When I was in middle school, I was assigned a summer reading list, from which I had to choose a few books, and a summer math packet. First of all, I did not like reading (not until Harry Potter). Secondly, I hated math. School was not easy for me. My ADHD had a way of manifesting itself in ways that didn’t help my academic success or my social life. I was often distracted during instruction time, missing directions and important content. Then I would rush to get my work done, leaving obvious mistakes. I also was distracted during social situations and often missed important social cues. Not to mention, I went to a strict Catholic school where perfect behavior was the expectation (I usually failed). You can imagine by the time summer rolled around, I was thoroughly exhausted. I wanted nothing more than to get outside and run around in the sun and play in the waves. I wanted to give my brain a rest. I did not want to take my medication and I certainly did not want to do school work. NO THANK YOU! But I was probably the child who needed it most. I specifically remember the summer before 5th grade when we had a math packet that was perfectly planned so that if we did a little each day, we would be done before the start of the school year. My parents left that task up to me and so I pretended to do it and then ultimately had to face completing the entire thing in the last week of summer. It was a very tear-filled week. I also would pretend to read, only for my parents to find I couldn’t for the life of me tell them what I’d supposedly read about (I’m a terrible liar). For some children, like myself, being organized and responsible doesn’t come easy. But as a parent, you can help make the challenge much easier!
I understand summer work can be hard. That is why I offer fun mental math fluency lessons and classes as well as reading and writing support. However, between summer camp and work schedules and finding time to relax with family, this may not be an option for everyone. If tutoring is not an option for you, there are a few simple strategies to help your kiddo minimize the frustration of summer work.
Establish a routine.
Avoidance is the biggest issue with summer work. Kids just want to enjoy summer and have a break from school. Pretty soon that first week of summer turns into a month and nothing has been done to get started on the work. At that point, since your child is not used to doing school work, the idea of getting back into it is even more daunting. They may have already regressed and forgotten some of the content in the math packet. Not only that, but there is less time to do it. The best thing you can do is help your child establish a consistent routine. It’s perfectly fine to take a couple days of the week off from work, but doing the work consistently and incrementally is much better than waiting until the last minute. Figure out how much there is to do and divide it up by the number of days your child has to work on it. I advise keeping weekends work-free. You may also have a family vacation planned. Factor that in as “no work” time. And lastly, don’t make excuses! If you’ve got a fun day trip to the city planned and you’re starting first thing in the morning, know that, and make sure you plan time for work or pack it in the car.
Timing is everything!
Most kids do their best work first thing in the morning when they are fresh. Make your child’s summer work part of the morning routine. It’s tempting to just let it all go in the summer, but inevitably, the work just piles up. Unfortunately, if there is work assigned by your child’s teacher, it will have to be done at some point and it’s better to form a habit than to do it haphazardly. If you do it in the morning, then your child has the rest of the day to be free without the work looming ahead. Not to mention, after a full day of sun and play, your child will not be at their sharpest and will likely be too tired. Choosing a time and space when your child is least likely to argue about work or when there will be few interruptions is best. Set up a weekday routine. It might be: wake up, tidy your work space, eat breakfast, do 10 minutes of math, take a 2 minute break, do 10 minutes of reading.
Support your child.
If your child feels like the only one who has to do work, they may end up feeling resentful and be more likely to create distractions and excuses. While your child works, choose to do an activity that helps you take care of your responsibilities while also remaining available if your child needs help. Working on a project, fixing something, folding laundry, doing food prep, weeding the garden, and cleaning are all great tasks to choose from. An alternative is doing your own reading. You are modeling the activity you want your child to do and they can see that it is important. Showing your child that everyone has responsibilities makes them feel like they’re not on their own.
For some children with learning disabilities, summer work is especially challenging. The content may be at grade level, but above your child’s ability. If your child needs remedial support, it is best to use summer time getting help. Struggling through a math packet or book that is beyond your child’s ability is stressful and not a good use of time that could be well-spent building foundation skills. If your child has a learning disability, contact me to set up a consultation.