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Covid Summer: How to Salvage It

Posted on 05/24/2020, by Dr. Ellen Fithian to Parents of 7th and 8th Graders, Parents of 9th Graders, Parents of 10th Graders, Parents of 11th Graders, Parents of 12th Graders (0 comments)

For many teens, summer is the season of freedom and choice. Liberated from the constraints of the school year, it's their chance to spend all day at the pool, study Shakespeare at a pre-college program, or travel to visit friends and family. Now that just about everything has been cancelled, how can they still have an enjoyable, productive summer?

The best bet for the early part of the summer is likely to be virtual activities. Here are some worthwhile options to consider.

Virtual Pre-College Programs

Many colleges that offer residential enrichment programs for high school students are converting them to an online format. However, having looked at a sampling of them, I've found many to be surprisingly expensive, so before plunking down a small fortune, I'd scrutinize the details. What exactly is being offered? How well does the subject matter lend itself to an online format? Clearly, it's much easier to deliver a virtual class on fiction writing than one on robotics.

Free Courses From Top Colleges

If you're doing a little budgetary belt-tightening these days, here's an option that will interest you. In an effort to promote universal access to world-class education, a group of top colleges began posting videotapes of some of their courses online in 2012 - for free! Since then, hundreds of universities have collectively posted thousands of courses in a broad range of subjects.

Students can go to one of the websites that host the courses and search by topic. They can analyze StarTrek's influence on culture and technology, dabble in philosophy, or explore biomedical engineering as a potential career choice, to name just a few. Access to course lectures is free and users can engage in them as much or as little as they choose. Alternatively, for a modest fee they can earn a certificate verifying that they have completed a required set of assignments. Links to two of the hosting websites are listed below. Check them out for your teen - and maybe even for yourself!

Leisure Reading

Sadly, even the most bookish teens often find that their typical hyper-scheduled lives leave little time for pleasure reading. With their calendars cleared, now would be an ideal time to take advantage of the electronic resources of your local library. You can get online books, magazines, and videos without leaving the comfort and safety of home. If your teen doesn't already have a library card, she can get a temporary one online to use immediately.

Virtual Volunteering

With so many community organizations having moved operations online, as well as increasing their communications with members, there might be some opportunities for virtual volunteering. You can check organization websites, but your teen's best bet is probably calling to ask if help is needed. Is your church looking for help with a virtual Vacation Bible School? Does your local library have a Teen Advisory Board? Many high school students have excellent media skills - encourage them to use their social networking powers for good. 

What Not to Do This Summer  

With any luck, restrictions on activities and gatherings will be considerably less stringent by the end of the summer than they are now. For that reason, discourage your son from spending the months of June and July sleeping late and working his way through the first 31 seasons of The Simpsons. If beaches open and restrictions on social gatherings are eased in August, it'd be a shame for him to have to spend that month slogging through summer assignments for his AP courses. Instead, encourage him to make good use of the spare time he'll have in the early summer to polish off tasks that need to be accomplished before school starts, such as assigned readings, standardized test prep, or working on college applications. 

These are tough times for teens and they've earned some couch time once school is out. Just don't let it take up the whole summer.

Websites that Host Free Online College Courses:

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Posted on 05/24/2020, by Dr. Ellen Fithian (0 comments)




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