As a teacher, I get this question from parents all the time: "How can I prevent my kid from undergoing summer memory loss?"
It can be done—but it's not easy. To do it right, parents should take a multidimensional approach.
Now, although it's almost August, it's still not too late to prep your kids for the next school year.
Here are six important steps.
1. The All-Important Reading List
- First, get a reading list going. Your child’s teacher might have some suggestions for this, too. What will the students be reading next year? Find out, and help your child get ahead.
- Enroll your child in the local library reading program.
- Ask a committee of friends—selected by you and your child—to recommend books.
- Encourage reading both fiction and nonfiction, and on topics and in genres outside your child’s usual choices.
- Discuss the books at dinner and read a book your child recommended.
2. Create Writing Opportunities
- During the month of August, encourage your kids to write letters to their older relatives.
- Ask that special requests be made in writing for senior management (you) to consider.
- Put your child in charge of keeping the family journal or blog for the next month.
- Ask your child to write a letter of complaint or praise. “Johnny, today why don’t you practice writing a good paragraph, hmmm?” is exponentially less interesting than “Johnny, remember those guys that did such a terrible job on our front walk? Would you write the complaint letter for that? You can interview me for information after dinner. Thank you.”
- With writing and reading, let your child see you doing your own. If a skill is seen as important for you, it has a much better chance of being seen as important for your child.
3. Learn a New Skill
- Chess, bridge, magic tricks, drawing, woodworking, word puzzles, logic puzzles—you name it.
- Determine with your child what constitutes evidence of “learning” the skill and plan how you and your child are going to work toward that goal. This will help expand your child’s skill set, increase her brain power, and teach her about setting and achieving goals and objectives.
- Plus, said activity can easily be something your child identifies as “play” but is really a learning experience.
4. Health and Wellness
- Healthy and fit kids do better at school. Period. As above, identify a physical skill or goal (not something just negative, like “weight loss”) and go learn it.
- Again, decide with them a target level of mastery. Help your child be comfortable in the physical world and with the tradition of developing new skills while keeping healthy. Tell your child the family needs to prepare for the zombie apocalypse. They’ll get it.
5. Complete a Service Project
- However small, doing something for others teaches your child about his or her community. Your clergyperson or civic leader might have ideas for projects, but make sure it takes your child to new surroundings so they see that their communities are larger than they thought.
- Sometimes schools will make this a requirement, so ask if it can be done over the summer and if there are programs or organization with whom they regularly work.
6. Build in Time for Pure Loafing (Yes, Really)
- A day spent playing games isn’t inherently unhealthy for mind, body, or soul. It’s the context and the quantity of such activities that require close monitoring.
- Let your kid do nothing, sometimes. Free play can be very stimulating. We all need time to let things settle in the brain. It’ll also keep you from over-scheduling and over-managing your child.
- Resist the urge to make every second “quality time.” It can’t be done, anyway.
Follow these steps, and you can help make the rest of the summer fun, productive, and fulfilling. After all, isn’t that what you wish your job was like?