Summer is an exciting prospect as we look forward to time with friends, family vacations, warm weather, and barbecues. But summer also comes along with anxiety around figuring out how to handle unstructured time now that school is out. Your first instinct may be to pack your student’s time with camps and programs. While this is a great way to fill time and have fun, they likely last only a week or two, which leaves us with many more weeks of unstructured time.
Unstructured time can be daunting as boredom sets in, and we run out of ideas to mitigate it. Although summer is an important time for students to relax and take a little bit of a break from rigorous schoolwork, it is equally as important to stay motivated and active. Learning ways to fill time with exercises of reading, research, and movement will help keep your summer more full, less boring, and more active.
Unstructured time can also be positive, as it teaches a student independence and how to effectively fill their own time with activities they enjoy. This kind of space and time fosters curiosity, creativity and self reflection, which can lead to the student coming up with activities and meaningful ways to fill their time. But they might need some help.
Filling this time might look like helping your student figure out what they enjoy doing in their free time with specific goals in mind. Try having them make a list of two books they would like to read, set a fitness goal, or consider a DIY project like building a table that they would like to complete by the end of summer. When your student sets these goals for themselves, they’ll fill their time with more meaningful activities, which will in turn make it easier for them to stay motivated. This independence and autonomy in goal setting will also relieve some pressure and stress for both parents and students! Encouraging your student to think about projects and goals over the summer helps to reinforce their own management skills and can foster motivation, which will help them in the upcoming school year. In achieving these goals, your student will have a greater sense of pride and accomplishment, improving their self esteem and thus academic performance in the fall. You can help them structure their time by creating a timeline with them, and making sure that they are reminded of these summer projects when they mutter, “I am soooo bored.”
While summer is a great time to take a break from schoolwork, it is also important to keep our minds sharp and look forward to the upcoming school year. If your student needs help with math or writing, Stride is offering summer programs to help pre-teach curriculum that students will encounter in the upcoming school year. This summer, we’ll also focus on reviewing content covered during the remote learning period.
While there is no sure way to steer clear of boredom and unstructured time the entire summer, setting up some specific goals, projects, and activities can help. It is important to maintain routines and keep your brain sharp over summer. Because students with executive function challenges already combat upkeep of routines and organization, it’s helpful to maintain some structure by having small goals throughout the summer — this way, jumping back into the fall semester (and school mindset) will be much more smooth!
This time of year can feel hectic and panicked for all of us; as school comes to a finish, and work gears up for summer, we’re all trying to stay organized in this transition. Balancing this can feel exhausting and overwhelming. How can we take a break from this, quiet our anxieties, and take some time to ourselves? How do we find just a few moments to catch our breath and focus on the present so that we can finish strong in this last week or two of school?
Walking meditation can help. This practice not only relieves stress, but also gives you an opportunity to take a moment break and recenter. By taking five to ten minutes to focus on yourself, you can be more productive and feel less overwhelmed when you resume work.
This type of meditation allows us to be on our feet, and can feel easier and less daunting than sitting down to meditate. It focuses on steps and breaths and lends itself perfectly as a quick break from work and school. Maybe your student is studying for a final and becomes anxious, or they are working on a paper and become frustrated. Maybe you are between meeting calls and are feeling overwhelmed by all that you are expected to get done by the end of the day. A walking meditation allows for a break and a reconnection. Through movement and mindful discipline, you can learn to reduce stress and anxiety.
How to begin:
Find a place: This can be your yard, driveway, kitchen, or a hiking trail. You just need enough space to walk 10 to 15 steps in any direction, and preferably a place you won’t feel observed.
Move: Take 10 to 15 steps in one direction, pause, and take a breath. Then, turn back to walk 10 to 15 steps in the opposite direction, breathing at each end, and repeat. This can also be done in one continuous line.
