I’ve had a bad habit throughout most of my life. I tend to start off things strong, but I haven’t always finished strong.
For example, I’ve attempted to run two marathons in my life. The first one I ran without proper training, and I ran the first half pretty fast (by my standards), but I ran out of steam and ended up laying under a bush around mile 20 with heat exhaustion. A little kid came up to me and offered his bicycle so I could finish. I almost stole his bike, but decided instead to take a shortcut to the finish line where I limped across. It took me so long my wife was about to send out a search party for me!
My second marathon, I actually finished, but by the end, I was moving slowly. The second half of the race took an hour longer than the first half of the race. I was thrilled to finish, but I wish I could have finished stronger. Finishing something is an accomplishment, but finishing with excellence is a much more meaningful accomplishment.
When it comes to the school year, most of us (and our kids), seem to take on classwork like I took on those marathons. We start strong. The first part of of the year we’re getting homework done early and taking on class projects with great enthusiasm, but by the end of the year, we’re dragging and much more focused on summer plans than we are on finishing the school year with excellence.
I want to help my kids develop the life skill of finishing strong, and the school year is a natural way to do it. As I write this, we are only weeks away from the summer break, and we’re all SO READY for it to arrive, but I don’t want to wish away these final moments of the semester and the lessons (both academic lessons and life lessons) that could be learned.
Before we finish this school year, I want our kids to complete the following list. Perhaps, this list (or your own version of it) could be helpful for your family as well:
1. Write a heartfelt Thank You letter to your teachers.
There are few things in life more meaningful that receiving a heartfelt “Thank You” for our hard work. Teachers have one of the most important (but tragically most unappreciated) jobs on the planet. Taking the time to handwrite a letter outlining specific lessons learned and specific compliments to the teacher would be both an encouraging keepsake for the teacher and a wonderful exercise in gratitude for the student.
2. Make your remaining assignments your best of the year.
By the end of the year, you’ve got the most knowledge, so your work at the end of the year should be your very best as long as you put in the effort. I know the weather is nice and the pool is already open, but having the discipline to give our best effort now will make the leisure of summer even more enjoyable later. Make it your mission to get an “A” on every remaining assignment. Finish strong.
3. Review the year and evaluate both “successes” and “failures.”
Every experience is most meaningful and educational when we take the time to give it an honest review. Have you student write down ten lessons or skills they learned this year and at least five areas they’d like to improve on in the year to come.
4. Make specific goals for the summer and the coming school year.
Summer should be a time to relax, but it’s also an opportunity to grow. Help your student prepare some goals for the coming school year and a reading list for the summer. Maybe even give one summer “project” where they can use their creativity to research and create something. Offer some kind of reward he or she will receive once the project is completed.
5. Have fun!
Finishing strong is important, but also make time to enjoy the final days of the school year. Plan a celebration (even if it’s just a cookout with your family) to make the end of the year and congratulate each other on making it through the finish line. Enjoy the final days with classmates and then have a wonderful summer!
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