Research shows that poor students tend to lose academic ground during the summer months when school is not in session.
This drop is particularly problematic for teens, who are asked to quickly transition from a summer of academic inactivity to tackle SAT exams and college applications upon their return to school.
For students who attend summer school or summer bridge programs, the drop-offs are less significant and in many cases we see them improving.
But for those students who are not engaged in formal summer education programs, parents have to be more purposeful in creating opportunities for them to exercise the skills that they have developed during the course of the school year.
Below are a few ideas about how to provide your teen chances to apply the skills that they have learned to real world situations:
Trip planning – Summer is a time when families travel together. The trip may be to visit family in Jamaica, Trinidad or Puerto Rico of it may simply be a trip to Cony Island Beach. Whatever the case, your teen can be assigned a key role in planning the trip. If you are traveling locally, out of the city or out of the country, you can ask your child to do some background research on the place that you will be visiting.
They can find out population and demographic information, history and background of the region and get a weather forecast during the time of your visit. They can also create an itinerary for your stay, identifying places of interest or historic significance that you can go to. They can calculate travel time based on the mode of transportation that you are using and figure out the best routes for you to travel.
Budgeting – Nothing helps a teen understand the value of a dollar better than creating a budget. If you will be doing any family travel, involve them in the budget process. They can help calculate how much money you might need for gas and tolls. This will require them to find out how many miles per gallon your car gets, how much the average price of gas is, the distance that you will be traveling, how many stops you’re are planning to make etc.
They can give you a report on routes that may take longer but have fewer tolls or vice-versa. They can calculate how much money you will need for food and if it is an overnight trip, lodging. Once they have identified attractions that you may want to visit, they can figure out how much it will cost for the entire family for admission. You can raise the stakes in this exercise by providing them with pre-set limitations in terms of what you actually will have to spend.
This will force them to make choices and prioritize in the context of the family’s fiscal reality. You can also have them replicate this process for creating back to school budgets, senior year expense budgets, or college transition budgets.
Write Reviews – During the summer students see a lot of movies, go to more restaurants and engage in other amusement-related activities. You can have them log on to sites like Trip Advisor, Rotten Tomatoes, or if it is local, our very own Bed-Stuy Patch and have them write a review of their experience.
If they are engaged in reading books (which is a must) they can post their review of the book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble’s web sites. Not only will they learn that their opinions matter, they will also be providing an important public service while sharpening their writing skills at the same time. The real key to retaining skills or information that has been learned in school is using it.
Summer is a time that we can let our kids know that the purpose of school is not just to prepare for the tests given at the end of the year. By providing them with opportunities to put their literacy and math skills to work in real world situations, they will learn that school is related to life.