How to move: Walking meditation is the act of deliberately moving, following your steps with your breath and focus. You should focus your attention on the way that you move your feet with each step: how you lift your foot off the ground, move it slightly forward, and how you set your foot back to the ground, heel first, and then toe. How your weight shifts to that leg as your repeat with the other foot. This can be practiced as slowly or as quickly as you would like, the focus should be on how you move with intention and keep your mind centered on the movement of your breath with each step.
What do do with your hands: Your arms can lay flat to your sides, or you can clasp your hands behind your back – do whatever feels most comfortable.
Focus: Try to focus your attention on things that you might normally take for granted: how your body moves with each step, how the birds sound outside, or the sounds of your house. This can also be how each breath feels.
The wandering mind: Remember this is ok. Just simply try to refocus your attention back on the movement of your walk and your breath.
You can integrate this practice into any part of your day. These are all elements, though at a faster pace, that you can focus on while running, pushing a cart in the grocery store, or walking your dog. By practicing this regularly, either as a quick break from sitting or as a more established practice, you can allow yourself to ease away from the stress of your day, work, and school for a few moments while staying active. Walking meditation doesn’t require you to sit still and think about nothing, but it encourages you to refocus and think about the intentionality of your thoughts and movements. It is a practice in discipline and movement in its core.
You can learn more about this meditation and mindfulness practice here.
Right now, electronic organization is more important than ever. Working from home and remote learning have increased the need to prioritize our organization techniques and efforts. Electronic organization was important pre-COVID, but it’s even more relevant now, especially as the semester wraps up and it begins to feel like summer. It can be difficult to maintain habits as we get excited about the end of the school year and get antsy to be outside and with friends.
Staying organized on your computer can feel overwhelming and disorienting. Often, we save documents to our desktop or Google Drive without thinking about the future need to retrieve them from the abyss of other documents. When we do go back to dig up the documents we need, anxiety and frustration can build as it may take more time than necessary to find what we’re looking for.
1. First, it’s important to get into the habit of titling documents. We don’t want dozens of “untitled” files floating around our drives and desktops. This is an easy first step to staying organized. The next step is to save these documents in specific folders so they’re organized under the appropriate subjects.
2. Just like we have folders in our backpacks or filing cabinets (or storage boxes under our beds), we should have folders designated for each class (or project) — either in a cloud system or on our desktop. Having subfolders can add another layer of organization too! This might look like one folder for homework, one for tests, and one for administrative work. Having folders and subfolders will make it easier to save and dig files out later when studying for a test, finding an assignment to turn in, or reviewing a project.
3. Continuing this organization is important, and having your student check in at least two times a week to organize their desktop and drive will help them to create that routine and stay organized. These check-ins also allow time to make sure everything has been turned in and ensure there aren’t unnecessary documents floating around.
4. Keeping a list or calendar of assignment due dates (and where they need to be turned in) is key. It is even more important now, at the end of the semester, to make sure assignments are turned in on time. Considering that all assignments are now due online, and we don’t have consistent reminders in school about these assignments, it can feel overwhelming to keep track of everything. Keeping a sticky note on your desktop, an easily viewable document in your Google Drive, or a physical planner will help track this and relieve some anxiety. Knowing where to submit assignments online (Schoology, Google Classroom, etc.) should also be noted in your student’s planner. Consistently checking grades to understand course progress is also helpful.
Keeping an organized, cloud-based drive by titling documents and creating folders, as well as staying on top of updating your calendar and assignment list, will help your student feel a greater sense of control over their work and ensure that assignments aren’t lost in a virtual, document abyss. We are all excited about warmer weather and the prospect of summer, and we want to make sure that we all feel organized and accomplished as we wrap up the semester.
The last few months have posed many challenges and have been a time of adjustment and revaluation. Since school and some jobs are remote, many families are now spending more time together — for better or for worse. While there are many benefits to this (more family time, learning new hobbies, no commuting), we are also faced with new challenges, especially regarding our relationships with the people we are quarantined with and the new boundaries we are trying to establish.
