Maintaining “Academic Fitness” over the Summer

Getting and staying fit doesn’t require a massive amount of work. It requires patience and dedication. Walking for 20-30 minutes a day provides huge fitness benefits. If you want to go further and develop greater athletic ability, you must train. You have to slowly increase the intensity, duration, and frequency of the activity in order to make significant gains. Whether a person is working to get fit, or maintain fitness, dedication and perseverance are essential to a healthy life style.

The analogy I am drawing is between fitness and basic academic skills. If we want our children to maintain and extend their academic fitness, we must engage them in training. The summer weeks are critical in maintaining the levels of “fitness” they have achieved this school year. So, what makes for a successful training plan.

  1. Set a goal with your child.
    • Just like us, they like to have a goal. It keeps you/them motivated. Make sure that the goal is realistic and attainable. Setting a goal that you/they will never achieve will only lead to frustration.
  2. Measure progress toward the goal.
    • ┬áIf the goal is reading independently for 30 minutes, track their progress daily. Make a graph or a chart that shows how many minutes they are reading each day.
  3. Keep it fun .
    • Read to your child. Listen to them read. Think of funny alternative endings. Read using the voices you imagine the characters to have. There are a million creative ways to do this.
  4. Mix it up .
    • Training can get boring. Doing the same thing over and over again can make the task feel like a chore. Read different types of text. Books, magazines, newspapers, web-sites, blogs, etc. What you are reading is less important than the fact that you are reading. To some extent, reading (like fitness training) is a numbers game. “Time in” is key.
  5. Be a coach.
    • Athletes need coaches. Someone to guide them in their training. They are there to help the athlete understand their strengths and weaknesses. Great coaches support the athlete in understanding their weaknesses and providing them with the tools and strategies they need to convert those deficits into strengths. Encouragement and a “never give up” attitude are key. Students undoubtedly run into difficulty as they train and develop greater academic fitness. When the going gets tough, they will need you there to support and remind them that they can do anything they put their minds to.

To support you with this work, the elementary school principals have compiled a set of tools that you can use with your child/children to maintain academic fitness. We put together a web-site that houses all of the resources. There are podcasts, book lists, and a handful of other resources that will be of great help to you over the summer. The Summer Academics site explains everything so go there and get started!