Non-Academic Skill Sets and Why They Are Essential

Many skills sets, particularly in the social-emotional category, are not explicit aspects of our academic curricula. As educators, our ultimate goal involves preparing young people for all facets of the real world. Yes, we primarily stick to our content areas; however, certain skill sets are not only cross-curricular, they are also essential to success in adulthood. Whether teaching in the primary, middle, or secondary school setting, we can each play a crucial role when it comes to these non-academic features of college and career readiness.

Primary Grades:

The focus for learning in the primary grades has shifted in the last decade or so. It used to be that those early years in the classroom circled around creativity, imaginative play, relationship building, and simply grasping what it means to learn. While these qualities are still present, academic skills have clearly become more prominent. Yet learning at the elementary level still teaches more than academic rigor and content-specific information.

Early elementary grades teach children how to share and get along with others. These basic social skills and manners are an essential part of development and socialization. For adults, social acuity, or the ability read others’ behavior and act accordingly, is a life skill that many believe to be directly linked to success in adulthood. The ability to understand and relate to others involves critical thinking—and just not in the conscious way that we usually see it in the academic realm. In the same way that students will discuss how a character feels and why they know, children learn to read others’ behavior, body language, facial expressions, and tone. While they may not know that they are performing this sort of analysis, it is arguably one of the more important life skills to acquire to become a successful adult.   

Can this vital life skill be evaluated on a standard grading scale? No, but a child that struggles to relate to and get along with others is very apparent and at a distinct disadvantage in school.

Middle Grades:

The sharing, caring, getting along mentality of the primary grades continues to build and develop during middle school years. In addition to these essential social skills, middle schoolers also begin to develop autonomy, self-advocacy, and accountability. Parents still maintain a significant role in a child’s education; however, more of the responsibility should be shouldered by the student himself. A new level of self-reliance is essential when navigating these transformative years in middle school.

In elementary school, parents typically act as the liaison between child and teacher. At a certain point, it is time to take off the training wheels, so to speak. The age or grade level can vary from child to child, but somewhere around 7th grade, a student should begin to act on her own behalf at school. She forgot to do her homework? She should be the one to explain it to her teacher. He left his project on the kitchen table? He will have to take responsibility and discuss late credit with his teacher. These are difficult life lessons, especially for parents. It is instinctual for parents to want the best for their children and to ease any stress or burden; however, endlessly coming to your child’s rescue does nothing to help him or her develop a sense of responsibility. A child who knows she can always rely on mom or dad to metaphorically “clean up her messes” will struggle to problem solve, take ownership of mistakes, and develop independence.

An extreme example of this lack of culpability is seen at the university level, where professors are now fielding emails and calls from parents asking for clarity on a student’s recent grade. Of course, professors are scoffing at the absurdity of parents’ requests to take another look at a paper, or to offer extra credit for the course. Creating the expectation for self-reliance early will better prepare students down the road.    

Secondary Grades:

Once students reach high school, GPA, extracurricular activities, and future plans become the focus. The life skills that best support students at this stage of their education include multi-tasking and grit. Adult life, as students will soon discover, involves a great deal of juggling. The ability to evaluate multiple tasks, prioritize, and execute them is essential for students entering the workforce. This level of executive functioning occurs throughout a child’s entire education; however, the stakes are higher in high school—no pun intended. Organization is a key when it comes to multitasking. Grit involves the ability to act with resolve and determination even after a failure or setback. The concept of mind over matter applies here—high schoolers need to be able to maintain focus on the end goal, no matter the distractions or obstacles involved.  

Summer Safety Concerns

Schools are out, which brings children and teens outside. They are eager to enjoy the beautiful weather and all that summertime fun entails. For a fun-filled summer vacation free of avoidable injuries, expert tips can help prepare children and those of us working with children during the summer months.

