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Question: "Dear Tutor, How should I balance my family’s need for vacation and recuperation time with my child's need for academic support and enrichment?"

Answer: "Dear Parent, The solution is not a simple cookie-cutter one that will work for all families the same way. I believe you already identified the key concept when you asked the question. That key word is “BALANCE.” You’ll have to find it for your family as I will for mine. The bottom line is whether our choices help our children's minds stay active throughout the year. I know that this is definitely possible, for all ages.

Human beings are born to learn, so learning should be a mostly pleasurable activity; it doesn't have to be drudgery. However, adults and children alike seem to crave a break from school and work week routines. Vacations can be a healthy luxury, allowing families to enjoy adventurous or tranquil good times outside of their everyday environments. These escapes or breaks feel even better, of course, when they stand in refreshing contrast to the activities your child ordinarily pursues. If TV, computer (e-mail and IM’s) and video games are what your son uses to chill out at home, then a vacation setting that includes the same array of media access might not really refresh or energize him. If your daughter tends to do the minimum daily required reading for school and no reading for pleasure, and then puts away all her books for an entire summer; that isn't a break from work, it's backsliding.

So what do I suggest we do to achieve vacation-time balance for each learner in our households?

Suggestion #1:  Let’s ask our daughters and sons to have some academically-oriented independent work to do while they are vacationing. During a one week spring break (assuming there is no research project outline to do for school), your child should have some time every day for self-selected silent reading and/or journal writing. Doing it by the pool is fine!

Suggestion #2:  As we agitate ourselves with complex multi-variable planning models for our family’s summer camps, tutoring, sports, etc., let’s be sure to keep each child’s balance in mind. Action-oriented camps can be great, but let's keep our children’s brains exercised as well as their bodies. At any age, two and a half summer months without any organized reading, writing, math, science or arts would be far too long. The best camps are intellectually stimulating as well as socially and athletically, so the desired balance is inherent in their programs. (This is especially important for those children who sleep away for as long as two months.)

Suggestion #3: When we have children who won’t be away at camp for extended periods, we have more flexibility (and more confusing choices) in our summer planning. The simple way to look at it is this: each child deserves some safe and healthy fun and solid intellectual growth opportunities during the summer holiday. Academic enrichment and skills development workshops, tutoring sessions and arts programs should all be among the platters on the summer activities buffet table. Let’s try to alternate our children’s weeks of activities so that reading, writing and mathematics skills don’t go into a warm weather hibernation. We want our kids to be peak learners all year, in school and out.

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