exam timetable with them and look at the revision plan that they and their teachers have mapped out.
3. Work out an agreed revision timetable with plenty of breaks and some days off away from the books.
4. Persuade them to hand over mobiles when they revise so they won't be disturbed for a concentrated period of time (difficult but essential).
5. Go to a bargain stationery store and purchase any books, pens, rulers, etc. that they need to help them with their revision.
6. Allow the evenings to be theirs to spend however they like.
7. Understand that they feel stressed, and that you may be the person they take their anxiety out on. Bite your lip, and see them through it.
8. At the end of the revision period, before the exams, reward them for fulfilling the agreed agenda - with maybe some cinema tickets, lunch out, an iTunes voucher or give them extra phone credit.
9. Then when it comes to exam time, send them to school having had a proper breakfast and wish them luck, knowing that they, and you, have done all you can to prepare.