Tips for pedestrians: Of course the obvious guidelines apply, like look both ways before crossing, hold hands with the little ones, listen for oncoming traffic, etc. However, now that the average American 5-year-old has his own phone, adults need to be especially cognizant of the distractibility that phones bring. For day camps or sleepaway camps, children and teens will likely have a smart device with them. While walking, especially in areas with heavy traffic, children should forego the phones. Babysitters, nannies, camp counselors, etc., must encourage walkers to be vigilant while walking. Not only is traffic an issue, but distracted walkers are more likely to incur injuries from stumbles or falls. Earbuds are an added distraction, as children are not able to hear what is happening in their surroundings.  

Tips for the heat/sun: Those of us working with children in the summer must be aware of the early signs of heat exhaustion and dehydration. Camps, pool days, sports—all of these activities can pose a threat when the temperatures spike. Adults cannot assume that children show up to these outdoor activities prepared for the sun. It is imperative to have sunscreen, water, snacks, and basic first aid items on hand.

Knowing the symptoms of heat-related emergencies is also essential. Children on the verge of heat exhaustion may exhibit an unusually flushed or pale face, profuse sweating with chills or goosebumps, clammy or cool skin to the touch, nausea, fatigue, or dizziness. Remove them from the sun or outdoors as soon as possible. Provide them with water and/or fluids with electrolytes and monitor them for faintness, vomiting, or diarrhea. Drinking plenty of cold water during the day is crucial, as well. While in the pool, children may neglect their thirst or need for water. Make sure that children are drinking plenty of water, not just swimming in it!

Tips for safe play: Summertime play can also pose issues if supervision is lacking. Even the most experienced bicyclists, roller bladers, and skateboarders must be cautious. Helmets and other protective gear are a must—no matter how confident the rider may be. Adults should always supervise these activities and ensure that children are wearing visible or reflective gear in the evenings.

Jungle gym and playground enthusiasts need to be monitored carefully, as well.

Experts say that, statistically, monkey bars are the most dangerous playground equipment due to falls. The CDC reports that emergency rooms see around 20,000 traumatic brain injury-related accidents each year caused solely by playground falls. Educators, camp counselors, and sitters must be vigilant while children enjoy the playground—and any indication of a head injury should be checked out by a doctor immediately.

Because of the possibility of bug bites and stings, adults working with children must be up to date on EpiPen training. In order to properly administer Epinephrine Auto-Injector to a child experiencing anaphylaxis, adults must be trained and familiar with each child’s individual allergy threats.

Finally, while no child should play with or anywhere near fireworks, each summer brings firework-related injuries. Even popular items such as firecrackers and sparklers can result in serious burns and other injuries—it’s just not a good idea.  

The Science Behind Movement: How to Use it to Boost Learning

The classroom, as far as most people remember it, has changed dramatically over the last decade or so. Whether public or private, chalkboards are a thing of the past. Rows of desks are reconfigured; digital documents are replacing paper copies; the library is now considered a media center; and smartboards project interactive lessons, movies, visual aids, and text-to-speech readings. What is fundamentally different about how schools are transforming is the notion of “doing.” Students, educators, and parents are now doing things in a totally different way. For instance, a smartphone app now texts students and parents reminders about upcoming assignments. Teachers can upload live video screenshots of a math lesson so that an absent student can still participate from home. Students are able to create digital representations of a structure they have designed, upload it to the classroom’s website, and receive comments and suggestions from peers in real-time.

Aside from the gains that technology has brought into the classroom, we have also begun to see learning processes in a new light. Of late, movement and kinetic strategies have been the topic of conversation among educators, developmental psychologists, researchers, etc. How exactly does this philosophy work? Are there any drawbacks to movement in the classroom? What can we do to best implement these strategies at home and in school?

Without getting too far down the rabbit hole in anatomical terms and rhetoric about how the brain works, scientific research supports one major claim about movement and learning: the same part of the brain that processes movement also happens to process learning, attention, and memory—the cerebellum. So in the same way that regular physical activity strengthens the muscles, movement similarly helps construct and strengthen neural pathways.  

