When the last dregs of snow have finally melted and the crunch of spring playoffs and final exams and end of year celebrations have subsided, all we want to do is belly flop onto a sunny patch of grass by a lake somewhere and nap there till fall. And of course, summer should be a time of relaxation and celebration, of lazy sun-drenched days and barbecues and swimming. But then, fall, and the return of all that busyness comes like a shock to the system. How did we do it all, the soccer practices and the math tests and the college prep and the history papers?! Let our learning brains lie dormant for too many months, and we return feeling groggy and slow, puzzled by it all over again.

From our extensive work directly with students, we at Yellow Parachute know how much summer learning can make a difference in the confidence and trajectory of students during the school year. The most important thing parents can do for their elementary and middle-school aged kids this summer, says founder and CEO Cara Thorpe, is to help them develop a passion for reading. Cara can tell, within a few sessions of working with a student, how well that student will do on the ACT based on how well she reads. “If you do nothing else—READ READ READ!”

For middle-school students who’ve already developed a healthy reading habit, help them learn to organize. Buy them a calendar, ask them to schedule their days, or book some sessions with an SOS-trained learning coach. Summer can be the perfect time for students to begin developing strong time-management and organizational skills.

Minnetonka high school senior Erika Bussmann has found her own way to make the most of her summers. I’ve found summer to be an incredibly useful time to not only reflect on my academic, extracurricular, and personal goals, but also to set new ones and have a chance to experiment or implement them without the pressures you might experience in a regular school week.” Erika has used her high school summers to take online classes that free up her school year to pursue other interests, catch up on books, study for standardized tests, volunteer, and participate in STEM summer courses. Last summer she took an English and a psychology course online so she’d be able to fit computer science and science research classes into her schedule.

How does she pull it all off? Perhaps it comes from her healthy, refreshing attitude toward learning. “It’s less about accumulating knowledge in the traditional sense and more about gaining a deeper understanding of myself, the world, and others.” It’s an approach that’s served her well—Erika will be off to attend Brown University in the fall.

Here’s her advice to fellow high school students: “Have you always been curious about mid-century modern art? Plan a day at a museum, or sign up for a class. Always wondered about astronomy or European politics? Make it your mission to research these topics further. Balancing relaxation with productive leisure is a great way to unwind while making the most of extra free time and fewer pressures.”

Looking to help your kids get more out of their summers? This summer, we’re thrilled to offer students a chance to work directly Erika through our new summer enrichment program. Perfectly suited for reluctant readers in elementary and middle school, or more motivated and advanced students looking for that extra push, the summer enrichment program will aim to help kids develop a love for reading while acquainting them with their local libraries. Erika can also help advanced students plan (and execute) their summer reading schedules and projects.

Parents can schedule their kids for five to six 45-minute sessions at the Chanhassen or Excelsior Library. After performing a reading interest inventory, Erika will guide students to explore the authors, series, genres, and topics that will get them excited about reading. By performing writing exercises and modeling other reading-engagement practices, Erika will help students build confidence and healthy habits around reading. She hopes to ignite joy and passion for learning that will motivate them beyond the classroom. It’s a chance for students to experience true mentorship with a relatable role-model outside of the pressures of the school year. While this journey will look different for each student, the ultimate goal is growth and connection—to literature in general, to a specific topic or genre, and to their learning potential.”

Contact us to learn more about scheduling summer enrichment session with Erika. She’s also available for many other tutoring needs, including science and math.