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A guest post by Victus Instructor Brooke Ballenger

“How was your summer?” I always ask my students on the first day back to school.

“Good!” many of them answer, but it’s the ones that answer, “Boring,” that surprise me every time.

How could summer possibly be boring?

Some students simply need a nudge in the right direction. Some may not have the resources to attend a summer camp or take a trip, but there are many things they can do to have a productive, fulfilling summer. As a teacher, I find it rewarding to help them connect with learning opportunities that are available. I have found that summer can drift away like sand through our fingers if we do not set goals for what we want to learn.

If you have not already done so, encourage your children to sit down and write down one or two attainable goals. Help them to make them SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Make sure they don’t sound like this: “To have a fun summer,” but rather that they sound more like this: “To learn how to do the backstroke the full length of the pool by July 15.” When helping them write their goals, have them write their ideas about what they want to accomplish, and then help them ask the following questions:

  1. Is my goal specific, and not too general?
  2. Can I measure my goal over time to see if I have accomplished it? How will I measure my goal?
  3. Is this a goal that I can attain?
  4. Is my goal realistic and not too ambitious for the time frame?
  5. Have I set a specific time limit on my goal?

The beginning of the summer also is an excellent time to evaluate the school year that has just ended. While your children are writing their summer goals, encourage them to write down what went well this past semester and how they can improve their academic skills in the coming year. Teaching your children to evaluate what has passed and set goals for what is to come will give them life skills that will aid success not only in academics, but also in their career and family lives.

If your children are not sure what they want to accomplish before school starts again, encourage them to brainstorm ideas. They may want to research local museums they’ve never visited before, or find out what activities are happening at local churches, community centers, or even the library. One of my favorite places to visit growing up was the library down the street from my great aunt’s house. We loved walking there with her, stopping to talk with neighbors along the way, and enjoying being in one another’s company. Searching the endless shelves of books was a magical experience.
The resources in your local library are more extensive than most people realize. I was surprised recently to learn that some libraries have programs that teach skills such as writing an app or learning graphic design. Take a trip to the library and ask your librarian about special programs available in your community.

Once you have helped your children write their SMART goals, help them write an action plan that states how they will attain them. Their action plan also should be SMART, and you can use the same questions discussed earlier to help them write realistic action plans. Talk through your goals as a family to make sure your children’s goals are realistic within the context of family commitments. Discuss how you can help each other reach your summer goals. This way, when the summer finally fades into fall, your children will feel a sense of accomplishment that they learned something new or gained a new skill. Life is rarely boring when we are lifelong learners.