Well folks, it’s finally here: SUMMER VACATION! A nice, long break from school during the warmest months of the year (in most areas of North America)… what could be better? You can spend your time doing whatever you want and there are endless possibilities as to what can be done, but at the end of the day (or rather, at the end of the summer), you want to make sure that you feel like you spent your time well. Here are a few ideas as to what you can fill your summer hours with to make it busy and enjoyable!
Hit the Books… Again
Believe it or not, some kids spend a bit of time doing school work as well as their other activities. I know, it sounds crazy: school work during the summer just doesn’t seem natural! However, even one hour of school work each week can ensure that you’re prepared for the next school year, that you don’t struggle so much, that school concepts are easier for you to grasp the first time that they’re explained… sounds kind of appealing, doesn’t it?
There have actually been many studies that have shown how a summer vacation with absolutely no practice in school subjects is a decrement to students’ brain function and intelligence. It is difficult to remember everything that you learned in the previous school year when you do not use any of it for the entire summer.
For younger students, one of the best things to do during the summer to keep their brains active is to read. Did you know that, on average, a child loses two months worth of reading skills over the summer? By continuing to read books that are the same level of difficulty as those that were being read in school, a student can make sure that they are prepared to start reading even more difficult texts during the next school year. In addition to reading, it is important that parents speak with their children about what they are reading, which will foster their comprehension of the books. Many local libraries even set up special summer reading programs for children, offering prizes depending on how many books they read. Talk about a fun way to encourage literacy during summer vacation!
Another important subject for younger students to keep fresh during the summer months is math. It is pretty safe to say that math is one of the most widely disliked subjects among school children, but it is just as important as reading books when it comes to keeping your brain active. One simple way for parents to ensure that children keep up-to-date on their math skills is to quiz them on math facts, such as addition, subtraction, or multiplication tables. Flashcards are a great way for children to become quick with simple math facts, and when reviewing these facts with more than one child, it can even be turned into a game: Who can figure out this math question the fastest? Alternatively, there are worksheets and workbooks available at many office supply stores for children to do throughout the summer, not to mention online resources that offer free downloadable math pages for all levels. Another option that many parents choose is finding a tutor that can work on math, as well as many other subjects, in order to sustain their child’s abilities.
There are even more options available to older students. Of course, it is important that older students continue to read throughout the summer due to the fact that reading weaves its way into, well… everything: post-secondary education, preparing for job interviews, using recipes when cooking your first meal… the list goes on and on, and reading has a way of butting in and showing its face in every one of those situations. Students usually know what types of books they like to read when they get older though, and due to reading becoming more enjoyable, it happens more often.
Older students can also keep up-to-date with their schooling by making study notes on the previous year’s courses. I know, this sounds incredibly tedious… but give it a chance. Even making a few notes or reading them over once or twice (see? Reading shows its face again!) during the week before school starts is enough to refresh your memory. Putting together a document with only the most important information from the previous year is a great way to recall past course content over the summer, and it’s not too time-consuming in that you don’t have to copy out every single thing. In addition to keeping knowledge fresh over the summer, these notes will be a great resource for classes during the new school year!
Another route for older students to take is to find a tutor who specializes in the courses you want to review, and this can be a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of. A tutor is able to solidify a student’s understanding of last year’s course content and prepare the student for the following year’s courses.
You can like school or you can hate it, but in all seriousness, it does makes sense to do some schoolwork over the summer. Ensuring that you do not forget everything that you learned during the previous school year is an excellent way to mentally prepare you for the next school year.
You might also choose volunteering for local, non-profit organizations over the summer as a way to spend your time. If you are too young to get a paying job, this is a great way to introduce yourself to the importance of work and to the value of helping people in need (and a bonus: volunteering is almost never full-time, so you will still have plenty of time to hang out with your friends).
There are many organizations that happily accept student volunteers and with so many causes to choose from, you can choose the one that coincides with what you like. Lists containing volunteer opportunities can be found on bulletin boards in libraries, schools, and community centres, and many communities have groups dedicated to matching volunteers with positions as well.
You can benefit from volunteering just as much as organizations can benefit from you. Helping out causes in need offers the opportunity to make a difference in your community and around the world, depending on the organization that you work with. Additionally, volunteer experience looks great on a resume or a college application. It can be difficult to get a job with no experience at all, but the great thing about volunteer positions is that most of them do not require any previous work experience. Through volunteering, you can gain the experience that will be required in order to get a job later on in life.
