Summer is a time for learning, too!

School’s out for summer! It’s time to celebrate all the hard work that went into another academic year, and take a little break from the busy schedule that overtakes our lives during the winter.

But the break in the school year doesn’t – and shouldn’t – mean a break from all academic activity. In fact, wise use of the summer months can make or break the coming school year. The months of June through August offer a prime opportunity to catch up, work ahead, and otherwise prepare for the rigors awaiting in September.

Start by taking the time to sit down and reflect on the previous school year before it disappears into a haze of sunscreen and heat. Consider each child in your family and jot down areas of success and improvement and areas of concern. If you have a teen who will be taking a particularly difficult course next year, be sure to include that in your list. Your list will help guide your summer plan.

Elementary students learn mostly basic skills: grammar, addition, subtraction, and multiplication tables, science facts, and other material that more or less has to be memorized. While kids tend to-relearn material pretty quickly in the fall, it’s better if they never forget it at all. Find a way to review just a little bit – maybe every day or three days a week – and you’ll reap huge dividends.  My first grader learned his addition and subtraction facts this year, and my plan is to give him one or two math problems a day just to keep those skills sharp. I’ll do the same with his spelling words and reading practice. I plan to have him write just a bit three times a week. In the scheme of things, this will occupy very little of his – and my – time, but it’ll keep those skills sharp for August.

Middle and high school bring a different set of challenges. If your child didn’t have summer work in the past, likely it is being assigned now. As annoying as this can be – and believe me, I know nothing causes a family fight quite like a summer reading assignment – it is absolutely a sign that your school district is doing what’s best for kids. The data solidly supports summer work, and the best approach is to make a plan and stick to it. Go through the assignments with your kids and set interim deadlines for completing sections of the work. In addition to preventing a breakdown the day before school starts, this also helps keep your child’s skills current by spreading the work out.

Of course, if your child really struggled with a course last year, summer offers the chance to really master the material. This is especially important if the difficult course is a prerequisite for things to come. And if you’ve seen your child really embracing and loving a subject, summer can be a time to learn more about it – maybe shadowing a professional and visiting a local college to talk about the program.

Students who are approaching their junior or senior years will also benefit from using summer time to prepare for the college admissions process. In addition to visiting colleges, this is the time to invest in extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and hands-on learning. It’s also a good time to build an official resume of awards, leadership positions, and extracurricular activities. When I was teaching, I asked every student who requested a letter or recommendation to provide me with a resume. The more detailed the resume, the more specific I was able to be when I provided evidence for my recommendation.

Of course, all this can be daunting to a parent, especially if the subject is unfamiliar, or if the student requires significant academic help. Fortunately, our Connections tutors are available all summer. Whether you want extension activities, remedial help, or simply effective review, we are here to help.

Enjoy the slower pace the summer brings, just make sure your kids’ brains stay busy!

Written by Laura Simon, Connections Blog Contributor