We’re over a month into summer now, and parents across the country are hard at work combatting summer brain drain - a valid concern about the lazy days of summer that lead to setbacks when they return to the classroom.
Without ongoing learning during the summer, what’s to offset the effects of constant screen time, spent on Instagram, Snapchat, etc.?
Consider the fact that 65 percent of kids in grade-school may end up doing work that hasn’t been invented yet, and you may agree that kids time during the summer may be better spent at educational camps.
When was the last time you learned something new?
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Having a growth mindset isn’t just for kids. Parents - and all adults really - need to pay attention to their own summer brain drain. So before you jump on your kids to join the library’s summer reading challenge, or sign them up for SAT practice, take a look in the mirror, and ask if you’re tending to your own mental stimulation.
I’m a father of two myself, so I know what you’re thinking. "Are you kidding? My brain’s operating at peak capacity. I don’t have room for more.”
Or maybe you’re a work martyr, who compulsively answers email while waiting in line for the Star Wars ride at Disneyland, and you don’t think you have a second to spare for something that feels self-indulgent. If that sounds like you, you might want to think again.
There may be consequences if you choose to deprioritize your own learning.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker will have between 12 and 15 jobs over the course of their careers, and more companies are following Google’s lead in caring less about where you went to school. Instead, employers care more about how well you learn.
Learning is a habit. Much like getting your body in shape, you can’t exercise for four years, and then say you’re set for life.
You need to keep working at it. But just like fitness experts advise us to form an exercise habit we enjoy, so we’ll stick with it, you also need to learn how to learn.
Summer is a great time to begin expanding your mind and following your curiosity. Longer daylight gives the illusion of having more time, and if you’re a parent, you very well might have more hours to yourself since you’re not running kids to and from school and extracurriculars. It’s the perfect season to seek out new knowledge, and improve your learning chops.
Here are a few ideas to give your brain a workout, and put yourself in the learning mindset.
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1. Take an online course on an unfamiliar topic.
You could pick something work-related, but that may feel antithetical to summer fun. Instead, get moving on that hobby you’ve always wanted to try. The possibilities are endless. Learn to cook an exotic cuisine. Paint with watercolors. Play a musical instrument. Or learn how to speak a foreign language. There's no reason you can’t study on your tablet while you sit by the pool.
2. Elevate your favorite pursuits to the next level.
If you’re already into gardening, grilling, outdoor team sports, carpentry - whatever - up your game by learning advanced techniques from an expert.
3. Open your mind to new ideas.
Read a good book, or listen to one. Visit a museum, or join a MeetUp. Go to a lecture, or audit a college class.
4. Do something nice for others.
You may not equate volunteering with learning, but the two activities are closely connected. Giving time to a worthy cause can help you see social issues in a new light, and inspire you to grow in new directions.
5. Share your knowledge.
Summer is a great time to tutor kids, who need extra help during the off-season, or become a big brother or sister to a child, who doesn’t get to go to camp. You could mentor older students, navigating college life or preparing to enter the workforce. Or create an online course so you can teach people, who are hungry to learn all over the world.
Let’s be clear - I don’t begrudge anyone their right to indulge in the mental equivalent of junk food over the summer. But you know how it feels after only eating junk food for a while. You need to eat your veggies too. Fortunately, veggies can be delicious if they’re prepared right. The same goes for learning.
Find whatever gets you excited to learn, and dive in. There’s never been a better time than right now.