By: Diana Bello Aristizábal
DORAL, FL – Summer is here and with it the possibility to rest and recharge for next school year. However, during this season many parents wonder if it is convenient to encourage their children to study or disconnect from the academic world.
In this regard, the keyword is a balance. We talked with three experts and they all agreed that it is not about just studying during recess or, on the contrary, dedicating to unlimited fun. The middle ground is to distribute time between rest and learning.
For Erika Monroy, clinical and educational psychologist and family coach with international certification, during the summer kids should work on skills related to emotional intelligence and review what they learned in class.
However, the way to do so is not exclusively through formal study, but through daily-life experiences. “They don’t learn only by repeating concepts. A visit to the aquarium, for example, can teach children a lot,” says Monroy.
Renefred Maingrette, director and owner of Omega Learning Center, has a similar opinion. For her, summer is a time to do outdoor activities. “When children are at school, they spend most of the day indoors. But now they can play outside and learn a new sport,” says Maingrette.
This does not mean that homework and studying should be left aside. “You have to find a balance between doing physical activity, taking a break and continuing to work on reading and math skills,” she points out.
For Linette Prats, educational consultant and owner of Club Z, homework should not be left for the last weeks of summer. “If a child has to read a book, he or she must distribute the total number of pages equally throughout the 10 weeks vacation,” she explains.
Creating routines and learning to be a good reader
Taking into consideration that it is essential to find a balance between rest, learning and having fun, how can parents work around this? Erika Monroy recommends a formula that can serve as a starting point.
This consists of taking the age of the child and multiplying it by two to know how much daily time should be devoted to academic work. Under this perspective, a 10-year-old student, for example, would have to study 20 minutes a day with full concentration but with rest intervals.
It should be noted that although this formula can be useful for some families, there are no standard times appropriate for all children since each family must take into account its dynamics, the load of homework received and personal skills.
For example, some kids can spend 20 minutes a day completing homework, while others, even having the same age, are capable of studying for a consecutive hour without losing focus.
“Children usually study between 15 and 60 minutes every day from Monday to Friday. What is really important about this is that within the selected time there should be rest intervals to drink water or to do breathing exercises so that the brain can take a break too,” says Monroy.
With children who are in pre-school, before establishing a time of study it is necessary to introduce routines in order to create habits that can help with the learning process at that moment and for the rest of the school life.
This means assigning a specific time of the day every day to do summer homework, but also to reinforce age-specific concepts such as, for example, letter recognition and numbers.
“Time as a concept is hard to understand for pre-schoolers. I recommend parents to buy a hands clock and create a board that has drawings of each daily activity (bathing, doing homework, etc) so that children can link the clock number (time of the day) with each drawing,” explains Monroy.
Performing the same activity every day at the same time, especially homework, is the most important thing when it comes to establishing routines. “This is difficult to accomplish on vacation because there is so much going on, but we must create a schedule so that children know what they will do at any given time,” says Maingrette.
Once a schedule is set, another important aspect to consider, that applies to all ages, is knowing how to motivate children so that studying time does not feel like a duty. “Parents and caregivers have to teach kids to be open to knowledge and to enjoy it,” says Prats.
Also, they should explain that the day has 24 hours, of which most are for resting and having fun during the summer. According to Linette, doing 30 to 40 minutes of daily academic work is not a heavy burden considering that most children spend between 7 and 8 hours in their summer camps.
For Renefred Maingrette, one way to keep motivation high is to tell children that they will work on their homework package for an hour every day from Monday to Friday, but that weekends will be for family fun.
On the other hand, it is recommended to promote love for reading, which is the basis of academic work during the holidays. For this, Linette advices adults to inquire on the children’s interests to encourage them to read about that.
“For example, if a child likes sports and within this world admires Michael Phelps, parents can buy books about this athlete and read as a family,” adds Prats.
Meanwhile, Renefred Maingrette recommends going to local libraries and participating in reading programs in which children earn points for each book they read. “After they finish a book, we can ask them what it was about and who the main characters were,” she says.
In this regard, Linette Prats suggests teaching children to take notes when they are reading a book, to underline some paragraphs and to have a dictionary on hand to look for words that they do not understand.
“It is not just about reading to complete mandatory homework, but about analyzing what is read and being able to answer questions about it. Doing this exercise can help them in the first week of school because many schools receive their students with an exam on the book assigned on vacation,” says Prats.
Timely and quality rest
Within the establishment of routines and schedules, parents must take into account personal circumstances to choose correctly the moments of rest and study. This applies especially for those children who are in summer camp or traveling.
“If a child spends most of the day in a camp, we can not expect him or her to start doing homework right after coming back from it. There should be a time, between half an hour and an hour, to lie down, eat and change clothes,” says Monroy.
If children are too tired back at home, adults can reduce the study time from what was initially agreed. “We can ask them to do half an hour of study instead of one or to read one or two pages of the summer book,” recommends Maingrette.
Time for study should also be modified if kids have a lot of activities during the day or if they are practicing a sport. “If you know that your child has swimming lessons on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, then set that Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are for homework and instead of doing 40 minutes per session, ask them to do one hour,” says Prats.
For Erika Monroy, with middle and high school students there may be more freedom because at that time it is about encouraging them to take courses on topics that will help them for the future such as career plan, mindfulness or how to deal with bullying.
For those who travel, Linette Prats suggests starting a work plan after the trip. “If we are going to be out one or two weeks, we can disconnect them from the study during that time and then resume academic activities after coming back,” says Prats.
But if the trip is longer, homework can be done in between plans, such as reading for a few minutes each day when arriving at the hotel, on the way to somewhere or at the beginning of each day.
In conclusion, it is about integrating all areas of life (rest, study, spiritual and family life) into a daily routine, established according to the needs and expectations of each family, in which rest is the priority unless there are academic gaps or the school recommends a tutor. In that case, study times should be extended with the support of a professional.
The advantages of finding a balance between study and rest are that children start their school year happier, have better academic performance and, in general, are more prepared to take on academic challenges.