2009-07-03 / Columnists

Ken's Math Korner

Whatever Happened To Summer Vacation?
Commentary By Ken Rochelle, MBA

I remember fondly the lazy days of my youthful summers, when I would play and run with my friends in the backyard with not a care in the world. But those summers were also packed full of activities, with my mom having both my brother and I enrolled in everything from swimming and soccer to art and science camp. Sometimes, however, summer storms and rainy days would curtail our outdoor fun.

Nowadays, summer can still bring on long lazy days which are a sharp contrast to the heavily scheduled school year. In theory, parents and children alike look forward to a break from the pressure of homework and after-school activities. In practice, a sudden wealth of downtime can add friction to families, with cries of "I'm bored", and "there's nothing to do", commonly heard refrains in many Rockaway homes, especially when it seems rain clouds have been an almost constant companion.

Here are a few replies to your child's complaints of boredom that will help both you and your kids get through the occasional summer doldrums.

What you can say

"So, you're feeling like there's nothing interesting to do right now?" Take a moment to acknowledge your child's feelings before jumping right in with suggestions for activities. This will go a long way toward helping your child to see you as a resource rather than an adversary.

"If you could do anything you wanted, what would you like to do?" Try to encourage your children to generate creative ideas for fun activities. While some of them may be farfetched or impossible at the time, sorting through their ideas may give you both new thoughts for what to do.

"That's a great idea. We can't do it today, but let's make sure we do it on Tuesday."

Should your child suggests something that can't be done right away, reinforce the suggestion instead of disregarding it. Set a specific time for doing it and ensure you follow through.

"I sure could use some help for a while."

Most young children like to help with household tasks. If you're cooking, sewing, or cleaning, find small jobs that your child can do along with you. Even older kids can get into helping, especially if they feel like they're accomplishing something. Special projects, such as reorganizing toy boxes or shelves, can occupy long periods of time — especially when children are encouraged to re-examine lost treasures or reminisce about old times.

"Why don't we sort through our old pictures?"

Sorting through family photos is a great activity for children of all ages. They love seeing pictures of themselves when they were younger, and are often interested in seeing younger versions of family members as well. Older kids may find your changing fashions and hairstyles enormously amusing. If possible, keep a blank picture album or scrapbook for them to fill with special memories.

"How about making someone a present?"

Keep a stash of art supplies on hand including scissors, glue, stamps, and stickers. Rummaging through boxes of colorful buttons and bright beads to make collages or beautiful jewelry can sometimes occupy children for long periods of time.

"Let's do something together!" Sometimes, especially with younger children, cries of boredom are really calls for companionship and attention. Designate some special times for you and your children to do simple, fun things together, such as playing a board game, reading aloud, or taking a walk. Encouraging children to pick the game, select the books, or plan your route will help them get in the habit of making their own choices about how to spend their time.

While younger kids are looking to fill their new found summer free-time, many of our high school scholars are starting to think ahead to the fast approaching college application process.

At this moment, it seems that so many high school students are scrambling to be accepted by the school of his/her dreams. Now is the time when parents and guidance counselors hear the perennial refrain: "Do you think I will be accepted?" Fortunately, there are summer programs that can help your high school student who is contemplating colleges, agonizing over essays, and stressing over the SAT. But just what are colleges looking for?"

Finding a good match

Colleges succeed most when they recruit, admit, retain, and graduate students who are a good match for their particular curriculum direction. Just as each student has unique qualities and characteristics, each college or university is specifically geared toward its own disciplines and values. First and foremost, colleges are looking for students who will thrive in the particular environment. Similarly, students should seek an institution where they feel they truly fit academically, socially, athletically and/or artistically. Because colleges are multidimensional, they tend to want students who are, too. If a student has specific talents or has had some unusual experiences, the admissions committee should be made aware of them.

The Admissions Game

It is no secret and no surprise that most colleges and universities place a high emphasis on academic ability. They will weigh students' performance in high school most heavily because this is (statistically) the strongest predictor of academic success in college. Admissions committees will look for rank in class, the type (academic and college preparatory vs. vocational and activity-oriented) and depth (honors, accelerated, advanced vs. remedial) of courses taken, and the overall pattern of grades.

A high school transcript tells a great deal about a student, but a thoughtful letter of recommendation can help an admissions committee see a whole person. A number of colleges ask applicants for letters of recommendation to help them make decisions when many candidates have similar academic credentials.

Many admissions committees like to see evidence of a student's writing ability, and they may require an essay. A thoughtful and well-prepared essay will also give the college an impression of the student as a unique individual. Be aware that colleges do look at the little (often overlooked) details such as the neatness and accuracy of the essay or paper application and the students' ability to follow instructions.

The results of a standardized college entrance examination, such as the SAT or ACT, are often considered by college admissions officers in conjunction with the candidate's other credentials as the school makes its decisions. Very selective colleges may also request that the student take Advanced Placement (AP) examinations as well.

What do colleges really want? They want to make admissions decisions that result in a win-win situation. They want to select a student who has the best chance of succeeding.

Summer is also an excellent time for the high school and college students to get a jumpstart on their resume. A great resume is now the ticket to get accepted to college or the first entry level job.

Here are a few suggestions on government-supported summer internship programs:
• Advanced Technological Education (ATE)
• Congressman Mike Thompson Internship Program
• Environment Internship Program (EIP)
• Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) College Intern
Program
• Overseas Student Internships with U.S. Department of State
• Summer Transportation Internship Program for Diverse
Groups (STIPDG)

Summer in the Rockaways provides a wonderful opportunity to combine recreation and learning. Smart choices today can lead to a head start on tomorrow. Striking a balance between work and play is, of course, a universal challenge for us all. But the student who avails himself of continuing educational opportunities while creating his own important magical summer memories is sure to succeed.

For more helpful tips please visit my website at www.kenthetutor.org

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