Since much of our summer looked like this, many would argue that our kids didn’t learn anything at all and their brains went to mush. Knowing that I don’t believe in formal dining, formal dressing, formal learning, or pretty much formal anything in the summer, I might initially agree….
My youngest came home at the end of school in June with a packet of stuff she was supposed to do over the summer. Honestly, I didn’t even look at it and couldn’t tell you what was in it. Reading and math assignments, I am guessing. The packet’s location now is unknown by all. Confession time: she didn’t do any of it and I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty. She did lots of summer reading, but she didn’t really pick books off the recommended list. We let her go to the library and pick out the books she WANTED to read. Which is kind of the way reading over the summer SHOULD be…by choice. For pleasure. She chose some great books about the Native American origin of lacrosse, weather, the ocean, and a fable about having something to believe in. She also literally devoured a couple books about the bo-hunks from One Direction. At her age, I honestly believe she’ll derive much more pleasure, be more engaged, and learn much more by exercising her choice over what to read in the summer as opposed to having her choices dictated to her.
As far as math goes, my youngest daughter *loves* math and she willingly found ways to get in some practice without filling out a packet. Both kids budgeted their own spending money on vacation. At cash registers, they would figure out how much change was coming to them before the cashier doled it out. They calculated the rise and fall of the tides. Both counted the difference between daylight hours and nighttime hours. Our youngest helped us measure our bathroom so we could calculate how much paint to buy. She followed recipes in a cookbook and made her own salad dressing for my salads. We taught her about percents when she found something she loved on sale in the outlets, but wasn’t sure if she had enough money to buy it. Does that follow MCAS guidelines? Probably not. But, it is real-life applied learning that is going to help them be successful, well-rounded kids when they get out of school. I’ll take that kind of learning any day. I think that in addition to multiplication and division and algebra, schools should incorporate lessons on how to buy paint and observe the rise and fall of the tides.
It had been noted last year by one of my oldest daughter’s 6th grade teachers that she needs to work on her writing. He equated her story-telling skills to “being dragged by a horse up a rocky coastline.” I completely agree with him and appreciate his analogy. And, I probably should have made her write more over the summer. She got a notebook and we were going to work on fun writing prompts, but that lasted maybe a week. However, she and I do have a mother/daughter journal that we pass back and forth and she did write to me a bunch. Did it improve her writing skills? Probably not. But, it enhanced her communication skills and kept the dialog between the two of us open. In that journal, we navigated a lot of life “stuff” and there was definite personal growth. I’m pretty psyched about that and that’s good enough for me right now. I’ll commit to formally helping her with her writing from September to May.
My oldest daughter also took a technology vacation for the ENTIRE SUMMER. She literally got out of school in May and did not hold a cell phone or an iPod in her hand for three full months (shocking, I know)! She is still without technology, and she hasn’t complained once. She, dare I say it, enjoyed the break from the pressure of being “connected and cool.” I enjoyed being able to communicate with her minus incessant competition and distraction from a tiny screen. She relearned the valuable lesson of BEING WITH THE PEOPLE IN THE ROOM. And, as a bonus, I found myself blissfully free from having to read incoming and outgoing texts, checking Instagram to make sure no lines had been crossed, and monitoring cyberbullying. Absolutely delightful! From this, she learned more about interpersonal relationships, doing without, and being herself — all lessons that I hope will remain relevant once her phone gets put back in her hands.
Personal responsibility. That came from doing chores, making many of their own meals, walking the dog, watering the flowers, and applying their own sunscreen.
Perseverance. They learned that from skim-boarding. From falling (HARD) on their keisters, often being bruised and embarrassed, but getting right back up and doing it again and again.
They attended a basketball camp, went to numerous sports clinics, had a week at Rivers Day Camp, and took two weeks of my Self Esteem Through Art camp where they were creative and learned lots of valuable life skills with their peers. They made mandalas. They participated in a water ceremony. They listened to music. They did yoga.
Spelling. Well, we didn’t do any of that unless we were playing Scrabble and Bananagrams.
Science lessons came in the form of gardening and beach-combing. From watching buckets full of crabs, seeing super moons and shooting stars, and taking in hours and hours of Shark Week.
Geography and history, what little of it there was, happened on family vacations and day-trips.
After that, there was oodles and oodles of unwinding and relaxing. Of letting kids be kids. Of doing nothing and loving it. Of regrouping. And occasional unabashed laziness.Unstructured. Awesome.
So, did I contribute to summer making my kids dumber? I guess I will let you be the judge. Only time (and their report cards) will tell.