We are learning how to shift our boundaries in the midst of this new situation. Many parents are not used to having their students underfoot at work and similarly, most students are not used to having their parents present during school time. We are not used to sharing our environments with the other people in our house and are used to a separation. We are used to reconvening at the end of the day or having various extracurriculars and social activities. With much of this on pause and spending our days at home together, we need to find a new system of setting boundaries and giving space. However, it can be difficult to know where and how to set these boundaries.
While many of us (parents and students alike) need help staying on track and on task in this time of remoteness, constant prodding and checking in can foster resentment and fracture our mutual trust. Maybe your student is having a hard time staying on track, but checking in constantly is exhausting for everyone. Having a calendar up or a daily schedule posted in a public space, like the kitchen or living room, can allow for more passive communication and will allow you to know when to step in. If the student is responsible for checking off what they have done, this holds everybody accountable for their responsibilities and allows for the potential to foster more independence. For both students and parents, creating more separation during the work day will allow you to maximize your productivity without constant nagging. This will also allow for more privacy during work times, as well as increase student responsibility and independence in a controlled environment.
Setting up your independent offices and workspaces, however official or unofficial, will be helpful in creating physical boundaries. Having designated work spaces can aid in clear communication about when you are working and when you are unable to be disturbed during class, calls, and conferences. This will help parents and students know how and when to interact; this can also allow for the quiet needed during all of our Google Meet and Zoom calls! These offices and workspaces are necessary for both students and parents, and the boundaries should be respected by everyone involved. Just as students shouldn’t interrupt parents on conference calls, parents should avoid interrupting students when they are completing classwork or taking part in a virtual class.
We also need time to spend together and interact with the other humans in our house. Setting aside specific times to spend together can be a helpful way of maintaining communication and space and gives everyone something to look forward to in the day. Maybe this looks like having family dinners at 6:30, going for a bike ride at 4, or playing a card game together after dinner. These activities will give you a set time to spend with your co-quarantiners, ensuring that you will be able to interact with them, but alleviating the need to always be together. Having a few of these times throughout the day provides the opportunity to check in on one another’s progress in terms of school (and work) in a non-invasive way.
Set up a calendar not just for your student, but for yourself as well. Set your goals for the day, respect everyone’s workspace and schedules, and clearly communicate what time you and your student have meetings that can’t be interrupted. These boundaries will help provide the necessary space and independence that all parties need, while also allowing everyone to stay connected and communicating effectively. Once that independence is figured out, the time your family does spend together can focus on topics other than work completion!
We are now a month into quarantine, and most of us are still trying to adjust to learning and working online. It feels daunting to think that this era of remoteness and social distancing will continue to be our norm for a little while longer, and the ambiguity can make it difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This leaves many of us wondering how to stay motivated and continue to look and move forward in our day-to-day life.
Exercise and sleep are important to both our mental and physical health; they can help us stay in healthy routines and are fundamental building blocks to keeping up, staying motivated, and feeling fresh.
Exercise can sometimes fall to the bottom of the priority list, but even just a 5-minute workout can give you a great sense of accomplishment and can increase your confidence for completing future tasks. Movement releases endorphins which energize you and provides the momentum needed to keep moving forward with daily tasks. Keeping a consistent sleep routine will aid in this too! Sleep deprivation and inconsistent or altered sleep patterns can make us feel sluggish and unmotivated. For example, staying up until 3am and sleeping in until 2pm not only impacts our “normal” sleep schedule, but it can also cause us to feel that we have already wasted our day — leading to a “it’s not worth it today” mindset, which morphs into procrastination and falling behind on our goals. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule will help you stay on your toes, feel fresh, and keep your goals in sight.
