It used to be that summer vacation meant long, lazy days filled with nothing but swimming, playing games, catching fireflies, and going on family trips. But for many current students, summers are also filled with more schoolwork, via summer work packets. As a former teacher, I understand the rationale of helping kids keep their skills fresh over the three-month break, but as a mom, I long for my kids to get a respite from the structure of school and just be kids. Fortunately, I have devised these tips for helping my own kids balance summer school work with summer vacation. By taking some proactive steps at the beginning of the summer, you can help your child get the work done without dreading it or feeling burnt out. And hopefully your child will also be fresh and ready to start school once September rolls around again.
Celebrate the End of School
The last day of school is always a big deal at our house, signifying that our kids have completed another year and grown and changed in so many ways. We always mark the day by eating out or getting a special treat, staying up late, and letting the kids feel that taste of summer freedom. When my kids bring home their summer work, I discreetly tuck it away in a safe place and don’t even mention it for about a week. Instead, I let the kids get into summer mode by just enjoying the simple pleasures of sleeping in, playing, and doing whatever they choose during the day, free from a set schedule. This helps them get some of that pent-up summer vacation energy out of their systems and really feel like they’re on a break.
Set Up a Schedule
When your child brings his packet home, glance over the different types of work required and how many pages need to be completed. I like to count the pages and then space them out throughout the summer so that they get done gradually. For instance, if your child’s packet has 30 pages, you can set a schedule with the goal of getting 10 pages done a month, which isn’t too time-consuming. You know your child’s personality best; for some children, writing out summer work packet days on a calendar or planner is helpful, for others, it’s just stressful. The important thing is that you know the schedule and are proactive about encouraging your child to get it done throughout the summer. While this may seem tedious and counter-intuitive to the spirit of summer vacation, it actually makes for a peaceful break in the long-run. By getting the work done gradually, you avoid your child missing out on the last weeks of summer break because he’s stuck inside furiously completing an entire packet of summer school worksheets.
Take Advantage of Inclement Weather
While having a schedule is the best way to make sure the summer school worksheets get completed in a gradual manner, being flexible on bad weather days is a great way to help your child be able to take full advantage of the beautiful weather days by doing nothing but playing. On days with rain, storms, or extreme heat, you may choose to have your child complete one or more pages in his summer work packet, explaining that he can clear some other days off of the summer school work schedule when the weather is nice. While each child’s personality differs, I’ve found this to be a great way for my child to finish off a week’s worth of work (2 or 3 pages) in anticipation of freedom on better weather days.
Make it Relaxing and Fun
Just because your child has to complete summer school work, that doesn’t mean it has to feel like school. Make the environment as relaxing as possible without distracting your child so that doing the summer school work isn’t a stressful or negative experience. Try letting your child work outside in a shady spot, have a fun snack or treat like a lollipop while he works, or even work in an unorthodox spot like a tent or a beanbag chair. As long as the work gets done without problems, allowing your child to choose the place can also make it fun and different.
Also, unless there’s a set order to the packet, allow your child to choose which page(s) he completes on any given day. This simple option can make your child feel like he’s still in control of his break and can do the work on his terms, another way the experience can feel less like school. As long as all of the pages are completed by the end of the summer, I never stress about which pages my child completes when.
Don’t Take It With You
Unless you travel to a vacation spot for the entire summer, don’t take your child’s summer school work packet along on your family vacation. Just like adults need time away from the demands and pressures of work and daily home life, so do kids. Family vacation is a great time to play, bond, and create memories; there’s just no place for summer school worksheets on a trip. Modify your summer work packet schedule to reflect summer trips away, and allow your child to have a great time with no strings attached.
By following these tips, you can help your child finish his summer school work packet without stress and enjoy the lazy days of summer at the same time.