The push for movement comes about at an interesting time, in which students as young as kindergarten aren’t having recess in order to accommodate the academic rigor of the school day. Some strongly believe that, in the same way that imaginative play has been somewhat marginalized, physical activity has become collateral damage—pushed aside to catch U.S. students up with the rest of the established world in terms of academics. Proponents of kinetic classrooms, however, wish to marry traditional learning with physical activity. In other words, instead of seeing learning time and recess time as separate entities, instruction and learning would be embedded with movement. This could take the form of yoga balls instead of traditional classroom chairs, standing or high-top desks as opposed to typical desks, rotation or station activities to promote constant movement, and hands-on and outdoor learning to provide real-world application and tangible concepts.

At home, this learning with movement philosophy could be different things, depending on the child’s needs and capabilities. For some, simply rolling a bouncy ball across the desk while studying could boost memory and reasoning. For others, it may help to listen to assigned chapters of an audiobook while jumping on the trampoline or juggling a soccer ball. Pacing while studying is a small tweak that allows kids to focus solely on the material while moving continuously and methodically.

Some concerns about shifting the traditional classroom model involve the distractibility of others. Yes, research indicates that movement helps with focus, attention, memory, and logical reasoning. But, could the movement of one student be a distraction to another? Some say yes. In the same way that a student may unknowingly rhythmically tap their pencil or kick the chair in front of them, movement in the classroom poses that issue on a greater scale. Some educators and parents may choose to start small—like providing a stress ball for the child to squeeze while working. The distraction level is minimal, but the concept of movement still applies.

So, what’s the takeaway? Studies show that movement can and does improve learning. It’s up to you and your child to see what movement-based strategies work best–and to make sure these tactics are approved for use in the classroom or reserved for home use. Regardless, it’s time to get a move on kinetic learning!

 

Positive Behavior Begets More Positive Behavior: Advice to Use at Home

I vividly remember being told things like: “Do the right thing, even when no one is watching.” “Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.” Or, “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” These go-to one-liners stayed with me, not because the deeper meanings sank in right away, but because it took experiences with others to see the impact that following—or not following—these adages had on myself and those around me.

As a middle school teacher, I find myself uttering these notions to teens and preteens regularly, but the truth is, these important messages should be instilled long before my 7th graders have reached my classroom. So, how can we school our children on these important, non-academic lessons before they reach the classroom?

Learn to deflect the “no” response and set the tone for future conflict resolution. This new favorite word seemingly begins as soon as children begin to speak. After “mama/dada” the word “no” becomes a frequent response to any question. Once children get a bit older, the cute “no” becomes a more defiant situation. For questions or statements that do not allow for yes or no options, remove the opportunity for children to respond with “no.” Phrase things in ways that provide children with choices: Would you like salad or peas? You can either take out the trash or fold your laundry. Would you like to stay up 15 minutes later or sleep in 15 minutes longer? Complete your homework now or lose screen time before bed.

The key is to provide options that lead kids in the right direction, while giving them a sense of agency as well.  

Encourage kind gestures, especially when others make it difficult. This is a challenging concept—even for adults at times. The instinct is to respond and react based on the behavior of those around you—if someone is cold or rude, it may subtly influence us to be standoffish. However, meeting rudeness with rudeness does nothing to allay the moment. Teach your child to challenge himself to rise above any perceived negativity from others. Positivity is often contagious, but in the off chance that the other person still does not reciprocate, your child can still feel good about the genuine attempt. Remind him that kindness does not have to be received before it is given—again, this notion is a hard pill to swallow. The more we practice the art of spreading kindness, the more intuitive and automatic it becomes.

Praise honesty, even when the truth is testing. Again, the instinct is to self-preserve, which means that kids may put themselves in the position of lying to stay out of trouble. This is totally understandable, as we have all likely fibbed to save ourselves from the truth. However, we have also learned that while dishonesty may temporarily alleviate the heat from the hot seat, it also creates bigger issues down the line. Teach your child that, even when owning the truth can be uncomfortable or damaging, it will never be as harmful as the lies you tell yourself. When your child gets into trouble, but remains honest about the situation, be sure to praise the honesty piece. Yes, she made a mistake, and that will be dealt with accordingly, but the optimistic view is that she owned her actions honestly, which exhibits maturity, morality and accountability.

