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Keeping the Learning Momentum: 5 Strategies to Stay Academically Engaged During the Holidays

Once again, it's that time of year: the weather has dropped dramatically, festive lights are adorning everything, and the kids are out of school. While these mini-brain breaks are necessary and golden, keeping some stride with academic rigor (while on break) is far more important.

Let’s be honest: kids are naturally lazy. If we allow it, they’ll spend hours scrolling social media, avoiding discipline, and being proactive. And I have a sneaky suspicion that our students would much rather leave school at school.

After all, the teachers who counted down to winter break did. However, we need to remind our students that those same teachers who frolicked to their cars at the sound of the last bell (the moment the holiday break started) have their jobs, diplomas, and degrees, but our students don’t.

Therefore, completely leaving academics at school isn’t an option for them or for parents raising legacy-minded leaders and exceptional learners.

However, balancing academic time WHILE  on break and integrating rest is an option. 

I'll assist you in getting going. Shall we? Here are some ideas for helping your student find the ideal balance between leisure and productivity throughout the holidays.

1. Read for enjoyment

I'm not sure about you, but I used to love a good R.L. Stine book during my middle school years and anything that Terry McMillan wrote during high school. Reading was my safe haven, and it has a way of providing escapism and unlocking creative relaxation. So, encourage your learners to start reading a few books or even blogs on some of their favorite topics or movie genres. These might be graphic novels, nonfiction, or even fiction.

If your student isn't a big reader or has just started reading for enjoyment, you may want to recommend some good autobiographies or audiobooks.

Reading helps with memory function, recollection, and comprehension. Studies also show that reading reduces stress, promotes relaxation, improves sleep (just make sure they don’t fall asleep while reading 🙂), and decreases the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease. There are tons of great benefits even while reading for enjoyment, and it's a good way to keep them sharp.

2. Reflect and set goals

Encourage your student to reflect on their first semester of the year. You can make this into an activity by having them take a sheet of paper, split it in half (vertically), and write on one side what I like to call their "grows"—areas they might require more development—and their "glows," which are the things they appreciated and performed well at.

Inquire about their goals for the next year, as well as their accomplishments and lessons learned. If you want to be a bit more over the top, have them create an electronic vision board on Canva as a fun exercise.

You can take it a step further by printing it out for the house. This can help them to stay inspired throughout the second part of the school year. Office Depot has custom poster printing (for the low), where you can have their Canva design printed.

Pausing and reflecting in this way encourages introspection and intentionality, which will be a useful skill for the rest of high school and college.

3. Try/learn something new

Okay. So, this can also be a super-fun project or challenge. Ask your students to share something random that they’re interested in, want to learn about, or are curious about. Based on their response, you can create a project, a science experiment, or a fun activity around what they shared. If it’s not too activity-focused, students may also choose from various online platforms offering short courses according to their interest level. Here's one of my favorites.

Alternatively, consider watching free YouTube videos or an excellent documentary on their interests. Learning new skills and exposure to them might broaden their perspectives for the next semester and provide them with different career options or college majors for their post-high school or post-college journies.

You and your student can minimally prepare a meal together if all else fails. They will need to develop cooking skills anyway. So, have them plan a recipe, make a grocery list, and go shopping solo (if they’re 10 years old or older. You can stay in the car or further back in the store). Doing the shopping can help them gain confidence and feel empowered. Finally, you can either have them cook or prepare the meal together.

4. Volunteer or give back

This is my absolutely favorite holiday break suggestion. Volunteering is a humbling way to keep your learners down to earth and grounded. Service teaches one of life’s most valuable lessons: that life isn’t all or only about them.

Furthermore, depending on the serving opportunity, volunteering can foster a deeper sense of gratitude, as they will discover that life could always be worse and that someone else would love to be in their shoes. 

Please consider volunteering with your students during the holiday and beyond. You can try a local food bank,, a cleanup project, or organize your own service.

Offering your skills to those in need and giving back is a fulfilling way to spend your time.

5. Relax and recharge

See, I haven’t forgotten to add the break part of the break (that actually involves balance and rest 😀). Relaxing time can be spent however they choose with some movies, good food, seeing friends, playing the game, visiting favorite cousins, or other family. Definitely make sure the family time happens as a part of their recharge.

Holiday break is also a great time to explore hobbies, do what you love, and try new things as well.

And doing absolutely nothing while enjoying moments of quiet and solitude is a win, too, especially if your learner is more introverted.

A well-rested mind will be better equipped to tackle the spring semester.

Lastly, please remember to enforce a regular bedtime schedule 2-3 days before school starts back and make sure all devices are put away reasonably as well.

Overall, the holiday break is a precious time to strike a balance between productivity and relaxation. Participating in activities that support your student's goals, interests, and values enables you to support their academic engagement so they'll come back to class the next semester with renewed energy, little learning loss, and enthusiasm.

Wishing you and yours a joyful and rejuvenating holiday break!

Until next time, be the change you want to see in the world.


Coach Rahk


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