What to do with Summer…
With spring in the air, the end of school is in sight. Teachers are planning out their last weeks of lessons, students are dreaming of careless days. Parents are starting to ask themselves, and me, if summer work is necessary.
I am a big believer in taking time off, enjoying a loose schedule and not filling every moment of the summer with scheduled activities. However, so many of the students I work with have made great strides throughout the year and if they take the entire summer off from engaging their brains in anything other than video games, vine stories and such, they will struggle in September. As I remind all my students, the brain is like a muscle. Do you want to go out for fall soccer without kicking the ball or running around all summer? You certainly can, and you may even make the team, but it is going to be more work from the beginning and your body is going to be very sore. Same goes for the brain. It needs some warming up each day, engagement in activities that stretch and challenge its memory and analytical abilities. This doesn’t mean you have to read Shakespeare or do endless hours of math facts, but a little work is really useful. Here are some ideas:
Create your own reading challenge in your home. For younger children, you can offer points by the word or page, for older students you can offer points by the chapter or book. The idea is of course, that the more they read, the more points they get. What they can do with those points is up to you. It can be a sweet, a toy, time for an activity they really want to do. It can even be gas or movie money for the older ones.
For those who cannot be enticed? Who would rather stare at a wall with no candy in sight than read? Then you can instill a reading slot into each day. They want to watch TV? Go outside? Do nothing? No problem, once their 30 minute reading time is up. Now this can be painful, I have to warn you. But if you do it right, and by that I mean no bargaining and no waivering, it really works. The key is to pick the time of day that can be consistent and not interrupted. For my own son, if I asked him to read first thing in the morning, he might throw a complete fit. But if, as we did last summer, we put that reading slot into the late afternoon, he was ready to sit and read. I am not saying he was excited about it, but he was resigned to it.
You can use the same approach with math, giving points by the problem or page. But this feels like work, more like school, so I find this more difficult to entice students into. This is where computers can help out. So many games online like the one they use in the Rye, New York schools, xtramath, can make it more fun. I also find that the old fashioned math activity books (you can get them on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble) can be very enticing for little ones. There is something very exciting about getting a big check or a star on a page.
As with everything, it is about the balance. Keeping it consistent without making it too overwhelming is important. For those who are in the middle school years and just refuse, and have had a challenging academic year, then I find that is the time to hire someone to give the work. Get yourself out of it. Many of my tutors will work sparingly with a student, giving some lesson plans, checking in and following up with a tutoring session when needed, but not sitting on them as if it is the school year.
Some minimal injections of reading and math over the summer, will allow the fall will come in with a lot more ease. Still, I never underestimate the importance of staring at the sky, getting dirty outside and playing until the sun goes down…that is as important as ABC’s and 1,2,3’s.