As a teen, I had a love/hate relationship with summer. It was nice to have a break from school, though it was the main national and international gymnastics competition season, which meant longer practices of greater intensity. So the chance to rest up? No way. The school year’s go, go, go!! months led to the gymnastics go, go, go!! season — and then it’d be back to the school year. Rest never seemed to be on the calendar.
After college, the summer season disappeared as I spent a decade careening between go, go, go!! (because that was what I knew) and do nothing (because I was exhausted). Neither worked out well for actually getting things done or resting. Then I entered parenthood — and summer came back with a wave. “Remember me?”
I longed to have a summer I felt good about, a vacation that felt useful in terms of learning and exploring as well as relaxing. However, I felt lost the first five plus summers, continuing to bounce between “let’s do this school work and this project and go here and there because I need to make sure you’re well rounded and keep up and everyone else seems to be doing cool stuff!!” and then “sure, put on another movie, whatever, I’m tired.” Then I’d find myself mid-July, kids rebelling against my efforts and me counting the weeks until school was back in session. Still not the kind of summer I was hoping for.
Over the past few years, I’ve (slowly!) grasped that creating a satisfying summer isn’t all or nothing. Rather, it’s a baby step process that begins in the months before summer, with family conversations and trial and error and then building in time for what’s important (and tweaking along the way). Then, summer break offers the opportunity to build on these efforts and explore (and rest) a little bit more.
Today, I’m excited to share a lovely conversation that I recently had with educator Joyce Wong on creating a constructive summer (and thanks to Joyce for sharing the term “constructive summer” — when I heard it, I was like “that’s exactly what I’ve been aiming for!”). In our conversation, we cover topics including:
-How to support our kids in exploring their interests and start planning for the future without getting stuck in “must do this to check the box” mentality.
-Family meetings: How they can help our kids feel heard and valued, lessen academic stress, and get buy-in about plans and to-do lists.
-How to build a summer that uses laziness constructively (I love this one!).
-Summer programs: The powerful summer secret that can help our teens explore interests, test their wings (in a safe environment!), gain valuable experience that could go on a resume, and more thoroughly prepare for the college admissions process (and future job applications!).
Joyce is the Director and Owner of Mill Creek Academy, a full service educational program offering academic enrichment courses in all subjects, test preparation, and college admissions consulting; co-founder of College Consulting Experts, an organization supporting students through the college admissions process; co-author of The Ultimate Summer Program Guide: For High School Students, a strategic guide to help educate teens and their parents on summer programs that they may find interesting and rewarding (as well as useful on a college application!), as they work to build a constructive summer; and fellow parent.
Joyce and I would love to hear from you — any questions that have been sparked or ideas for this summer? Leave us a comment below!
Here’s to this coming summer. I’m looking forward to it — I hope you are, too. 🙂