When that last bell rings on the last day of school, teenagers rejoice, there’s plenty to do. From skateboards and bikes to those hours-long video games binges to just doing nothing with their best buds, there’s nothing like the open-endedness of summer.
But, hang on a second. While kids may feel they deserve an extended break, it’s worth considering putting that young mind to good use for the next few months. Kids lose a lot of progress after working hard all year, and it’s worthwhile to find a way to strike a balance between all leisure all day and working hard.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that achievement gaps increase as kids get older, without access to summer learning opportunities. And while parents and teachers alike know the value of keeping students engaged over the summer, it can be hard to set the wheel in motion.
Parents, don’t fret — we’ve got some ways to keep the learning rolling straight into the next school year. Here goes:
Look Toward Work or Volunteer Opportunities
While some parents may be wary of letting their teen get a job, most jobs require a level of reading comprehension, social interaction and the need to follow directions and memorize certain tasks. While a job at the local mall or grocery store might not be glamorous, students get intellectual benefits through learning the real world skills needed to navigate through college and the chance to save for college or other financial goals.
Volunteer opportunities may provide further learning, as teens can become engaged in causes they feel strongly about, as well as uncover a new passion for helping others.
Sign Up for Summer Classes
While summer school is generally associated with playing catch up from the previous school year, it can also be a valuable tool for students to get a leg up academically—focusing on a math class or language arts keeps kids sharp and ready for tests, essays and homework ahead.
If you’re looking to give your student a more exciting version of summer school, look into opportunities like Cambridge Summer School, which gives kids a chance to study abroad in a university setting — engaging kids in academic challenges, as well as providing a new environment to navigate through.
If your teen is busy with a summer job, internship or other activities, consider signing up for an online course through a university or community college. Virtual courses provide an opportunity for kids to explore interests and challenge their skills — both academically and time management-wise, and provide some flexibility.
While adding summer homework can sound like a real bore, employing some of these methods can be critical in helping your teen achieve their full potential. It’s important to keep kids reading and thinking well into the summer, when the days start to flow together. Hold teens to a schedule with a variety of activities built in — a balanced life that accounts for fun, too—is the best policy. A happy teen is more likely to thrive, after all.