For many parents, the Summer Holidays can be somewhat of a paradox. A time to reconnect with your children, enjoy quality time together, and step away from the usual routine, coupled with “the fear”: How will I keep my child entertained? How can I make their time off meaningful? How can I ensure they remain intellectually stimulated, and challenged?

Enter, panic mode.

For parents with high-school-age children, this “fear” is typically enhanced even further. With exams, university preparation, and career discussions around the corner, these stressors only become more exacerbated when your child is not in school. It is easy to get caught up in what other families are doing with their free time and start spiralling. Hello to panic-booking tutors, strict revision timetables, and intense academic summer school programs.

Surely there’s another way?

The Future of Work

In an exponentially changing world, we know that now more than ever, it is vital young people are prepared for their future. With the digital skills gap set to cost G20 countries up to $11.5 trillion in cumulative GDP growth if not addressed (Accenture, 2018), typical knowledge-based courses, or exam preparation alone is simply not enough.

Moreover, the World Economic Forum’s data (Future of Jobs Report, 2023) on the most important skills for workers in 2023, among which the top skills feature Analytical Thinking, Resilience, Creativity, Motivation & Curiosity, suggests that an unwavering commitment to grades may be doing our young people a disservice.


With 80% of learners feeling that high school has not or will not prepare them with the skills they need for the workforce (Global Strategy Group, 2021), now more than ever, parents are turning to extra-curricular and supplementary educational programs to enhance their kids’ educational journey.

The Origins of “Summer School”: Summer Learning Loss

Coupled with this, some research suggests that “Summer Learning Loss” (sometimes referred to as “summer setback”, or “summer slide”) can be a real problem for learners (Brookings, Summer learning loss: What is it, and what can we do about it?, 2017).

With one study finding that learners lose, on average, 25-30% of their school-year learning over the summer (cited in Brookings, 2017), it is important that all learners are kept intellectually stimulated during their summer break.

So, how can you ensure that the summer program you choose will actually benefit your child?

Summer Learning: A Changing Landscape

Historically, “Summer School” was a relatively narrow term used to refer to additional school during the Summer holidays. Such programs typically focussed on content, or subject-based knowledge, with the primary aim of preparing children for the next academic year.

With a plethora of courses available today deriving from these origins, it should come as no shock that many summer programs focus on developing knowledge only, and take a relatively standardized approach to teaching and learning.

And, with literally millions of options (Google provided me with over 47,100,000 results upon searching for “Summer School for High Schoolers”), it can be really hard as a parent to identify programs that align with your educational values, and your child’s personal goals.

So, as a parent, how can you cut through the noise and find the right summer program for your child?

Cutting Through The Noise: Finding Your Why

For parents looking to adequately prepare their children for life beyond high school, it is easy to get caught up in the panic surrounding exams and grades. It can be helpful to zoom out and identify what you are really looking for.

This could include asking yourself some challenging questions, and exploring the following themes:

  • Curiosity: What are my child’s interests? Do they have a particular passion they want to explore?
  • Real-World Experiences: Is my child adequately exposed to real-world experiences? Have they participated in any internships, or received any mentorship from industry leaders before?
  • Skill Development: Is my child equipped with the skills they need for the future of work? Or is a focus on memorization deprioritizing other areas like leadership, creativity, or empathy?
  • Emotional Intelligence: Is my child emotionally intelligent, and able to identify their purpose and goals?
  • Personal Branding: Does my child understand personal branding, and are they able to craft their own CV, resume, and LinkedIn profiles?
  • Career Advice: Is my child exposed to a range of different post-graduation opportunities, or have they been focussing on one pathway only?

Upon reflecting on the themes above with your child, it can be helpful to draft a checklist of areas for growth and further development, which can then be great in narrowing your search.

From Knowledge, to Skills & Experiences

A great starting point is to identify programs that focus on combining knowledge, skills, and practical experiences as opposed to purely lecture-style content.

Not only does this ensure your child will actually be applying the knowledge they are learning, but this allows them to build up their own portfolio of personal projects and internships, and to expand their professional network.

Learning Through Challenges

For example, at our Summer School, real-world experiences are interwoven into the learning journey. Learners learn by tackling a global challenge (ranging from Ethical AI to Future of Medicine), and identifying a sub-challenge they want to investigate and solve (for a deeper dive into this learning methodology, see my earlier article, A Glimpse into Challenge-Based Learning).

This approach relies on learning in the context of reality, as new knowledge and skills are developed with the purpose of tackling complex global problems.

Real Experience & Industry Expertise

Additionally, identify courses that guarantee real-world experiences like internships and mentorship.

All learners in our programs receive mentorship from industry experts, whose role is to guide and support learners on their personal projects with industry expertise. We also provide all learners with a guaranteed micro-internship at the end of the program, meaning learners can apply the knowledge and skills they have developed to a real problem a company is facing.

Imagine your child receiving guidance on their Designing Space Habitats project from an expert in the Space Industry, or working for a pioneering Fin-Tech firm after embarking on the Conscious Capitalism challenge. When learning is viewed in this way, you’ll find it is no longer captured in a report-card, but through cutting-edge, exciting opportunities.

From One-Size-Fits-All, to Personalization

Another common struggle among parents and learners is a typically standardized approach to higher education, which is interwoven throughout the education system. Whether this is geared towards specific universities or industries, it can be difficult to find out what is really the right pathway for your child.

In fact, with 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 not even having been invented yet (Institute for the Future, Dell Technologies), it is even more important that your child is equipped with the skills and mindsets to identify their own purpose, and to flourish as a whole human, as opposed to training for one niche industry.

Why not identify programs that explore today’s much-needed social-emotional skills? From collaborating with others to leadership and self-reflection, programs that incorporate elements of human flourishing represent what is so commonly lacking from an exam-based system.

All programs at School of Humanity focus on the individualized journey each learner is embarking on. We understand there is no one-size-fits-all, and instead, encourage each learner to develop their own self-reflective tools through our flourishing workshops. During our Summer School, each learner will embark on their own personal journey of self-discovery, designed to reduce stress, and increase self-understanding and motivation.


Summer 2024: Your Child’s Future Awaits!

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to say goodbye to the summer holiday “scaries”, and hello to empowering your child with the tools they need for their future.

One thing’s for sure, this is just the beginning of their journey.

Mae Dickinson

Passionate about generating change and shaping the future of education.