If you are the parent of a school-aged child, you likely have a pile of paper in your kitchen that everyone is trying to avoid. That ominous pile is the summer work assigned by your child’s school – work that is traditionally put off throughout June and July, until suddenly August arrives with a deadline. Cue the tears and panic. Like its cousin, the science fair project, summer work tests the mettle of the strongest family, but it doesn’t have to be awful.
First, try to remember that the existence of summer assignments means someone in your school district is doing something right. The research is clear and conclusive when it comes to keeping our kids on track academically; if students do nothing over the summer, they can lose up to two months of learning! And summer work should not take away from outdoor time, swimming lessons, unstructured light-saber battles in the backyard, catching lightning bugs, and the other delights that make summer so amazing. It might, however, compete with technology time, which isn’t exactly a bad thing. There are also strategies that keep summer work in its place; they can spare your family that last-minute battle for completion.
First, make a plan. If you were the procrastinator in college, it’s time for a new chapter in your life. Take the time to really look at the assignments (like, now), make sure you and your child understand the expectations, and divide each task into workable chunks. Pull out your family calendar and schedule the work, leaving breaks for things like family vacations and sports camps. When you create a summer work schedule, it’s a good idea to leave a week or two free at the end of the summer. That’s your cushion in case life happens along the way. As you plan, make sure your child has everything they need for the work; it is a bummer to start summer reading two days before it is due and discover that the library is out of the book you need. (I know this firsthand.)
Post the plan somewhere prominent. If you have a family planner, hang the summer work schedule right next to it. Keep it at the forefront of your kids’ minds instead of stashed in a drawer somewhere.
Also, don’t be afraid to schedule something every day. Or maybe every weekday. A little work every day goes a long way come August. It is also more beneficial to a growing brain to have regular challenges, and not just a massive job right before school starts. If your child has to read sections and do questions, don’t be afraid to spend one day on reading and notetaking and two more on the written response. And when you plan, include your kids in the process. Let them have some input and be sure to think aloud. In addition to making summer work less awful, you are teaching your child how to tackle a large project. He or she will thank you in college.
Stay engaged with the project. No, don’t do it for him or her, but do take the take the read (or skim) the book so you can talk about it together. Look for math examples in everyday life. If you have to relearn a few things to keep up, do so. You might very well get eye rolls and complaints that no one else’s parents care so much about summer work. Remind yourself that this is what every kid says about everything and soldier on. Learn something new. Show your kids there’s more to learning than twelve years of primary school.
Leverage electronics. At the risk of sounding like curmudgeon, I’ll say it anyway. Kids today are not achieving on the same level as they were a decade ago. The difference? The crazy prevalence of cell phones. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this technology, but a nose in Facebook is not the same as a nose in a book. Don’t be afraid to limit phone or technology use until the summer work for the day is completed.
Take advantage of bad weather. Let’s be honest: you don’t want to be bent over a desk on a beautiful day; neither do your kids. When a rainy day (or a whole string of rainy days) happens (because, Cincinnati weather), devote a big chunk of time to knocking these assignments out. That way, you can do less when the sun does decide to shine.
And last, remember that your kids will totally pick up on your attitude. Summer work can feel like one more thing to a busy parent, and it is true that most of you are already doing a great job of keeping your kids’ brains active during the summer months. However, this is a great opportunity to teach your kids responsibility and respect for authority; they are watching how you approach this challenge and they will absolutely model your response.
Happy summer learning, and please contact Connections if your child needs support as he or she completes summer work!
Written by Laura Simon, Connections Tutoring Blog Contributor