Outdoor Learning

The summer months are notorious for triggering brain drain. The shear gap in time, combined with the hiatus from hours of learning every day, prompts a decline in knowledge acquisition and retention. Now, it is no wonder why summer activities and routines make it difficult to convince children to complete ungraded practices. Kids would much rather ditch the homework and head outside to soak up the sunshine with their friends. So instead, what if we took the learning outside? What if activities were presented as challenges, exploration, observation and inquiry? The impact could be dramatic.

Research and data indicate that outdoor learning can have immense benefits on student achievement. Western European countries have found major benefits to embracing outdoor and out-of-the-classroom learning. Aside from increasing engagement, learning outside the box, so to speak, allows students to experience hands-on practice, first-hand knowledge, real-world application and academic exploration. The value of outdoor learning experiences has been solidly recognized, so it is essential that parents, educators, and schools incorporate some of these ideologies.

This does not mean that teachers and parents should simply plop children down outside to complete a worksheet—the learning needs to be rooted in an aspect of the environment. Much like using educational technology simply for the sake of using technology, venturing outdoors just for the sake of being outdoors is not one of the fundamental concepts of outdoor learning. Some classes like physics, biology, and physical education more readily lend themselves to outdoor learning opportunities. Say you are studying types of clouds during the weather unit in science class. Instead of viewing drawings in a textbook, students could perform outdoor observations of actual clouds. Groups could discuss temperature, wind, and humidity to assess which variety of cloud is most common for the day’s weather. Math students could make use of the nice weather to plan, organize, measure out, and purchase materials for a regulation kickball field, miniature green house, or standing long jump.

Other subjects take a little more creative planning, but they can just as easily utilize the outdoors. If English students are reading poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, they may take the excerpts outdoors to combine the lush descriptions of nature on the page to the physical world surrounding them. If a child is more resistant to spending some parts of summertime explicitly learning or reviewing academic skills, activities can be disguised even further. Ask your child if there are any national parks, landmarks, or other attractions that he would like to visit. Casually seek information about the location by asking questions that would encourage your child to perform some informal research. Once you have gathered enough information, take your child to the park, monument, zoo, or lake. Ask if anything surprised him once you have visited in person—did you recognize any of the aspects that you saw in your research?   

The Rise of the Fidget Spinner: What, Where, When, and How

Anyone outside of the education realm, or who does not regularly interact with children, might assume that a fidget spinner is some sort of spaceship contraption or an obscure item found on the shelves of a home improvement store. However, teachers, parents and, of course, children know all too well what a fidget spinner is—and we know that you will likely hear one before you will see one. Silly dramatics aside, the fidget spinner has swiftly entered classrooms and become a staple in many pencil pouches. Before we purchase, shun, recommend, or loathe these gadgets, it is important to look further at the intended purpose.

What are fidget cubes/spinners/balls/blocks for?

The colorful, handheld, spinning, clicking, toggling, shifting devices were initially intended to serve a therapeutic purpose. Research of students (and even adults) with ADHD, autism, anxiety, or PTSD has shown that small, repetitive motion can alleviate stress, anxiety, or the urge to move. The handheld devices are also thought to improve focus, memory and attentiveness. Much like the concept of the stress ball, the fidget craze began as an attempt to discreetly busy the hands while centering and focusing the mind.

Where should they be used?  

If looking solely at their cognitive or therapeutic purposes, fidget spinners and cubes can be seen in classrooms, small group academic settings, or at a study/homework work session. Since the repetitive motion and occupation of the hands are said to alleviate stress and anxiety, children could also make use of them at the doctor’s or dentist’s office, in the car while running errands, or any other instance in which a child or teen may need to center themselves to assuage any stressors.

