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Picnics and post-its: should teenagers study over the summer holidays?

The summer holidays are a time for relaxation and fun, but they’re also a long time to go without reviewing school works, especially if they have exams at the end of next year. So, is summer study a necessity or a human rights infringement?

As parents, we tend to look back on our own summer holidays with dewy-eyed fondness as being the stuff of legend. And it is right that our children have the chance for those memories too. But while I’m a huge fan of the summer break for students, it is worth remembering that there are pros and cons to both sides of the argument.

To study or not to study.

On the one hand, our teenagers need time to relax and recharge during the summer. As we all do, from work or similar. They absolutely should spend time with their friends and family, go on holidays or head off to festivals. In short, have fun doing the things they want. This can help them to reduce stress and improve their overall well-being. Their school lives can be stressful enough, and – as we all know only too well – you’re only young once.

On the other hand, there’s a substantial weight of evidence that points to learning loss over such an extended break. It’s not just that studying over the summer is a chance for teenagers to get ahead, it could be essential to prevent forgetting what they’ve been taught. The experts agree; this is a great time to review what they learned in the previous year and be ready for the upcoming school year. This can help them to feel more confident and prepared when they return to school. So a little discomfort now will pay dividends come the exam.

So, what’s the answer?

Like so much, when it comes to parenting, it really depends on the individual teenager. Some will fight like hell at the thought of doing anything once school’s closed – even if the alternative is them doing broadly nothing! While others will be much more receptive.

Here are some factors to consider when making a decision:

  • Academic performance: If the teenager is struggling academically, then studying over the summer may be a good way to catch up. Similarly, if your teen has lofty ambitions and real drive then now is the time to forge ahead.
  • The teenager’s interests: If the teenager is interested in a particular subject, then they may want to use the summer to explore that interest further. Go to museums or a holiday to help with language learning.
  • The teenager’s overall well-being: If the teenager is feeling stressed or overwhelmed, then they may need to take some time off from school work. However, the caveat here is not to simply avoid issues, depending on what the root cause of the stress/anxiety is.

Helpful tips to encourage some study.

Ultimately, the outcome of whether or not to study over the summer going to rest with the teen. But, here are some tips for encouraging your teen to do a bit of study over the summer:

  • Set realistic goals. Don’t try to cram too much in, go for the little and often approach. And make sure that all subjects are tackled – not just the easy or preferred topics!
  • Make a plan. This will help you to stay on track and also help make it clear that study isn’t taking over life.
  • Build a routine. Not in a militaristic sense of discipline! But in the absence of motivation, having a set pattern can make all the difference in removing barriers to studying. “A phenomenal lie-in, lunch then do a couple of hours, before being comatose in front of the Xbox” can be the broad shape. The key is it’s clear and stuck to.
  • Mix up study techniques. Revision doesn’t need to be boring to be effective. Make a challenge out of online quizzes, or family flash-card Friday.
  • Take breaks. Don’t try to study for hours on end. And if the family is having a holiday, then your teen should absolutely recharge too. Otherwise, they’d be well within their rights to say it’s unfair!
  • Reward hard work. This doesn’t have to be lavish gifts or any real monetary value – bribery doesn’t work. Your teen can pick the film, cook a favourite meal, have their mates round. Whatever

The summer holidays can be a great time to kick back and relax. But they are also an important time to learn and keep up with studies. It’s important to find a balance between the two competing needs.

By considering the individual teenager’s needs and interests, and by building a carefully negotiated plan, they can do a bit of revision and still have an amazing school break.


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