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Go ahead and ask him. He’ll tell you what he really thinks.

In this case, he has no issues with verbal communication.

Believe me.

I am ruining his summer.

His summer will be the WORST SUMMER EVER.

Not because we don’t have a million fun things planned; but because there’s the inclusion of the Summer Worksheet Workbook.

His favorite sentence at the moment is…I hate that binder.

The (Dreaded) Worksheet Workbook

I spent the better part of my Memorial Day putting together a binder and I’ve dubbed it: The Worksheet Workbook.

It’s been on my mind for a while* and I knew it would be an important tool to help him (read: us) prepare for the next grade of middle school.

*At the kid’s annual IEP meeting, we (Team Rand) were looking ahead to 7th grade and the requirements of his ELA class as well as the personalities of his soon-to-be teachers. We discussed how helpful it would be to incorporate practice over the summer to prepare him for all of the new objectives ahead.

Like just about anything that requires a lot of brain power and quiet time to put together, I put off this project in leui of all the other activities that were demanding my time and attention, but as I faced the first full day of summer vacation, I knew I needed to get my butt in gear. It would be better for both of us if we could start the pattern in conjunction with the first official day of summertime.

I’ve been the mother of a kid living with Autism long enough to know that patterns matter – and I’ve missed enough perfect opportunities to lay the groundwork for a strong pattern to know when I need to break my own cycle of procrastination to, shall we say, seize the moment.

And let’s not forget that I had already dropped the bomb of expectation…

Knowing that I can’t spring something this big – and life altering (as he would say) – on him without forewarning, I started laying the foundation for expectation a couple of weeks ago.

Yep. He didn’t take it well.

There was crying. Pouting. Shouting.

We all have our own emotional processes to work through…

I just wanted his out of the way as much as possible ahead of time, so that when it came time for Day 1, he was as resigned as possible (read: with emotions out of the way, he could just get down to work).

A Resource for Summertime

I didn’t want the Worksheet Workbook to just be about work. I wanted it to be a resource.

Let me be very clear on this point: I wanted him to have more reasons to use the workbook than just to complete worksheets.

I wanted it to be a resource for summertime.

So, I kept that in mind during the design process.

I took a binder that he was using during the school year and cleaned it out. Printed a new title page and slipped it under the clear, plastic cover. There would be NO MISTAKING what this binder was now all about.

I printed out vertical calendar pages for the months of summer: June, July and August. And I marked them up in pencil with plans, outings, possible road trips, etc… I told him all the notes were in pencil because plans might change.

Just behind those sheets, I add the 2017-2018 school calendar, so he could look ahead to the fall, as we continue to plan our adventures for the rest of the year.

In the next section, I printed out a list of Water Rat goals and destinations.

We’ve dubbed this summer one of being Water Rats, because we have in mind to use our season passes to Wet n Wild and Carowinds as much as possible. We’ve also talked about visiting new water parks, learning the ways of the Lake Life and the Salt Life (thanks to friends who live near those bodies of water and have offered a place to stay), and adding to our favorite tubing spots.

Let’s just say, I will be doing A LOT of laundry this summer with all the beach towels we plan on using throughout the week.

So, our Water Rat list includes places we will definitely go, and places that we may go – and even leaves some open lines for places we may learn about as the summer unfolds.

Behind that list, is our road trip list. We’ll be putting some serious miles on Grizz this summer with trips to Philly for Kidchella and visiting family in New York and New Jersey. Again, I included some empty lines* for us to fill in as we go.

*I’m trying to give him visual representation of the unknowns.

In the next section, there’s a calendar sheet that zeros in on a 3 week block of time. Definite plans are noted in different colored marker.

There’s a week layout with lines beside each day, so that he can practice making daily notes. Also, so that we can identify ahead of time, which days we’ll be hitting the gym.

And then…there’s the worksheets.

Practice Makes Proficient

Thank goodness for my time as a teacher. It was short, but certainly long enough to help me understand how to create lesson plans – and how to leverage tools that are already out there.

I’ve decided to create weekly plans, so that I can stay flexible (and reasonable) based on our activities. It also helps him to create segments in his mind. There are 12 weeks of summer, so 12 weeks of worksheet goals.

And yes, the intro sheet is a weekly goals list.

For example, he can see that for Week 1, he’ll be responsible for learning four new vocabulary words and reading the first nine chapters in Way of the Warrior Kid, among other things.

Setting expectations. Really important.

Each day of the week has a checklist. With boxes. That he can check off.

Because there’s a great deal in satisfaction is checking off the boxes, no?

And each day includes a reading assignment (or two), with a focus on comprehension; vocabulary skills practice; and math problems.

Enough work to be something to reckon with; not so much that it will take him the whole day.

Unless he fusses.

And I’ve already warned him, worksheet time comes before digital time. Probably his least favorite aspect of the whole campaign, but this momma has got to leverage activity somehow. And he’s capable – and in need – of being challenged to focus on honing his mental skills, not just his digital-gaming skills.

I don’t expect him to sail through it all. And yes, I realize that my time will be invested in both the planning and the daily execution of the worksheets. But, if he can practice all summer, he’ll be in a better spot starting 7th grade than otherwise.

And let’s be honest, it isn’t just the academic skills that we’re practicing. It’s basic functions – time management, work vs. play choices, how to navigate different sections in a folder with success, how to check off what’s completed, how to plan ahead, how to balance planning with flexibility.

You know – just a few things.

Things that are way bigger than just 7th grade.

Is the Worksheet Workbook a Blackhole?

I don’t know.

I was reviewing the workbook with the kid’s dad and expressing concerns for time investment…

Again, this is going to be a time suck in both the planning and the execution. (Let’s be real – the kid is likely to pester me with questions the whole time he’s working on his objectives.)

I don’t really know how much, but I know that it’s important. And right now, because of some of the choices I’ve made professionally, I have more time available to invest in him. That was the whole point of leaving my corporate job earlier this year.

But there still exists my own challenge of balancing mothering time and development time (for client projects as well as my own personal creative projects). It’s not like I’m growing money in the backyard garden, so there’s still work time that needs to be a priority too.

So, is the Worksheet Workbook a blackhole? I don’t know. I hope not.

I hope that it will be an awesome tool to help instill the importance of life-long learning in my kid. Sure, it’s a bit formal, but we’re both guilty of leaning towards the indulgent side of life, so a little formality goes a long way in helping us commit to the challenge.

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