When should they be used?

Students should feel able to use them at specific times only—not the entire school day for any purpose. If students are nervous or stressed about an upcoming presentation, quiz, or assessment, a fidget toy can act as a much-needed distraction from the nerves. A child could also benefit from a spinner or cube when she recognizes that her focus is waning. The movement and repetition provides mindless movement for the hands, while allowing the mind to focus on the reading, handout, etc. Fidgets can also be used during a sudden need to expel energy. Since it is not always plausible to stand up, do jumping jacks, or stretch out in the classroom setting, a fidget toy allows for inconspicuous movement in order to placate the restlessness.

How should they NOT be used?

And herein lies the issue with the rise of the fidget spinner—too much of a good thing can become a whirring, buzzing, spinning nightmare. Since the therapeutic toy crossed the boundary into “fad” territory, it has become problematic in many classrooms and academic environments. When crazed middle schoolers created such a rapid demand for spinners and cubes, the market responded with what I’d call “spinners on steroids.” What began as a subtle, silent, handheld trinket now has flashing lights, sound effects, and stainless steel mechanisms for extra heft. Outside of the classroom, there is no problem with these fancy fidgets; however, the attention tool has now become a big distraction for many students. Whether one is fidgeting or not, the constant murmur and spinning can be heard and seen in the periphery. YouTube has exploded with fidget spinner “tricks” and competitions. Schools are having to either ban or temporarily confiscate the more boisterous students’ spinners, only to be met with the issue of deciding which students need them versus which students want them. The pendulum has now swung in the opposite direction for some preteens—now diminishing their focus and motivation, which conflicts with the intentions of these gadgets to begin with.

Bottom line—if it helps the child focus, relax, and release, allow it. If the spinners are beginning to spin out of control, leave them for recess or settings other than the classroom.

Summer Fun for Everyone

Summer is nearly here! Students across the region are counting down the last days of school, gleefully anticipating the freedom that summer brings. No classes, no homework, no test preparation—the long days of summer belong to them.

And sure, it’s great to kick back for a few days…maybe even a week or two. But then comes the dreaded whine, “I’m bored!”

For students used to schooltime routines and deadlines, summer can be a long time to roam free. Much as students may be loathe to admit it, most of them long for a little guided inspiration and intellectual stimulation during this down time. The key is to make it fun!

Snap the Moment: Create a picture journal of summer travels and experiences. Write a word, sentence or narrative, based on your child’s age. Strengthens writing and thought sequencing.

Tackle DIY Projects: Build a scooter, sprinkler or obstacle course. Have your child purchase items from the store and discuss budgeting and money. Integrates math, planning, measuring.

Prepare a Family Dinner: Cook with your kids. Plan a menu, shop for ingredients, follow recipe. Incorporates reading, measurement and nutrition.

Plant a Garden: Choose flowers or fruits and vegetables. Ask your child to draw the plant and label its parts. Chart the plant’s growth, pollination and maturation.

Plan a Party or Trip: Have your child plan a back-to-school party or fun event with a budget and guidelines. Reinforces lessons on sequencing, breaking down larger tasks, math, money and responsibility.

Create a Blog: Have your child start a blog or send emails to family members updating them on their summer adventures. Strengthens writing skills, promotes creative self-expression and introduces technology usage.

Start a Family Book Club: Read classics together. Have kids visualize what was read and ask comprehension questions. Include fun activities based on the book’s theme: dress like the characters, eat a meal based on the book, watch the movie afterwards and discuss the differences.

Get Physical: Keep it moving; keep it fun. Decorate a beach ball with math facts or next year’s word wall words, and then throw the ball back and forth and answer the top question. Have a tug-of-war with spelling or historical facts. Take a hike and have kids read the map and plan the route.

Get Outdoors: Explore festivals. Learn together in a non-traditional way. No need to travel to an exotic land, as D.C. offers wonderful learning opportunities for diverse interests.

