Summer Vacation - The Means or the End?



Summer Vacation - The Means or the End?

Dr. Ayala Cohen, the head of Social and Communal Education Studies, Orot Israel College

“Mom! I’m bored!”

“Take the summer workbook the teacher asked you to do, and start working on it.”

“But Mom, it’s summer vacation, and everybody goes on trips. I don’t feel like studying!”

We are all too familiar with the strain between the will to have the whole experience of vacation and replenishing our strength and the aspiration to make the most of our time. How can you bridge that gap?

A conversation with parents indicates that during the first days of the vacation, they manage to maintain a certain level of academic tension, but this tension decreases very quickly. On the last days of vacation, the parents recall the unattained learning objectives and the forsaken learning materials. The child opens the math workbook at the end of the vacation, mere days before the submission date, and remembered he filled out only the first page. As a result, the child feels very disappointed and disheartened.

This feeling of missed opportunity also accompanies many of our and our children’s additional unexecuted plans for the vacation: Family trip, different repairs at home, learning to play an instrument, all those plans that are decreased to the necessary minimum, and many tasks are postponed to the next big vacation (if at all).

So what can be done to optimally utilize the time window of Summer Vacation?

In the subsequent lines, I will suggest changing the focus in the summer vacation from obtaining learning materials or different activities to experiences, practicing setting goals, and adhering to them.

Firstly, it would be advantageous to create a vacation schedule and mark special dates for prescheduled events such as family trips, happy occasions, communal events, and more.

Afterward, we will initiate a dialogue with the child in which we will plan suitable goals for him for the upcoming period. The child should be as involved as possible in choosing said goals. There are children who are going to need us to lead and motivate them in choosing goals, there are children who know what they need in order to make a progress but will struggle to voice it and there are children who will surprise us and will offer goals that we did not know are important to them. we need the child’s cooperation on this journey, that is why it is crucial the child chooses the goals, and that is why, as parents, we should leave for the moment the goals we think the child should strive for and listen to what they have to say. Subsequently, we can offer him ideas and also guide him toward specific goals.

A goal can be educational, social, or related to a particular area of the child's interest such as music, Torah study, art, carpentry, gardening, sports, or anything else, like diet or eating healthy food. It is of the utmost importance to choose one or two clear and well-defined goals, appropriate to the child’s abilities and reasonable, taking into account the time frame that we have. Too big of a challenge might exhaust the child and we will miss out on the opportunity.

To encourage the child and motivate him/her, except for the main goal, we need to create “anchor points”, as in points on the way to reward and encouragement. The anchor points can also be time points, such as the end of each week, or achievement points, for example, at the completion of a chapter in a workbook.

I recommend thinking together with the child about different rewards that could give them the strength to achieve their task. It is always good to hear the child's ideas before we offer them their own (if it is necessary). Rewards can be joint, for example; quality time with one of the parents, maybe going together for a trip, a game, baking, and more. It could also be for the child alone, for example, computer time or creation time and more. The rewards do not need to be expensive!

Hear what is the need of the child and be creative. The main idea is this: Our objective is to have the child experience his ability to set a goal and achieve it. The emphasis should not be on the math workbook or the Unseen. It should be about the child’s sense of capability. The child proved to himself - I decided - I labored - I succeeded. While we, the parents, were merely there for encouragement and guidance, The child emerged from summer vacation with a great feeling of accomplishment and a sense of satisfaction. If he can take this sense of capability into the next school year, he will already have more tools to face the expected challenges.

Happy summer vacation!