Just because school is on break, doesn’t mean learning has to stop. Learning doesn’t happen only within the four walls of the school or during the school year. Active learning can be nurtured through an array of activities.
Still, summer brain drain can happen, and the precious months can fly by without an effective use of this time. But students can keep their tanks full with these three R’s: reflect, recharge, and relax.
This is one of the most neglected practices in the classroom environment. But when students take the time to learn about their individual weaknesses and strengths, they instinctively seek the next step. To simply realize that steps need to be taken—even without yet knowing what those steps are—is a powerful learning experience in itself.
Whether the experience of the past school year was great or not, there is always something to learn from it. If a student is upset about a disappointing grade or score, channel those feelings into something constructive: Make a journal sheet listing what went wrong and what when well.
If a student had set up a goal at the beginning of the school year, this the best time to examine whether the student achieved the goal or fell short of it. Reflect on the question: What was the outcome, and how I can change the course of action to have a different result next time?
Other reflection questions are: Did the student experience major stress and anxiety because of lack of subject knowledge? Did the student need to be more mindful of using time effectively? How about taking care of oneself physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Did the student have a good balance between handling school work and nurturing personal interest?
Answers to these questions can help shape summer plans; they can form some tangible action items—goals to achieve this summer. It’s important to learn how to fill the gap, and that can’t be done without reflection.
Whether a student struggled with a certain subject or had social issues, or aced a class and enjoyed taking new challenges, it is important to set an academic goal for the summer to recharge any low “batteries.”
Here is what we recommend:
Prepare for the next school year and get ahead.
Students who will be taking a heavy academic load the upcoming school year can start preparing for it now. Those who chose to do so can gain a deeper understanding of subject matter and save a lot of study time during the school year—not to mention earn better grades and have increased confidence.
Develop good studying and learning habits.
Students who lack good studying and learning habits can find themselves in a perpetual ‘catch-up’ game during the school year. Foundational skills, such as learning how to learn and healthy study habits, can be game changers for students who tend to struggle. It is recommended for students at any level, from grade school to graduate school, to know how to prepare for the next level of academic challenge.
The brain can be more active and receptive to challenging concepts after it is engaged in a creative process and gets some good rest. This is the time to travel, visit relatives and old friends, go to festivals, play sports, and enjoy books without time constraints.
While there are so many great options out there, here are some of our recommendations:
Regardless of age, students can find lots of summer volunteering opportunities. Find local organizations that serve in the area you are passionate about. Hands-On Suburban Chicago provides a list of organizations and things you can do as a family.
Visit museums or festivals.
Go to the zoo, a botanic garden, the Renaissance Fair, etc. Check out free museum days to save money.
Participate in your local library’s summer reading program.
On the first day of sign up, public libraries usually host a special event with fun activities and giveaways to launch the program. Make a habit of going to the library on a weekly basis so that kids can develop the good habit of reading.
Register for a summer camp.
Camps run a wide gamut—outdoors, art, sports, STEM, academic, etc.—and you don’t have to look far to find one. Choose from the many options based on your interests, schedule, and budget.
Go camping or hiking. Visit an arboretum. Walk along a shore. Kids nowadays don’t get enough exposure to nature, which is a critical learning experience that can’t be replicated indoors. How To Raise a Wild Child by Scott D. Sampson, the paleontologist from the hit PBS show Dinosaur Train, explains this well.
Shadow a professional.
For students who are mature enough, set up an opportunity to shadow a professional in a field of interest. This can be an invaluable experience to learn not only about the career but also themselves, as they discover what specifically does or does not appeal to them in what they’re witnessing.
Remember, what really makes these experiential learning opportunities valuable is the reflection. Students (and parents!) can have a busy summer trying to fit in so many activities. This could leave your family exhausted. With each activity planned, it is so important for the student to build in time for self-reflection and discussion with parents and any siblings.