I think everyone knows the feeling of going back to school after a break and suddenly realizing that you have absolutely no idea what you had for breakfast the day before, much less the last thing you covered in history class months ago. Breaks are amazing emotionally, but brutal mentally. Sometimes even a long weekend can take its toll. I remember multiple times in high school when I’d enter math class after a stretch of snow days and the whole class would need a thorough refresher on material we had just covered the week before. Akin to being woken up with a bucket of ice water, returning to school after two months or so off is an even bigger adjustment. Here are some ways to keep from feeling like your brain has turned to mush without ruining the little bit of care-free time you have by just studying!
Keep a Journal
Back in grade school I remember the end of the summer rolling around when I would have to actually act like a functioning human being again, which usually involved some sort of writing. I would pick up a pen, scrawl my name on something and realize that my handwriting had deteriorated to a miserable chicken-scratch. While not directly related to any specific subject in school, journaling gives you a sense of productivity and is great exercise for your hands. Believe it or not, hand muscles need activity just as much as any other muscle. During timed essays, your hands will thank you for making writing a regular activity.
Beyond just the technical benefits of journaling, it also contributes to mental proficiency. During the summer it is easy and tempting to let your mind go blank all the time, making for a rude awakening when you have to get it going again come August. Keeping a journal helps keep you intellectually aware of what is happening in the world around you, and that sort of analysis can then be applied to a variety of subjects you will encounter in the school year.
Make Your Own Summer Reading List
One of the most sure ways to kill motivation is to have a teacher or other authority figure tell you something is mandatory. That’s why I’m a strong believer in self-made reading lists. The TP staff has already made a great list on awesome non-fiction books to get everyone in touch with the real world, but there are also options to help keep school-worthy information fresh in your mind. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell is perfect for anyone with an interest in psychology and the general idea of what it means to be human.
On another part of the spectrum, books like Journey Through Genius by William Dunham open up the world of mathematics and apply academic concepts to the real world better than most classrooms do. Still yet you could pick up a classic (Shakespeare’s King Lear perhaps) and get just as much intellectual stimulation out of it. These are just suggestions — as long as you find something that motivates you to read, the act of reading will be industrious for you.
Movies (Yes, Movies)
If reading isn’t up your alley (and it’s completely fine if it’s not) then there are still way to get that academic fix while maintaining the idea of a vacation. There are tons of fantastic films out in the world — whether they’re documentaries or Hollywood blockbusters — that can provide just as much useful and stimulating information as a good book. There are historical films that hide a lesson in a good story. My personal favorite of this genre is Life is Beautiful, an Italian film that follows the main character through the effects of the Holocaust in Italy. This movie somehow has you in stitches for the first half and sobbing for the second and is definitely worth the English subtitles.
It’s also worth your time to check out movies that just make you think about life, ethics, reality, or any other philosophical concept under the sun. Popular choices like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Memento often end by leaving more questions than they answer. Find a title that intrigues you and you can quickly have an intellectual movie night on your hands that will give your brain the workout it needs. They also provide interesting material for ice-breaking conversations both in and out of class, with teachers or with students, when school starts again.
The idea is not to force a bunch of information into your head as you can or to sit and read your textbooks so you can get a head start in class. The pursuit of knowledge is pointless without a sincere inner drive for information. I have only provided a few of a plethora of ways you can stay on your toes in the summer months (or on any break) so you are ready to hit the ground running when it’s time for homework and essays again. Just keep an eye out for anything that will motivate you to keep learning, no matter what the subject may be.