What did you do as a junior high and high school student during your summers? Camp? Summer job? Nothing? I was a life guard, and a camp counselor at the park near home in L.A.. It was the most exhausting, but fun job I’ve ever had. These days the summer options for junior high school and high school students are dizzying. Spring seems to create a frenzy around summer plans, or lack thereof and I wanted to address some of the things I’m seeing and hearing. The one thing I’d like to stress regardless of age (this goes for parents too!) is summer is a time to have fun. Kids are under so much pressure during the school year, summer is a time to unwind, find yourself bored, and relax. There’s time for productivity, but I want to stress the importance of downtime over the summer. I do like the idea of creating a summer reading list…and, one of the families I talked to said they have a summer bucket list, which I loved. I found this one on pinterest for inspiration:
I’ll start with middle school. I would love for every middle schooler to experience sleepaway camp. Challenge Success wrote a great piece on sleepaway camps here. The benefits are endless: independence, an opportunity to get away from your “tribe” at home and meet new people; screen free time, exploring a new area, the list goes on and on. If this isn’t the right option for your child, or it’s too late (sadly many of the wonderful summer camps in California fill up in the fall!), there are plenty of other opportunities for kids locally. Let your kid choose their activities. I know parents’ work schedules often dictate summer schedules, but give your kids some control over how they want to spend their time. Also, regardless of what you plan, please include at least a few digital detoxes, a day, a week, or a specific day each week. Try it, I promise it’s not as hard as you may think and you’ll be surprised at your kid’s response to it.
For high schoolers, this is really a great time to explore and focus on their independence. Spolier alert: there isn’t a magic bullet of the best summer opportunity that is going to get you in to college. Like everything else, I like to ask students what their goals are. What are they hoping to get out of their summer, or a particular experience? Sometimes students are eager to take a class or get ahead in school, but if this isn’t your kids jam, don’t force it. Summer is a time to balance fun with meaningful experiences. Summers during high school are cumulative; not one single experience is going to make a difference when you are applying to college. I like to tell my students once they’ve set their goals to find experiences that will challenge themselves; go somewhere you’ve never been, get a job somewhere that may be out of your comfort zone, work with an organization that you’re unfamiliar with. Summer experiences are a great time to gain the skills that will help you be an independent young adult in college. Gaining life skills are not a waste of a summer! Does your son or daughter love woodworking? Find a job where you can put those skills to work and learn more about it. You don’t need to travel 1/2 way around the world or attend a program at a competitive college to have a meaningful summer. Summer jobs can end up making great college essay subjects; students can write about the skills they gain, people they meet, what the job taught them…don’t discount those jobs in your local town!
What are your plans for the summer?