Off-Season Training

Today’s post is a shameless attempt to convince students (and their parents) that they should continue to be engaged with academics during the summer. And, to make matters worse, I’m employing the most overused tool in academics: the sports metaphor.

Athletes are athletes all year round. The season for any given sport doesn’t last all year, but training never stops. Athletes don’t allow themselves to fall out of shape during the off season. An exercise regimen is maintained. Skills are refined. New abilities are learned. The errors of last season are corrected. Practice continues.

Students, likewise, can be students all year round. Summer offers a break from classes, homework, and tests, but that doesn’t mean learning should stop. The brain is like a bunch of muscles, and too many students allow themselves to fall cognitively out of shape during the summer. A regimen of varied brain exercise can be maintained. Old skills can be refined. New ideas can be acquired. The knowledge-gaps accumulated during the previous academic year can be filled. Executive function and willpower can continue to be developed.

Athletes know that failing to exercise and practice during the off-season will put them at a serious disadvantage in the coming year: Muscles will atrophy and skills will become rusty. Likewise, students ought to see that their academic abilities don’t just stick around indefinitely. Rather, they have a tenuous existence: If you don’t use them, you’ll lose them.

Now, you don’t need to come see us in order to stay engaged with academics. There are plenty of things you can do outside of a setting where adults are supervising and encouraging your activities. You can read and write on a regular basis without anyone checking in on you. You can find resources to help you preview next year’s content. You can even *gasp* choose to practice math on your own!

But please don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not encouraging you to spend your whole summer working at a desk. And parents – I’m not asking you to force-feed your child academics all summer long. If your child is strongly averse to schoolwork, dragging him kicking and screaming to Kumon or to our office week after week will only create more resentment. It is much more powerful if students choose to stay engaged on their own, even if that engagement is only occasional. Your role should be that of facilitator, not drill sergeant.

One critical way parents can help encourage their kids to keep learning during the summer is, of course, leading by exampleSince you’re not in school, it’s all “off-season” for you. So if you practice relentless learning all year long, this sort of behavior will seem more normal, which should lead to less resistance from your children.

Summer is also meant to be a time for rest and relaxation, a time to tap into the benefits of play, and a time to get outside and enjoy nature. Summer is a chance for kids to be kids, and also to grow up a little by practicing more independence. So I’m not advocating that the majority of the summer be devoted to academics. I’m just encouraging students to not completely check out from learning. And if you’d like Northwest Educational Services to assist you with your mission of continued learning, we’d be honored to help.

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