Setting achievable goals is also imperative in the pursuit of consistent motivation. When we set expectations too high for what we can achieve in a day and we are unable to achieve that expectation, we begin to feel defeated about the unfinished work. Keep your goals realistic. Finishing a week’s worth of math assignments and completing an English essay in one day is going to be too much. Instead, set a goal of working on 10 problems and one paragraph. Breaking big goals into smaller pieces allows us to take pride in the small accomplishments instead of dwelling on how we fell short. Slow and steady wins the race. However, sometimes we still hit roadblocks, and that’s okay!
We may still have trouble achieving our goals, even when making them more realistic, and focusing on this can lead to diminished self esteem. To mitigate this, check in with yourself about your progress and goals. It’s okay to re-evaluate, and if what you originally planned for isn’t working for you, you can adjust. Make a list of what you have done well, and what you want to improve. This can be an excellent daily activity to keep your spirits up and keep you looking forward, but it’s also helpful in evaluating how you need to change your longer-term goals and/or habits. Sharing these ideas with your mentor, parent, or teacher is a good idea too, and can increase accountability for those acknowledgements and goals.
In addition to academic and work-related goals, try to set goals in other areas of your life. Setting and achieving these goals (which might be more meaningful to you) will help you feel more accomplished. This might even help keep you more motivated in school, and work can feel more attainable and struggle-free. Feeling a sense of accomplishment in one aspect of your day can help you to continue moving forward with the rest of your work.
The light at the end of the tunnel is always there, whether or not we can see it all the time. Keeping healthy habits, like sleep, exercise, and easily-achievable goals —both academic and non-academic — can help us keep moving forward and through the tunnel of remote learning and work.
In this period of learning and working from home, we all find ourselves in a familiar environment: home. This leaves us with an overwhelming number of distractions that pull us from productivity.
Maybe these distractions show up as the pile of laundry that needs to be done, or the ding of a phone notification. Maybe your co-quarantiners are watching TV, playing in the backyard, or generally taking part in something that’s more fun than the work you should be doing. Maybe you just feel overwhelmed by your written (or mental) to-do list. We all know what this feels like and the frustration that accompanies these feelings; before you know it, the day has passed and you haven’t accomplished as much as you had hoped. So, how can we limit these distractions?
Routines and lists can help us not only plan out our “productive times,” but our “distraction times” as well. It is unrealistic to eliminate all distractions, and some distraction can actually be helpful — this time can provide a necessary break. Try including time for distractions in your routine! Maybe this means working for 45 minutes and then taking a 15- or 20-minute break to indulge in the distraction of your choice (whether that’s laundry, social media, getting a snack, or doing a few pushups). This could also be less time-focused and more goal-oriented, whatever best fits the way you work. Setting up a routine like this can help us stay focused and avoid unrealistic expectations for productivity. Scheduling time for distractions might simultaneously mean setting more rigid restrictions for yourself, like no watching TV until 5. Remember, discipline = freedom!
The space and environment that we work in also affects our productivity, and the right environment can help us get into the zone. Setting up a designated work area can help separate work time from free time. Having a clear and clean space to work in, with limited visual and auditory distractions, can help us focus and mitigate that quarantine FOMO. Make it an inviting space to settle and zone into; turn your phone to silent, and let people know that you will be back in 45 minutes. This will be your designated work space: not a sleep space or a gaming space, but a “you are in work mode” space.
Social media begs for your attention, the next season of a show is calling your name, and bed has never looked more comfortable. Notifications keep popping up on your screen, pulling you in. Set your phone to “do not disturb” for the 30 minutes to an hour that you’re dedicating to work. This helps to keep these intriguing distractions at bay. Maybe your gaming system looks tempting, or watching New Girl (for the second time) feels stress-relieving. Try finding a place where distractions like these are out of sight and out of mind during the time that you have set aside to do work; remind yourself that they will be there when you are finished with your work.
We are all dealing with different sets of distractions. Whether your distractions take the form of your phone, your co-quarentiners, or the list of a million tasks you have been meaning to do, they are more tempting than ever in this period of less structure and less accountability. Take the time to set a routine, create a specific workspace, and give yourself set time to enjoy your distractions!