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3 Summer School-Free Ways Teens Can Learn in Summer

by Jane Wangersky | July 1st, 2016 | School, Teens

working-at-a-store-or-restaurantThe Summer Slide, which sounds like it should be something fun, is actually a worrying phenomenon — as the U.S. Department of Education says, “Without learning opportunities, students – especially those from low-income families – fall behind in math and reading skills over the summer months.” Of course, that’s especially bad for teens who have their sights on college.

Summer school might seem to be the obvious solution, but teens are unlikely to agree unless they’ve actually failed a course or want to raise their marks. Fortunately, it’s not necessary to keep their learning engaged. The Department of Education and other authorities have plenty of ideas on this, and most of them don’t require a classroom.

Working can be a chance to learn new skills, a work ethic, the fact that most new jobs seem overwhelming at first but you usually get the hang of them in a few days, labor law, and practical math. (“That’s all I made for all that work?”) It can also get teens out of the rut of constantly being with peers — a teen who’s been working with adults all day often comes home acting more mature and civil. Working with children teaches its own set of coping skills, as well as what it feels like to be a mentor.

Life skills aren’t taught in high school, as Rajat Bhageria complains in his book What High School Didn’t Teach Me: A Recent Graduate’s Perspective on How High School is Killing Creativity. His examples include banking, resumé writing, and paying taxes, all of which can be tied in with a teen’s summer job. Other areas to cover are voting, making major purchases, and applying for loans. If these crop up in the course of your family’s summer, your teen can learn from them. If not, maybe you can both make time to talk about them.

College prep can be both academic and otherwise. The Department of Education recommends “setting aside at least one day a week to keep math and science skills fresh” and reminds us that libraries are good places for this. A teen has to be fairly motivated and independent to make this work, of course. Non-academic preparation can include researching financial aid and how to apply for it (something else students aren’t typically taught in high school) and making choices about a major and a career. But if this feels like too much pressure for your teen, leave it for next summer.

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