Another reason why volunteering is so beneficial and important applies more to older students, particularly those students applying to colleges and universities. That’s right: post-secondary institutions ask for more information about the students other than just their marks. Both colleges and universities view you as more impressive if they can see any kind of extracurricular activity or volunteering experience on your application, since it portrays a driven individual who is ambitious and who can handle multiple things at a time. Think about it: colleges and universities have only the way you appear on paper to make a decision about you. Use your summer holiday to make sure you appear to be someone that they want attending their school!
Now Hiring: Students!
Another common way that students choose to spend their summers is to work. Since students are out of school, they have more time to dedicate to a summer job because their schedules are much more flexible. A great number of businesses, especially those in the service industry (retail clothing stores, restaurants, summer camps, etc.), see an increase in business over the summer months and thus, they require more employees. A job such as this is perfect for high school students, whether they are looking for their first job or they already have some experience under their belts.
One of the most important reasons to have a job is for the experience that it provides. There are many skills that cannot be learned in school and, instead, must be learned on the job. Skills such as customer service, office etiquette, and generally dealing with people are incredibly valuable and will always be beneficial within the wonderful world of work.
Starting to work, even if it’s just a few hours per week, will actually benefit you in the long run. Each job is an opportunity to learn something new, and most skills are transferable from job to job. Putting your best foot forward in each job that you do will ensure you are learning the most and the best that you can, and it will also help to ensure that a good reference from that employer is given when you apply for a new job.
In addition to improving your chances of getting your next job, working can also help you begin to create a professional network. A large percentage of newly hired employees find out about job openings from people that they know, and so the more people you know, the more likely you are to hear of new job opportunities. You never know when a professional connection that you have made will come in handy!
And finally, working of course, provides you with money. This money can be used for any number of things. To be sure, there is nothing wrong with spending some on entertainment, but it is always a good idea to save some for your education as well. University and college programs can be very expensive, and it is always good to be prepared to pay tuition in advance.
If you do choose to look for a job for the summer, try to start early. This will ensure that you have as wide a selection of positions to choose from as possible, and will give you some certainty as to where you stand for the summer.
Take Up A Hobby
Of course, all of these suggestions do not mean that you cannot have any fun during the summer. There are lots of ways to spend your vacation that will not only prepare you for the next year of school and beyond, but will also ensure that you have fun all summer long.
Here are just a few possibilities:
Learn a new language
You may already be taking courses in another language in school, in which case you could improve that language, or you could learn an entirely new language. There are plenty of resources online for learning languages, pretty much for any language you can think of! Learning another language is a great skill, as it will hugely increase the number of people you can speak with, and a bonus: it looks great on a college or job application!
Work on a craft or art project
Whether you generally think of yourself as an “artistic” person or not, this can be a great way to spend a summer. Your project could be anything — you may choose to start scrapbooking, to create a diorama, to learn to paint or sculpt, or to do something completely different. Whatever you choose to do, you can make entirely your own, and it feels great to produce something that is all your own! This is especially helpful if you choose to apply to a college program that requires a portfolio to be submitted with your application, as many architecture, industrial design, fine arts, and graphic design programs do.
Write a story
Everyone has a story to tell, but not everyone writes it down. Try your hand at writing a story this summer, whether it is about something that actually happened to you, or something that you just made up. Whether you are as serious as having your story published or not, getting it down on paper is an excellent exercise in writing as well as discipline; it might take you all summer, but it’s very satisfying to finish!
Play a sport
It is always good to take part in physical activity during the summer. The generally good weather allows for a wider range of activities, including swimming, running, biking, soccer, football, and lacrosse, as well as countless other fun activities. Besides… without school, there is more time to participate in a sport! Sports and physical activities are important for keeping in shape, and studies have shown that they make students better learners as well.
You might choose to participate in all of these activities, or some of them, or none of them. You may have your own hobbies already that you want to focus on over the summer. In any case, participating in a hobby or two will make sure that you get to the end of the summer feeling like you not only accomplished something, but also that you had fun.
How you choose to spend your summer is entirely up to you, but it’s better if you keep busy and have fun. Even if you spend part of your summer doing something that isn’t exactly ideal *cough* studying *cough*… you can still do your best to make the most of it and learn what you can. There’s really only one rule when it comes to how you spend your summer: make sure that you enjoy your time!
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