student's summer

How to Make a Student’s Summer into an Awesome Experience

Ah, summer! Who doesn’t love summer?! As our little baby becomes a teen, our student’s summer may not be as carefree as it used to be. They seem to get shorter and shorter as sports and school courses/activities lay claim to a teenager’s time. But summer is an important waypoint in a student’s life to also:

  • Do something they normally don’t get to do
  • Engage in an interest they never explored before
  • Spend a week on a college campus
  • Experience what work and volunteering is like
  • Downtime…plain and simple…let’s not forget that!

What do all of these have in common? Each experience leads to learning something about yourself. How valuable is that?! Experts say “knowing yourself” is a huge key to unlocking the right doors to the future. Our kids use these unique memories to build upon as they plan for their future lives.

I’m going to say something blasphemous…maybe shocking to some…missing a week of sport/band/dance practice for the VALUE of exposure to some new thing is very worth considering. Stay with me here! I’ve seen too many single-focused kids drop their sport or activity at the end of high school. They invested so much time, effort, money (and got good things from it), but they MISSED other stuff too.

Students can get in a sort of rut.

Do you find that to be true? Honestly, we all do. Our teens go to school and work hard (maybe) in their courses, then pursue their regular extra activity, and come home to bury their nose in their favorite device. It’s a lot of not lifting your head up. They are going from thing to thing until they lay down to sleep at night. And then they start ALL over in the morning.

If you are a follower of our newsletter, you’ll see we often share summer opportunities that students may like. (Don’t get our newsletter? Sign up here.) A whole page of our website is devoted to listing out as many options as we can find. All the ideas we list below can be explored with a program on our summer webpage. We aren’t making this stuff up!

Summer gives teens a chance to do something they normally don’t get to do and engage in an interest they never explored before.

What interests them? It could be learning about space travel, debating the meaning of justice, setting sail on the water, whipping up some culinary creations, building a car, or getting to ride on a horse. The possibilities are endless.

While these new activities don’t have to lead to a future career, often our summer camp shares are career-minded.

Summer is a great time to explore career interests. Whether Leah wants to be a doctor or Luke wants to be an accountant, both benefit from sitting down and talking with professionals in their fields of interest, and asking them about what their day is like, how did they get to be where they are, what challenges were unexpected. What a great chance to really engage with their career thinking!

Spending a week on a college campus gives students a chance to experience what that is like.

A strange place and strange people allow students to grow with necessary life skills for when the move to college is real. Staying on a campus gives them a glimpse of the collegiate lifestyle. They gain insight into the type of campus that suits them (large vs small, urban vs rural). They may even earn college credits to be used later.

The programs offered on campuses can be really varied. They run the gamut from music and dance to high tech engineering and cybersecurity and so much more. Students can explore not only a topic of interest, but also a college campus setting…totally a win-win.

Work and volunteering? These have real value too!

Students who have never had the chance to work (whether paid or unpaid) during high school are missing out on some real (and sometimes challenging) life lessons. What’s it like to punch a clock? To have people depending on you? Be able to serve the needs of others? To work with people of all ages? These experiences cannot be underestimated.

And finally, downtime.

In today’s world, we are all moving so fast. With news that travels instantly, even our kids are caught up in going from thing to thing to thing. Many of us fondly reminisce about our lazy summer childhoods (sleepovers and climbing trees, baseball games and the pool…good memories!). Let’s be sure to allow our students that downtime too. As adults, let’s not forget to give ourselves some slack time as well.

Downtime might involve some noses in devices, but hopefully we can pull them out of that a bit. Get them to wander on a wooded path, ride a bike with no destination, throw stones in a river, or just sit and read something that no teacher told them to read.

These downtime moments are the golden moments. They really can’t be overlooked.

Why are we spending time talking about this?

Besides the joyful aspect of great summer experiences, eventually our kids will move into the real world of careers in one form or another. Having these summer experiences are so valuable in thinking about their futures.

And it’s not just the topic they choose to experience and explore. They learn a great deal about themselves. How do they react to challenges? Was that a topic they were as interested in as they expected? Do they like working in a group or prefer being on their own?

What we’re talking about here is self assessment.

Did you notice that? Students need help figuring themselves out. They have some big decisions on their horizon—college, major, and career.

During our Guided Self Assessment sessions with students, we discuss those life experiences outside of school because they reveal a treasure trove of the details we use to help them figure out what really is their best future path. (You can read more about Guided Self Assessment here.)

While Guided Self Assessment is for students over grade 10, we don’t want to ignore those middle school grades—7, 8, & 9. Students in those grades can start to understand how self assessment and their decisions go hand in hand. How can understanding yourself be used to pick classes in high school? How can students even in these younger grades start to learn about careers that may be right for them? Our Heads Up!™ workshop is a fun, career-minded small group class for these kids. (Upcoming dates and details here.)

The Summer Experience

The odds are that your child’s profession will not involve their high school activity. Summer is the ideal time for students to explore—what they like, their interests, and the world around them. They will take their newfound knowledge and continue their journey with confidence. (And maybe they’ll be a little more relaxed from the much-needed downtime.)


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