Did they seriously just hand my kids a packet of work to do over their already-activity-packed-ten-short-weeks of summer? Just the weight of the thing is overwhelming! Like, is this summer school for moms? I have been a tutor and know lots of Au Pairs who love to help their Host Kids with school-work, but I am busy! With kids in elementary, middle and high schools and enough summer plans to clog my calendar till Halloween, when am I supposed to fit in reading, writing and ‘rithmetic? Some days, I wish my life were a cartoon and my husband and I could bump fists, say, “Wonder-parents: Activate!” and we could superhero-solve these moments on a sheet of ice like Zan or morph into a lion (who never has to supervise homework) like his Wonder Twin sister, Jayna. Now that I’ve dated myself, my advice:

Little Bites

Like peas, or other green stuff your kids don’t like to eat, summer homework must be taken in small bites. Like huge bites of stuff we hate get spit (politely) into a napkin, this does not work for paper. Burying it or pretending it does not exist (my eleven-year old) does not work, either. Complete small tasks in short sessions and, just like an elephant,  it goes down one bite at a time. If you like that, I have a recipe for Elephant Stew that can feed thousands! Seriously, though, summer work shouldn’t be completed in two weeks. Kids need a little bit at a time just to prevent the old summer slide, where they can’t remember anything academic until weeks into the new grade.

Schedule It In

When else can you get it done if it doesn’t appear on some schedule? Yes, rainy days are a good plan, but you know you’ll find other things to do on rainy days. If your kids have fun stuff planned on a regular basis this summer, like summer camps, swim lesson, or play practice, squeeze in a 10-15 minute session of school work right before or after this regular event? It will depend on your schedule and your kid whether to plan it before or after, but piggy-backing the homework makes it less of a struggle when it becomes a regular part of the summer routine. When we get home from swim lessons and eat lunch, the kids need a quiet time and so do I. This is a perfect time for them to read or work quietly in their rooms while I get household stuff or work done.

Positive Reinforcement

Progress deserves reward. Decide ahead of time a few milestones of work, say when a book is completed or 30% of the work is done, to reward your child for his or her hard work. Plan a special trip to the ice cream shop or take in that new movie your kid has been begging to see. Encourage your child to do his or her best or ask for help. Often, elementary-level activities may lend themselves to being a family learning experience. When my kids have to read for school, I like to read the same book with them, just so we can talk about it, and so I know if they’re really reading and can be sure their report is accurate or well-done. No, I don’t read every book my kids read, but reading together can be a bonding experience, really.

Prioritize

Your kids are watching you like a hawk. You already know you are their first teacher and role model for life, so take your job seriously! If you let your kids know school and summer reading or summer assignments are not important to you, they will follow suit. If you impress upon them the importance of learning throughout life, even doing things you don’t want to do, they will probably not come along skipping and singing, but they will come along nonetheless. Find a book or magazine to read when they are reading. Make their assignment or tasks more fun, if possible, by doing it as a family, together, or make a game of it.

Save a Little Summer

Make sure it gets done, but don’t forget summer is supposed to be a break. Summer is a time of renewal, resting and enjoying family, friends and good weather. Don’t ruin your kids’ summer by screaming about homework every day. Bringing the schoolwork to the beach for the kids to work on between sand castles is probably a bad idea. Aim for completing that summer packet by the end of July; that gives you about six weeks if your kids are finishing this week. That leaves August for sun and fun, relaxation and refreshment.  Many public libraries have summer programs to help kids complete summer reading requirements in a fun (and air-conditioned) environment.

What if you follow my advice and your kid won’t do the work or it just doesn’t get done? Probably nothing. In my kids’ schools, the children who participate in summer programs at the library (and complete their requirements) and children who complete & return summer work packets are given a special treat the first week of school. Nothing bad happens to the kids who don’t complete it. What is the reward, you ask? More than just a sweet treat, like a special frozen dessert from the cafeteria, children are rewarded by being recognized, gaining the self-satisfaction for a job completed, as well as mom or dad’s approval. Sounds like win-win-win to me! Happy summer, be safe and have fun!

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