Volunteer: Explore a field of interest and gain valuable experience. Develop professional and personal skills and make career connections.

Tips for Summer School Teachers

The end of the school year always marked a momentous, eagerly awaited occasion for me and my friends as students. Even before the end was in clear sight, anticipation would begin to tempt our focus. There is a reason the final month of school tends to be chaotic. Even as an educator, I find myself resorting back to my old ways, daydreaming of the impending relaxation that summertime brings. However, summertime does not mark the endpoint of the school year for all educators. With summer comes summer school, tutoring opportunities, and options for professional development.

It can take some acclimation, but if summer teaching and learning is on the schedule, educators can make the transition easier on themselves by following a few solid guidelines:

Make grading easy on yourself. Yes, there will be written assignments that you will have to assess. However, do your best to create learning opportunities that allow you to assess student learning while you are together in the classroom. Inquiry-based discussions, group presentations, and participation are great elements to use as assessment indicators. Also, keep homework to a minimum or use part of the class sessions to check and review homework assignments.

Keep students engaged by allowing for student choice as much as possible. If weather permits and the lesson can be taken outside, allow your students the option to complete school work outside. Be sure that work is still the main focus, and that everyone is supervised. Have students complete the readings in the shade while getting some fresh air, or practice peer editing in small groups out on a picnic table.

Maintain structure and continuity while planning the weekly schedule. No matter the age, kids and teens need consistency. Yes, summer school classes tend to be a little less formal. But it is still just as important to set a motivating tone in the classroom. Keep yourself organized and well-planned in advance so that your main task becomes delivering meaningful instruction. Consider creating a course outline or syllabus with graded assignment due dates and other important information so that students know what to expect. An outline also helps to keep you on schedule throughout the weeks.

Provide incentives for a job well-done. Students participating in summer school programs are likely struggling in significant academic areas and may be reluctant to be there. Teachers can dig into their bag of tricks to help incentivize the more reluctant or checked-out learners. If you know that a student is lacking motivation, discuss or negotiate incentives for hard work in the summer course.

Be sure to schedule wisely. If you know that you have a required professional development course to complete or a certification to acquire, make that the first priority when scheduling. You want to be sure that course dates and meeting times do not overlap. You also want to be certain that courses do not fill up before you have gotten the opportunity to register.

Look for online professional development options. This way you will not only avoid the commute or traffic, but you can also complete the course work a little more flexibly, and from the comfort of your own home.

How to Insert Learning into your Summer Plans: For Parents of High Schoolers

It’s about that time: Teens have worked hard all year and are now experiencing the freedom and relaxation that summer brings. It is arguably the best time of year (especially for teachers!), but there is a downside for many. Over the long summer months, learners have a tendency to forget or lose some of the knowledge and skills that they have acquired over the previous school year. Research and statistics indicate that learning and retention declines noticeably during June, July, and August. As expected, if you are not using it, you are losing it—your knowledge, that is. The key here would then be to continue the learning outside of the classroom, which could prove to be a difficult sell for high schoolers eager to follow their own agendas for a few months.

Instead of approaching this sustained study as school work, parents should consider creatively utilizing certain activities so that the learning is there—only presented as a game, puzzle, challenge, etc. Check out some ideas below to help high schoolers retain information over the summer months.

  • Have your high schooler plan the most time and/or cost efficient driving route for the family road trip. Which route allows for fewer toll roads? Which route currently has the least amount of construction? Is there a route without many rest stops that you would like to avoid? Are there any potential attractions along the way that might interest the group? All of these real-world considerations that parents typically consider could mean a great opportunity for your teen to build or expand upon his critical thinking skills. Add in the concept of planning for gas money, and you have another added layer of math practice. Negotiate stereo control or time behind the wheel for the effort they have put into planning the most efficient trip!

