Our Tutors' Holiday Wishlist: Winter Break Tips

Winter break is upon us. Freedom. Holiday parties. Sleep. At last. For most students, it’s two full weeks of escape. (About the same for us tutors, too -- though this is college essay season still, so….) Rest and downtime are incredibly important parts of learning. The brain is most capable of its feats of synthesis, integration, and perception when we give it the time and space to run some background processing.

All the same, two weeks is a lot of time in the middle of the term to shut down completely. And high schools, especially, have a penchant for assigning work over the break (to the eternal cries of “Foul!” from students nationwide). What, after all, were winter holidays designed for but the completion of AP US History research? Many of our students are off the clock, but still on the job.

As such, we’ve put together our own little wishlist for our students as they head into the break:

  1. Front-load: For the psychological health of our students, we advise trying to get through the bulk of any assigned work at the beginning of break. You’re going to get busy. You’re going to get distracted. It’s probably better to get a handle on things at the front end, rather than face a panicked final weekend in early January. No matter where you may be going or what holidays you may be celebrating, the experience is likely to be all that much more enjoyable if things are not looming over you. [Look, we said this was a wishlist...]

  2. Keep sharp: Unconscious processing time and rest are critical parts of what we might call good learning hygiene. But rust can develop faster than you’d think. The weeks after winter break are, cruelly, often a run up to finals, so you don’t want to lose a step. We urge you to keep engaged. This doesn’t mean running practice sets or doing vocabulary drills. It just means finding ways to keep your brain in fighting trim: calculate the tip if your family goes out to dinner; watch the news once or twice and give it some critical thought; talk with your family. This is really simple but important. You need to put game systems away, set aside iPhones, and just engage actively and intellectually with the world. Scary prospect, isn’t it? How about shooting for just an hour or two a day?

  3. Read a little without a pencil or highlighter: Maybe it’s that book you’re reading in English, maybe it’s The Fault in Our Stars or Being and Nothingness (some of us here at PwP had a strange adolescence). In any case, read without the pressure of finding key terms or identifying themes. A strange thing can happen when you read even an assigned book without treating it as homework: sometimes that assigned English book starts to look like...well...a book book.

  4. Rest: More than anything, we really do want our students’ time away from school to be downtime. As much as we want you to handle your work effectively and keep sharp and do a little pleasure reading, we really want you to recharge and rest up. This can be hard with school projects, holiday parties, travel, etc., but it is critical. Teens, especially, need sleep. Get some.

So, that’s it. That’s our wishlist for this year’s holidays. We wish everyone a great winter break. Make the season happy, healthy, safe, and restful. And we’ll be here ready to start up again when you get back.

Tags: Winter Break, Tutoring Tips, Study Skills
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