How to Keep Your Teens Learning This Summer

Summer can be a challenging – and pivotal – time to engage high school students in activities that both keep their interest and provide benefits in the long run. It’s no simple task to offer stimulating and valuable options that can compete with the allure of screen time and hanging out with friends.


How are you helping your teen remain engaged this summer? Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education

But research shows that summer is too important to overlook. Without learning opportunities, students – especially those from low-income families – fall behind in math and reading skills over the summer months.

The good news is that there are many things parents and kids can do to stem the losses, and even accelerate learning and engagement. There are also things parents can do to help older students to find a summer job and get inspired for college and future careers.

Picking up from HomeRoom’s earlier post on Stopping the Summer Slide, here are more ideas on how parents and mentors can engage teens during the summer and give them a leg up on what comes next.

  • Look for a summer learning program geared toward teens and the transition to college. Many colleges and universities offer programs that are intellectually challenging, relevant to teens, and help begin to prepare them for college or career.
  • Encourage and work with your high school student on setting his or her own goals for college, career, and life. Talk about their talents, what motivates them and why, and arrange a visit to a college that suits their interests and your budget.
  • Have your high school student identify a career of interest and research it together online or at your local library. Seek opportunities for him or her to observe or shadow someone in an interesting occupation or connect with a professional mentor, either online or in your community.
  • Suggest your teen consider being a mentor or junior staffer in a summer program. High school students make credible and supportive mentors to younger children in summer learning programs, camps, and afterschool programs.
  • Help your teen understand what is needed to gain employment, such as a resume and cover letter, filling out a job application and interview skills. Use these activities to prepare for or pursue a summer or afterschool job.
  • Plan a service project or volunteer. Volunteer positions can provide valuable experience in job skills such as planning, communication and collaboration. Similarly, service projects can require older youth to research and plan and will expose them to new aspects of their community.
  • Planning a summer vacation? Ask your teen to take an active role in the planning. Is your teen’s room in need of a new look? Have him or her sketch ideas, calculate projected expenses and prepare a presentation to make a case for the changes. Research, budgeting, and advocacy are valuable skills.
  • Summer is a great time to be outdoors! Encourage your teen to stay active in the summer. Walk or take hikes as a family, and encourage outdoor activities with peers. Don’t forget to also keep healthy snacks around the house, such as fruits and veggies.
  • Read a young adult book together with your teen and a group of his friends. Meet regularly for a mini-book club with journaling and discussion about the book.

Having a voice and choice is important to your high school student when deciding how to spend the summer. Collaborate on options and offer ideas, but ultimately, let them choose.

I’ll be sharing more ideas on summer learning on Twitter through Summer Learning Day on Friday, June 20. Follow the National Summer Learning Association at @SummerLearning, and join the conversation with hashtag #SummerSuccess.

Sarah Pitcock is CEO of the National Summer Learning Association


  1. Yes, I too am looking for educational opportunities for high school students who are not able to find work in the summer. Thank you!

  2. This is an insightful post about how summer regression is a big problem. I wanted to point readers who are interested to the Brain Chase “Summer Learning Challenge,” a 6-week online program for students in grades 2-8. Participants complete 4-5 hours of personalized learning challenges each week and earn clues to the location of a real buried treasure–worth $10,000 in college scholarship money–for the first person to guess its location. Sign ups are taking place right now at We’re limiting enrollment to the first 5,000 students. Join the adventure!

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