by Scott Lutostanski – Director of Academic Consulting
Usually by the time Summer rolls around, it is time to relax. It signifies the end of a school year and all the stress that goes along with it. Summer is a time to take a break and recharge the batteries, but it can also present a lot of problems. One of the most common questions that I get asked is, “How can we keep making forward progress throughout the summer?”
Without putting too much demand on a student, there are small steps that can be taken that will challenge a student to plan, problem solve, and complete tasks. Below, I have put together some small measures that can be incorporated into the household during summer.
Time Management- A student’s time in the summer is usually much more unstructured and wide open than it is during the school year. This is obvious because he doesn’t have to go to school for 8 hours each day. Students should have their own calendar to keep track of their schedule. This can be completed each Sunday for the entire week. They should know the days they have work, camps, games, and practice. Parents will have to decide how capable a student is and what level of support to offer but working together to complete this on a Sunday will not take too long and will be a productive action to take.
Chores- Make sure to give the student some chores to keep track of. These should be daily and weekly tasks. Daily chores can be small things such as making the bed, doing the dishes, etc. Even small tasks that trigger their mind to actively think about the actions and sequence in which they have to complete tasks is helpful. Even more effective would be to assign weekly tasks. Examples include mow the lawn, clean the car, do laundry, and an infinite number of others. The assignment, “I need you to do “task X” by ‘day Y’” will challenge the student to use their working memory and planning skills to complete it by the deadline. These chores may not always get completed successfully, but they provide small practice for students to force themselves to shift away from another activity, initiate a task, and do something they most likely don’t want to do.
Planning- Most students have summer reading or prep work for a class. Have them outline a plan for completing the work in a timely manner. Again, this may not be followed to a T, but it will allow the student map out a task and engage their executive function skills. Creating self-imposed deadlines and trying to stick to them will create an opportunity for initiation and planning.
The lack of structure in the summer often has parents searching for ways to keep the student active. It is common for students to head back to school with a little bit of rust from a carefree, lazy summer. This is perfectly acceptable, but the more they are engaged with the EF component throughout the summer, the better off they will be in the fall. By adding subtle and small daily and weekly requests (by small I mean hopefully 15 minutes or less each day), students will be able to engage and practice these skills.