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Make wise use of 1,680 hours of summer vacation

During the months of June, July and August, the time when schools are closed, school-aged children will have many hours to play, sleep, learn and grow. This period is called summer vacation. How well will these hours be used? Most schools close for about 10 weeks. Based on 10 weeks of vacation, I calculated there will be 1,680 hours available to students.

Parents, how wisely will your children use their 1,680 hours this summer? Truthfully, management of the time should be the responsibility of the parents and not the children. Often, that is not the case. The following is an overview of how some families would utilize the 1,680 hours: 683 hours for sleeping, 105 hours for eating, 35 hours for religious activities, 200 hours for watching television, five hours for reading, 100 hours for academic work, and 280 hours for recreation and fun. If children have a summer job, they will spend about 300 hours working.

If all families were using the hours as stated above for each activity, it may not be too bad a summer vacation. However, those hours do not reflect the reality in at least 75 percent of homes during the summer vacation. Sadly, the 1,680 hours for summer activities will be divided this way: First, the sleep time will be reduced from 683 to 350 hours. Unfortunately, during summer vacation, when students should be having more rest, they are actually sleeping very little. The television viewing time increases from 200 hours to at least 650 hours. Online/telephone social media usage jumps to about 650 hours or more. In many cases, social media interaction happens simultaneously with television viewing. If students do not have a summer job, they become couch potatoes and remain in front of the television for most of their waking hours. The waking hours may continue into the early hours of the morning. The number of hours spent reading and studying during the summer decreases from 100 hours to zero hours.

Far too many students, and even some parents, feel that summer vacation is the time to do whatever they want to do and how long they want to do it. There is very little structure and accountability. Intentional planning is needed during summer vacation time just like it is during the school year. During summer vacation, children who have a summer job, or spend time learning new skills each week, will be better students during the school year. Yes, they can have more time for fun and recreation, but there should be a balanced, structured time for fun, learning, and rest.

Learning must never stop. I am in no way saying that children cannot have lots of fun during the summer break. I am saying that along with fun, there can still be learning and lots of it. I believe that when learning is fun, it is retained longer and better understood. This is what summer camps are all about. That is what sports camps are all about – developing the mind and the body. Learning new, fun skills can expand the mind and the muscles. The point is that parents are to ensure that learning never ends, and certainly not for almost the three long summer months.

For far too many children, summertime results in a brain drain that leaves children intellectually crippled. Educator Grace Chen’s article, “Prevent Brain Drain: Keep Your Kids’ Minds Sharp During Vacation”, states: “Over the course of summer vacation, students lose between two to two and a half months of math skills from the previous year’s learning. This loss of computational understanding is experienced by children regardless of their background or family income. Some students also experience significant setbacks in reading ability. Students with a low socioeconomic status can lose up to three months of reading skills in just two to three months of summer break. These deficits also appear during the shorter winter and spring vacations, although not in nearly as robust a fashion.” 

Parents are to do their best to keep their child’s brain active all year round. Children do not have to be in formal math classes to keep learning about math. This can occur through fun assignments given by the parents. It may be calculating the amount of sugar to put in a cake; it may be measuring the length of lumber to build a dog house.

How can you help your children retain during the summer vacation more of what they have learned during the school year? I recommend that your children watch no more than 200 hours of television between now and the day school reopens for the new academic year. That’s about three hours a day. Also try to have a television black-out day during each week or for a full week at least once during the summer vacation. Make sure your children sleep at least 560 hours (eight hours a day) and not 280 (four hours a day). This is not good for mental, physical and emotional health. The following are more recommendations for the summer vacation:

• Ensure your children read at least two hours for every hour they spend watching television; make sure it is an interesting book of their choosing.

• Organize local cultural tours; plan to spend about 20 to 40 hours during the summer visiting historical sites, government ministries, and art and cultural museums, for example.

• Find fun toys, games and activities for children to do in the outdoors every day.

• Make sure, as parents, you spend at least one to two hours each day playing, reading or working with your children.

• If children are old enough, ensure they have at least four hours a day of work on a job or at home.

• For one hour each week, let your children review something they have learned during the school year.

• Three weeks before school begins, ensure your children spend about 20 to 30 minutes every other day reading, planning and studying from books for the new school year.

Parents make a big mistake each year by not providing structure during the summer months. They drop all guards and standards, thinking it is best for their children. This is detrimental to children’s welfare. Although the structure can be different during the summer months, the principles are to remain – children should obtain sufficient rest, nutrition, social and intellectual stimulation. Too many children learn negative habits during the summer months that will affect their lives forever. If only they had parents who cared and were wise enough to provide the same standard and structure they did during the school year. Parents, the information in this article is relevant for elementary and secondary school students (ages five to 18). No one is exempt.

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