The school year is over, finally! Long lazy days, kids sleeping in, and thoughts of escaping the heat fill the minds of every parent. Then WHAM! Reality sets in; your child has summer assignments to complete. Oh, the torture! You ask yourself, “Why do we have to do this?” and “How am I going to get my child to complete them?” Well, we have some answers for you.

More and more often, schools are providing summer assignments for students in middle school and high school. These assignments often consist of books to read, an essay or report to complete, and math problems to practice from some sort of summer bridging book or online program. These assignments should not be overwhelming and, if a plan is in place for completion, they should not pose any threat to your summer fun.

First, let’s examine the ‘why’ of summer assignments. The experts do not all agree that summer work should be assigned, but there is plenty of data that supports the fact that a ‘summer slide’ exists. According to Harris Cooper, Chairman of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University, the loss is more profound in math than it is for reading, due to the fact that kids tend to read more than they ‘math’ voluntarily. He states that, “if students are continuing to flex their mental muscles over the summer, this would have a positive effect on how much material they retain when they return.”[1] The goal is to hit the ground running into the new year and, with all that needs to be accomplished in just 10 months, schools see summer work as one way to help teachers and students meet their academic goals.

Now that we understand that it is important for our children to avoid the ‘summer slide’ by keeping up with their skills, we need to put a plan in place that will keep the fun in summer. We suggest breaking up the work into small chunks. If math problems are assigned, set aside a specific time each day or week to make a dent in the requirement. There are about 10 weeks of summer. Divide the number of problems assigned into chunks of 10 or 20 problems each. Estimate how long each chunk should take and put that amount of time on the calendar. Once on the calendar, you can schedule activities around work time.

The same goes for any reading assignments. Divide the total number of pages that need to be read by the number of days you want to spend reading and schedule reading time on your calendar. When the book is read, assign small chunks of time to work on any projects or essays that go along with the assignment. Be sure to take any vacations into consideration! This type of planning should not affect your summer activities and may even keep the summer doldrums at bay. Remember, there is always the opportunity to do summer school work when your child says, “Mom, I’m bored!”

Words for the wise: Don’t wait until the last week or two of summer to begin assignments! It will leave everyone frustrated and angry. You want summer to end on a positive note!


[1] New York Times The Crush of Summer Homework,, August 30, 2009;