Image - Holidays

Savvy ways to spend the July holidays

Key take-homes:

  • For Year 11s and 12s, the July holidays can be a time to both relax and prepare
  • Relaxing ‘fills the tank’ so your teenager can start Term 3 with some energy
  • Preparing means your teenager can start Term 3 on the front foot and in control

I remember with happiness the July school holidays of 2016.

It was pre-COVID days, so we were able to book and anticipate with confidence our first family holiday to Queensland. Cairns in particular – and the Daintree Forest and the Great Barrier Reef specifically. The Daintree had been on my bucket list and being able to secure a gorgeous house in the middle of the forest with a ‘waterfall’ and swimming hole in our backyard, was a dream come true.

Although the destination was on my personal bucket list, the goal of the holiday was to allow our son to have some “recharge time” before the potential craziness of Year 12 Semester 2, hit. It was the perfect location to reconnect with nature, have some fun together as a family, and live in the moment. And of course, sit on the rocks with the ‘waterfall’ pummelling our shoulders.

Photo - Daintree forest

So, with school holidays having just started, what are some things you could encourage your teenager to do if they will be sitting exams in the next six months?  

Here’s three things:

  1. Rest and recharge
  2. Organise a study space
  3. Find a time management tool

1.  Rest and recharge 

I have become a big fan of the power of doing nothing.  I have learnt through Think Savvy that our brains are bombarded with constant information and stimulus.  It is critical to give them a chance to declutter and rest.  For some Year 12 students, July may be their last ‘proper’ holidays since the September school holidays may be consumed with preparation for ‘mock exams’.

Here are some suggestions to ‘Rest and Recharge’:

  • Catch up with friends and family.  If nothing else, our COVID experience suggests that human connection is important to us all.  The amount of connection each person needs might vary (depending on whether we are introverted or extroverted), but it seems we all need some level of connection to be happy.
  • Watch a favourite TV program (or a few!) – or catch up on some gaming.  It can be satisfying and nurturing to have a ‘doona day’ every so often, especially when you’re doing something you usually don’t get time for.  Technology is neither good nor bad – it is how you use it.  
  • Get a good night’s sleep and grab an afternoon nap.  Sleep is critical for all of us, particularly teenagers who may need 8-9 hours every night.  An afternoon nap of 20-45 minutes in the early afternoon can restore and revitalise, without interfering with your sleep at night.  
  • Spend time outside.  Time spent in nature, is time well spent – especially if you are getting some exercise or sharing this with a friend.  If possible, go ‘unplugged’.  This will really give your brain a chance to recharge.

Photo - Fun and relaxing

2. Organise their study space

Your teenager will study most effectively in Semester 2, if they have a space that allows them to fully focus. This means the study area must be free from distractions and be well-organised.

Research suggests that our brain benefits from studying in more than one location.  If we do this, our brain combines inputs from the multiple locations, making our learning stronger. If possible, encourage your teenager to find a second ‘distraction-free’ study area.  When school finishes and they are spending long days at home revising for their final exams, this second study area could give them the novelty they need.  

Encourage your teenager to do a ‘stocktake’ of their study area.  A good place to start is to help them identify their ‘pain points’ – that is, the things which slow them down, waste time or frustrate them.  Then work together to find ways to fix these pain points.  Feel free to download the ‘Pain Points’ resource sheet in the Resources section.

Some stocktake questions your teenager may find helpful are:

  • Where is my main study area?  Do I have a second study area?
  • Are these areas free from distractions?
  • What could I do to remove distractions?
  • Is my work space organised?  Can I find things easily?
  • Do I have the study materials I need?
  • What things stop me from doing my best work?

Photo - Boy studying

3. Find a time management tool 

A critical success factor for effective exam revision is good time management.  The good news is that this is a skill that can be developed with practice, and there are many tools your teenager can use to assist them.

During the July holidays, encourage your teenager to think about different tools they could use, from the ‘tried and tested’ hardcopy daily planner, through to the latest phone app.

It doesn’t need to be complicated, expensive or sophisticated.  When my kids were going through Year 11 and 12, they used a combination of:

  • School diary;
  • Post-It Notes;
  • Butchers paper; and
  • An Excel spreadsheet. 

This gave them flexibility to choose the best tool, depending on what activity they were planning.  

To be honest, I have some reservations about the time management apps used on mobile phones.  Best practice study technique suggests mobile phones should be left outside the study area (to minimise distractions and allow better focus).  This may be a little difficult if a mobile phone app is being used.

As with most study tools, though, it comes down to personal preference.  Use the holidays to see what works for your teenager.

Photo - Girl Planning - v1-4 July 2021

So there’s three simple things your teenager could do during the school holidays to both recharge and prepare. If the two weeks quizz by before you know it, then not to worry — these are three activities that will always be helpful no matter what time of the year.

brain-based learning, prepare for exams, exam revision, help students learn better, study skills gap, education presentations, help students engage in learning, go-to-guide for high school, work with your brain, student learning presentation, teacher professional development, parent information sessions

I’m Christine West, a published author, parent and experienced science teacher who is on a mission to help others learn at their best.