School’s Out For Summer! – Well, Kind Of

I saw a fantastic example recently of the power of practice while I was ready Andre Agassi’s autobiography, Open. His father worked him very hard (in this case it was not self-motivated, inspired learning), and this is something his father told him when he was just a young kid returning balls from a machine at their backyard tennis court:

“My father says that if I hit 2,500 balls each day, I’ll hit 17,500 balls each week, and at the end of one year I’ll have hit nearly one million balls. He believes in math. Numbers, he says, don’t lie. A child who hits one million balls each year will be unbeatable.”

Like most kids, our children get pretty excited when the school year is over and summer arrives. And while I can relate to their desire to enjoy the freedom to run, play, and be free, we don’t usually completely let them off the hook.

Most summers we shift things into a low gear – we still ask the kids to do a math lesson each day and read for a set amount of time. The goal is to keep their good habits going, to maybe get a little ahead in their math books (they are homeschooling, so it’s no issue if they want to work ahead), and to minimize the period needed to review old material once we go back into full-swing in the Fall.

However, summer is also a great opportunity for the kids to come up with their own summer project. This summer we are going to try something a little different. We really want to focus on self-motivated, inspired learning to help the kids. I wrote about How to Inspire a Love of Learning last month, and I really want to apply what we have learned to see if we can tap into some real, inspired learning.

Summer Goals and Building New Skills

This summer I am asking each of the kids to pick one or two things they want to get better at to practice for 30 days. I talked through a few examples to remind them of ways practice has shown huge returns for them already when they dive into something passionately. I am allowing them to choose any summer goals they want. My only condition is that whatever they choose, they must pursue it passionately for 30 days.

I created this 30 Day Goal Progress Chart printable to help them track their individual summer goals.

My hope is that when they see the improvements they make by committing to something, this will empower them to do this again. And again. My hope is that they will gain new confidence and become more self-motivated in their learning.



Building Up Young Artists

I am an engineer and I do lots of engineering projects with the kids. I used to love to draw as a kid, but like too many people out there, there was a moment in my childhood that I decided I was not good at drawing and so I gradually stopped. One big secret I didn’t know back then is that most people who show great skill at drawing … draw a whole bunch.

When my kids were very young, my instinct when I saw them grab a stack of brand new printer paper would be to correct them about not wasting so much paper. My wife (who is from a family of artists) would allow them to take as much paper and draw as many pictures as they wanted. And guess what? They can all draw better than me.

This discovery taught me early on not to restrict them too much when they are developing a new skill. I’ve applied this same principal when I teach them about engineering (see How to Teach Kids Engineering Key #2).

All four of my kids have picked drawing as their first 30 day summer goal. It started with my older two, but pretty soon their two younger siblings have caught the fever (even my 9 year old son who had quit drawing because he “wasn’t good at it”). They are all shooting for 10 drawings per day and it’s impressive to see how much they are improving!

One drawing resource they all love and are using almost every day: Art For Kids is a great channel on Youtube for getting kids into the fun of drawing.

So my job now is to make sure they are well supplied…

Summer Goals Supplies

Summer Goals Art Supplies

Summer Goals Drawings

Summer Goals Drawings



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