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How to get your kids to get their summer work done on time

I have a senior now, so I have now been through summer school work at every grade level. Schools vary in their summer work requirements. In Catholic school, math packets have to be completed, books read off a reading list, and summer journals and/or book reports handed in. Most public schools have no summer work until the high school level, at which point Honors and Advanced Placement courses can fill an entire summer up with work.

You may be lucky and have a child who is very organized. This child will open up the assignment when it comes in the mail, ask to go to the library, and immediately start on their work. They will have the written assignments completed at least a week in advance so it can be proofread, electronically submitted, printed, and handed in on time. I have one child like this – applaud your child and reward this behavior if you are so fortunate!

You may also have a child who puts things off until the last minute. Some children thrive on deadlines, and are quite capable of pulling it off and still getting all A’s. However, this can really drive a parent crazy, especially if the family wants to take a vacation and needs to get the work in early. I have a child like this as well, and I am convinced it is an inborn tendency to be either an organized planner or a procrastinator. (Children like this can grow up to be quite successful in business!) If you know you have the latter, you will have to plan around this tendency to keep everyone sane.

The first thing you have to do is to keep on top of the assignments. Keep a copy of the assignment, or keep it on a board in a central location so both you and the student know where it is. Sit down with your child, with the summer calendar and the assignments, and draw up a plan of steps needed to complete the assignment along with target dates. Let your child know you expect them to do the work on their own but you will be checking up on them. If they do not meet target dates they will not be permitted to go out with their friends, watch television, or do other optional activities.

Your child may need a little boost getting started. You can sit down and start reading a book with them. I have done this a few times – once with Homer’s Iliad for 9th Grade Honors English - and once they get started they realize they are quite capable of finishing the book on their own. You can also reward them for reaching target dates. Set dates for Wednesday night, Carvel’s buy-one-get-one-Sundae-free night, and take the kids out for ice cream if they all got their work done for the week.

Your child may change in their work patterns on their own – or not. One of my children was disorganized in elementary school and turned into a very organized high school student. Practicing keeping to an organized work schedule will help to prepare them for the demands of college and the work world. You will not always be there to keep them on track, but you have set them on their way. In the meantime, you can avoid the nightmares of a Labor Day weekend filled with last-minute assignments.

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