Summer Challenges


Summer Challenges: My attempt to peel the couch potatoes

Each summer ushers in a new series of battles surrounding the question, how do you peel the couch potatoes away from video games and television? Summer jobs are a great option, but landing your first job is easier said than done.

This year, I compiled a list of activities for the kids that is meant to be challenging and fun.

  • Interview a professional. Learning to build a network is an invaluable skill. When I was in grade school our teacher had us send letters to business and celebrities asking a few simple questions. The entire class hung on each response. I am asking the kids to reach out to a professional or someone well known to see if they can land a short interview. Depending on the responses that come back, this very well could be a highlight of their summer.

  • Create a metropolitan freeway map. There are a few teens in my home that are on the cusp of getting their driver’s license. Yes, we have maps. Yes, we have GPS, but get off my lawn and learn the freeway system. It’s time well spent!

  • Find three facts about five political leaders that are not in the United States. We are surrounded by political echo chambers. I want the kids to expand their horizons and hopefully discover a curiosity among different cultures and political systems.

  • Watch three documentaries of your choice. I originally made them write a paper on the documentaries they watch, but I decided its better to attract bees with honey rather than vinegar. My intent here is to broaden their horizons. Documentaries often exist on a sliding scale of between being informative and the springboard for propaganda. Together, we’ll discuss what they watch and tease out the nuances between facts and manipulation.

  • Using your phone, create a movie or a short series. During their last break, my kids made their own version of Detective Pikachu - complete with story, music, multiple camera angles and even basic costumes. I loved what they made and must have more!

  • Create a commercial. To accompany their storytelling, I want them to get experience having to “sell” something. The potential for silliness is high here. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

  • Create a model of a structure or ship. After listening to Adam Savage’s interview on the Tim Ferriss show, I realized that Adam’s recommendation to build models out of cardboard is genius. I fully expect to be jealous of the amount of fun they are going to have!

  • Take a Masterclass. Masterclass is an intriguing concept on many levels. I like the idea of being able to learn disciplines from people we recognize. Two of my boys took theater last year, and I think we can all get a lot out of Samuel L. Jackson’s acting class. I expect the lessons here to go well beyond the stage and help my teens learn to be more thoughtful about life and more comfortable in their skin.

The whole point behind all this is to find intentional ways to provide stretch opportunities. Many of these activities would never be pursued without prompting, and I’m hoping they discover some exciting and new skills that resonate far beyond a short pause from daily classes.