Summer is Just Around the Corner! Maintaining some structure helps students thrive.
It has been many years since I was in elementary school. Okay, it has been decades since I saw the inside of an elementary school as a student. And while I will keep the exact number of years a secret, I still remember the thoughts that came to mind on the playground during recess when we all discussed our summer plans.
Back then many of us attended day camps, as sleep away camps were reserved for students in middle school and up. It was a rarity to do anything but day camp, and many of us remained at home during the summer. But, almost two generations later, things are quite different!
Students head out to sleep away camps at much younger ages. Many travel abroad with and without their families. Still others have many experiences outside of their homes. But no matter whether we are looking back through the “way back machine” or looking now at our student’s opportunities, some things remain the same.
As we all know, structure pays big dividends during the school year. It also pays big bonuses in the summer. I am sure that many of us remember summer days when we got to stay up late and sleep in for a good portion of the next morning. Yet, after research across several sites I found similar recommendations that suggested maintaining the school year rise and shine schedule during the summer break. It certainly is okay to have some of those lazy days of summer, but the overall suggestion of maintaining a more typical school schedule allows your inner clock to sync with all your routines, no matter the season. According to the Child Mind Institute, keeping a consistent sleep schedule helps students stay regulated, even when their activities are less structured.
Students are familiar with schedules and planners from their work here at Kingsley. Some students will continue to benefit from a visual schedule hung in their room or in a more open space such as the kitchen. Students can look at a family calendar in the kitchen that maintains the activities of all members and then keep a separate one in their bedroom that notes their personal activities. This will help them gain independence with transitions and build confidence in their ability to negotiate their activities.
Outside of some of these technical items, give thought as a family to how the summer should be structured. Summer is a time for students to try new opportunities or fine tune other activities. It is a time when we see a lot of emotional growth because students are not utilizing their day to learn the academic subjects that drive their calendar during the year. If you find yourself at home wondering how to fill the daytime hours, here are a few suggestions:
- Cook a meal together. There are ample places to find direction for this. No one needs to be Julia Child, but visit the library for cookbooks for kids, watch YouTube clips, or find a cooking website dedicated to young people. Let your child choose a recipe and together everyone can prepare dinner. This is a valuable skill that will reap dividends when they reach college. It teaches them time management, budgeting, dietary requirements, and allows your child to learn about various cultures. Here is one good example of a site that can be used by families: Cooking with Kids, which offers an abundance of suggestions for meal planning and cooking.
- Emphasize writing by putting together a diary, flipbook or some other notebook that will draw your child in. Just because school is not in session, does not mean they can’t continue to develop their writing skills outside of the classroom in a less formal manner. Choose a subject to focus on. For instance, your child might like writing about butterflies, and they can spend time over the summer researching the topic, making notes about the butterflies they see in the garden, and drawing pictures to correspond with their thoughts.
- Ask your child to assist in the planning of a family trip. This is another occasion that your child can invest in a planned family activity. They can be assigned some specific activities with the expectation they can bring them to the dinner table and talk about what they found that will enhance everyone’s trip pleasure. This teaches your child organizational, sequencing and decision making skills, as well as increasing their independence.
- Utilize the materials and suggestions sent home by your child’s classroom teacher. All teachers put together a packet of information that includes reading books, answering questions, some creative writing samples, mental math activities, and/or a two-month calendar filled with fun quick activities or questions to answer in a minute. This work is designed to help students maintain the brain muscles used in school on a schedule that meets their needs.
It might seem that the end of school is nearly two months away, but it will be here before we all know it. Planning now how to fill your child’s day will provide you with more opportunities, as programs fill up quickly. It will also contribute to a smooth transition from the academic year to those wonderful summer days. If your family has questions about activity choices for your child, ask your teachers during parent conferences or reach out to them separately. They will be happy to assist you where they can.
I still remember the excitement I felt when I left school in June knowing the days would include camp, outdoor barbecues, a trip to Cape Cod with my family, extra ballet lessons, and a plethora of craft classes that allowed me to hone my creative skills. Fall was equally exciting because I looked forward to seeing my friends, slipping back into routines, and participating in the school year activities. I was more scheduled, generally more organized, and, hopefully, more rested. Even though my summer breaks were decades ago, I am sure I have in common the glee of the final exit in June and the joy of the re-entry in September. I wish you and your family the same warm emotions in the months to come!
Until next time…
B.J. Cataldo, Ed.D.