Holidays or “Holidaze?”
Many of the families I serve wrack their brains, “What can I do with my kids over holidays like Veterans Day, Thanksgiving break, Winter break, President’s’ Day, Ski Week (especially if they don’t ski), Spring break and the whopper of them all, Summer Break?”
The list of weeklong or “weeks’ long” vacations seems to multiply and drag on each year, so parents more often than not scramble to find adequate child care and carve out quality family time that has some academic merit. Why are they so anxious? What’s the big deal?
Their primary concern- “I just can’t let my student fall behind”- literally keeps some parents up at night. Inevitably, K-12 students will return to school, readjusting to an early start, rigorous long days and considerable homework all over again. Yet, parents and educators legitimately don’t want students to suffer from “severe brain death” over extended vacations. So how can parents and caregivers prevent their youth from the proverbial “mental break” on break?
Step 1: Do not be alarmed. The Holidays are A-okay.
The youthful brain is undergoing explosive development, hormonal overdoses during puberty and what I often refer to as “attitude dysfunction.” It may not feel like it, but this is normal. All phases will pass, even “the terrible two’s and three’s” and teenagedom.
Step 2: Be Proactive. Get Offline and Maximize Holiday Hands On Time.
The proactive parent or caretaker has to be creative to rescue their adolescent’s education and secure active engagement other than the gaming abyss of “World of Warcraft” or “Resident Evil 7.” Supervised online activity is fine some of the time, but offline activities are fundamental for bonding, creativity and simple experience in the world.
If your student is not the prodigious journalism major or avid novel reader, try tossing some graphic novels or comic books their way. Kids of all ages love Marvel’s Avengers or DC Comics’ Batman, so why not provide them with some movie context and borrow the comic book backstories at the library? Star Wars has has graphic novels, puzzles, coloring books, and legos! Explore the story of Han Solo, piece together or color a signature scene from the Empire Strikes Back, and create your own Lego Death Star as a family.
Step 3: Fun Holiday Outdoor Family Time Is Worth the Effort.
Plan adventures with a clandestine educational twist; your kids don’t have to know they’re “learning” and enjoying at the same time. Outings to zoos and museums or scoping out local hiking trails, rock climbing gyms and botanical gardens are host to optimal experiences and reflections. As a family, you can describe the numerous features, evaluate what you liked most and reflect on new information from the name of plant species to climbing gear. Usually around the holidays, community events pop up all over town like Christmas tree lightings, Jewish Heritage Events, and Kwanza Cultural Celebrations, which also host a plethora of critical thinking and historical knowledge. Most are generally low cost, but rich in academic content. In fact, every year, San Diego’s free two day December Nights event celebrates the Christmas tradition in addition to the international fare, customs and faiths with various musical performances, food booths and carnival rides.
Step 4: Ask and You Shall Receive Holiday Higher Order Thinking.
Regardless of which activity you choose, the proactive parent constantly sparks dialogue and asks questions during and after a family escapade.
During an event, parents can initiate basic comprehension and higher order thinking skills, such as application, synthesis and evaluation of experiences and information, by asking the following questions:
- Describe what you see, smell, taste, feel, and hear?
- What’s happening or has happened so far?
- Can you describe the procedure you’re using and/or the sequence of events? (from building a Lego planet to the events unfolding in a comic)
- What is this character or individual doing and why is he or she doing it?
- What is the objective or goal of the character, your project or the celebration? Explain its importance.
- Summarize what happened.
- What was the most enjoyable aspect or part?
- What went well?
- What would you improve?
- Evaluate or rate the experience. What were the finer points and which would you change? Why?
Even the slightest flicker of creativity, enthusiasm and adventure can ignite memorable experiences and educational stimuli. Explore, attend free or low cost excursions and consistently ask questions; parents might be surprised what they learn from their students!