Though schools have changed in so many ways with the integration of technology and in a landscape where being knowledgeable is less important than being “knowledge-able,” one aspect that remains is that the end of the academic year requires a lot of work and energy for everyone. You have undoubtedly seen the busy schedule for our last days of school which include both academic and social activities ranging from cumulative final exams/projects to advisory, grade-level, and school-wide social events. Then, right as all the activities reach a crescendo, the start of summer vacation typically offers up a totally different pace. Once the novelty of no school wears off, students will go through an adjustment of not having days that are filled with lots of activity and different adventures. I have talked often about how “busy” our schedule is, but I also know that middle schoolers function best when their natural propensity for movement, discovery, and social interaction is fostered. Over the years I have asked our very experienced middle school faculty (many of whom have or have had middle school children) and middle school parents about what advice they would give to families as they seek to create a productive summer for their teens and tweens. I humbly offer up a top ten list below:
10. Allow for some initial "down time" – your child will need it AND it is a good way to see how s/he effectively manages his/her time without your input. This “trial period” can be used for subsequent discussions about how much direction s/he may need from parents!
9. Help him/her be healthy by establishing good eating, sleeping, and exercise routines. Remember, 8.5 – 9 hours of sleep and a 60 minute minimum of daily exercise.
8. Look for opportunities for your child to work on leadership and decision-making.
7. Chores! - Because your child has duties to fulfill here at school as part of the community,
it is always helpful if this is reinforced at home. And it teaches great lessons about doing one’s share!
6. Help your child develop (or further develop) a skill. Could be a musical instrument or cooking or any number of skills with a hope that it is ones that he/she can use for a lifetime. It might be best to balance activities that are done with others with those that are more singular pursuits.
5. Help your child meet and balance both his/her "real" and "virtual" social needs. Summers typically represent a huge change in the face-to-face contact time among peers. In an increasingly virtual world of text messages, email, Facebook, and Twitter, it is important that our children continue to develop the social skills that only come with direct interpersonal contact.
4. Make it essential for your child to partake in activities that require sustained concentration for at least 90 minutes a day. Brain-based research explains that that the mechanisms for focus and attention can absolutely be improved throughout our lifetime. NOOO, computer games do not count. Although they look like they take concentration, they are artfully designed to hold the gamer's attention and in no way compare to the kind of attention it takes to read a book, build a model, or...pay attention in class.
3. Help your child work on critical time management skills by having them plan days for themselves and family outings. Also, resist the urge to meet their own last minute planning demands - this can be a challenge in the era of the cell phone, for sure!
2. Establish and enforce limits. Research shows that there may be no more important and
HEALTHY gift that we can give our teens and tweens.
1. Finally, find time and ways to build your relationship with your child in the summer - whenever possible do things together. As many of us who have adult children at this point say, it is the memories of doing things as a family that become the most important and the most cherished.
Well, I hope you find these helpful in some way. Feel free to blog some other useful tips. It really has been an amazing year - I’ll need a couple weeks myself to put it all in perspective. What I do know is that I am so grateful to work with the families and faculty of this amazing community. I’ll continue to blog throughout the summer - stay in touch. THANK you all!