One thing that clearly separates the GREAT students from GOOD students is how the GREAT students strategically use their summers. Although some students have to attend summer school and some get summer jobs, most students simply “goof off” during the summer, as if summer is some sort government entitlement or constitutional right.
In the educational system in the United States, we might have a good, solid six months of actual educational advancement for each 9-10 month academic year. This is because of summer vacations.
About the middle of April (around Tax Day), students get “Spring Fever” and begin to shut down academically. It takes about six weeks to decline into total academic brain death around Memorial Day. During this time the majority of students coast through the last six weeks, doing the minimum. Come August or September, teachers have to reteach most of the last year because the academic brains have been unplugged for the summer months and have been operating on “dim” for the month and a half before that. So with an extensive review, the school system manages to get the academic brain back to its April 15th state in about six weeks – around Columbus Day. For the six months between Tax Day and Columbus Day, the light is on, but no one is home… academically.
As I look through the Valedictorian and Salutatorian lists in the newspaper, I notice a significant number of children from what I assume to be first generation parents who have come to the US. Many of these people bring with them a value for education and a dedication to work that our population has seemed to have lost, not just in education. As I observe many families new to the US send their children to special summer programs and have their children fully engaged in advancing their education. This shows up in the classroom, on tests, and ultimately on college admissions and scholarships.
The choices, the options, and the opportunities are there for everyone. It just takes those who have not had the privilege and luxury of the opportunities we have here in the US to really appreciate and take advantage of what we have.
To be academically competitive, it takes about 4 hours a week in the summer to gain an advantage. Indeed, a student who does anything academic in the summer will certainly have an advantage over anyone who does not, the 4 hours may be an arbitrary figure. I know from my own experience, a little application in the summer went a long way for me.
I urge you as parents to not think about summer as “vacation” because it shouldn’t be. We have summers off schools because a hundred years ago we needed the kids to work the farms. We don’t have that need anymore, yet we still take three months off like it was in the Ten Commandments or in the Constitution. The rest of civilized world moved forward.
The United States is the only industrialized country that has to send its students to college to finish high school. As we look at the number of students requiring remedial courses in simple arithmetic and grammar while in college, we should wonder why students have to do this. We can blame the school system, and they have a lot of blame to bear. But we also have to blame ourselves because for 12 years we wasted one-quarter of our year goofing off during the summer.
Do something with your students this summer that will move them ahead.