  • Read a recent “book to screen” young adult novel together. Be sure to let your teen choose the novel. Discuss the characters, plot, setting, and make predictions about how you think the story will end. Once you have finished the book, rent or go see the movie. Then discuss how the two versions compare. Did the characters appear how you had pictured them? Was anything in the movie noticeably different from the storyline? What creative choices did the filmmaker(s) have to make to translate the text to the screen?

  • Encourage your teen to begin looking into postsecondary education options. Is she especially creative or interested in visual arts, culinary careers, music and performance art? Browse options for liberal arts schools or specialized programs. Is your teen a huge sports fan, athlete, scholar, or philanthropist? Prompt him to peruse options for schools with a large sports following, abundant athletic scholarships, Greek chapters or volunteer programs. Have your teen build a list of non-negotiables when it comes to colleges and universities. Once you have a good idea of what he is looking for, arrange a visit to the campus.

  • Try a competitive activity like golf/mini golf, bowling, Bocce ball where score is kept. Leave the teens in charge of tracking the score and progress of the game to help maintain a strong memory.

  • Get your teen started on a savings plan or spending budget for the summer. Use some money from a yard sale or other chores to start with a base. Set guidelines for the budget, including a minimum amount that must remain in the “account.” Help your high schooler work towards a purchase of some sort, but make sure that she finds the best price for the item by doing research.

  • When doing any summer baking or cooking for a barbeque or party, have your teen help with the measurements. Ask him to double or triple the recipe to suit the large group coming over.

  • Pick up a second (or third!) language together. From the internet to Amazon, disks, apps, and books for language learners are all over the place. Begin by labeling items around the house to familiarize your teen with certain pronunciations. Consider watching a movie with subtitles, then gradually build up from there.

 

Encouraging Effort Until the End: Tips for Parents to Help with Motivation

The final weeks of the school year are often filled with excitement, angst, and a touch of impatience for students, teachers, and parents alike. The quickly-approaching summer months spark joyous anticipation. While many students begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, May and June can prove to be difficult months in terms of maintaining focus and perseverance. It becomes a challenge to keep the attention of children and teens when, truth be told, they are likely daydreaming about their summer vacations.

Below are tips that parents can try at home to promote effort and motivation through the end of the school year.

  • Embrace the outdoors for studying, homework sessions, or leisurely reading. One of the main difficulties towards the end of the school year becomes the allure of the beautiful weather. Gone are the layers and umbrellas, which unfortunately means a bit of focus disperses as well. Allow your child the option to complete school work outside. Be sure that work is still the main focus, but a pleasant backdrop will help make the work time fly by a little quicker. This could mean working on the porch, in the yard, by the pool, etc. 
  • Maintain structure and continuity with the bedtime routine or weekly schedule. No matter the age, kids and teens need consistency. Yes, the days are longer and the weather is more enticing than ever. But this does not mean that bedtime expectations or nightly routines should be left by the wayside. Keep firm in your expectations to ensure that the approaching summer vacation does not derail the routines you have spent all school year building. 
  • Remind your child of his or her academic goals. Do not let vacation anticipation, field trips, pool parties, etc., to take center stage just yet. As they say, “It’s not over until it’s over.” Talk together about how hard he or she has worked this year, and the importance of maintaining that momentum to honor that determination. No one wants to see oneself unravel right at the tail end of the race—the same is true with the school year. 
  • Reflect on the year—both the hardships and the triumphs. This look back is another way to build motivation and drum up a last-minute second wind. Talk about personal growth and how to use everything gained from this school year as a foundation for the next. Looking back, as well as looking to the future, ensures that children keep their eye on the ball. 
  • Provide incentives for a job well-done. Again, we have all been there—the anticipatory angst when praying for summer break to commence. Knowing this, parents and teachers can dig into their bag of tricks to help incentivize the more reluctant or checked-out learners. If you know that your child is lacking motivation, discuss or negotiate incentives for hard work in the remaining weeks of the school year. This can mean an extra playdate, a new skateboard, a trip to the pool, etc. Hold your ground when discussing incentives, however. Children begin to grasp intrinsic motivation when extrinsic deals and expectations are set.