I long for the summer schedule pretty much all year.
I love not having to endure the morning push of readying three sleepy, grumpy kids. I happily rearrange my work so I return phone calls later, and we can go to South Pond in the heat of the afternoon. I revel in the freedom of saying "yes!" to special requests in the evening -- instead of worrying about making soccer/piano/band/dance/swimming/whatever practice, getting homework done, eating a nutritious supper and getting everyone into bed all by the clock.
I am aware that this is probably not the prevailing view of summer. A friend of mine rejoices in "getting back into a routine."
She feels her girls thrive on having things more scheduled, and being occupied nearly the whole day. She firmly - and undoubtedly rightly - believes that they enjoy learning, and proudly watches their marked improvement in their educational endeavors. She’s been counting down the days to the return of the school year since the kids were out in June.
Each summer, I start out the summer with great hopes for balancing "fun" with "brain drain." You have undoubtedly heard about this. According to the National Summer Learning Association: "At best, students showed little or no academic growth over summer. At worst, students lost one to three months of learning. Summer loss was somewhat greater in math than reading. Summer loss was greatest in math computation and spelling. For
So, I around this time of the summer, right before school starts, (when I really couldn’t possibly cram in any true "educational moments" into the next few days anyway), I anxiously review our all-kids’ activities for summer of 2012:
-- Driving from Vermont to Illinois and back (17 hours, if you don’t stop as is Daddy’s goal, each way): geography, agriculture.
-- Stopping in a state park in New York to view a fabulous gorge: topography, history.
-- Attending county fair with set budget for each child: math
-- Hours upon hours spent lost in a good book: reading
-- Swimming at South Pond, West River, Spofford Lake: science
-- Listening to Vermont Symphony Orchestra: music
-- Attending concerts by young children at Lilac Ridge Farm while eating locally-produced pizza: culture, music, environmental awareness
-- Hosting sleepovers for many children at once: interpersonal relations
-- Driving a golf cart: driving skills
-- Surprising daddy with two bunnies: subterfuge?
Somehow, I hear folks at the National Summer Learning Association sneering at my list of "educational activities" -- except for the reading. (Although admittedly, I let them choose whatever books they wanted - because my librarian friend assures me that the most important facet of summer reading is simply that they read. Ha! One mission definitely accomplished!)
I fear the biggest skill that the kids have honed this summer is negotiation. They know that they have chores to do, whether friends are here or not. So they negotiate with them about their chores, pointing out what they really want to do, and how long it will take to finish a specific task if they all work together. They know that their parents will listen to their pleas for additional money if we are swayed that it is truly important. So they negotiate with both of their parents, doing research about how much books cost as physical books, or how much they cost as downloads - and present how it makes sense to buy Kindles instead.
Negotiation is a great skill, a necessary one for business and even life. I can’t help but to think my children were already ahead of their peers in this area, and I’m not sure that behooves the adults in the house to have had even greater gains in this.
I started the summer with lofty intentions to complete those math sheets their teachers sent home; to diligently go to the library with their reading logs all summer long; to encourage a special project that each could take on; to not let them play electronics for more than an hour a day. (And oh, how we failed at that last one!)
I end this season of long days thinking that we had a fantastic summer together, we parents with a 13-year-old, 11-year-old and 7-year-old - and more of their friends than I could possibly count. I find myself more and more aware of how soon they will all move on to their next phases in life.
And I fervently hope their teachers don’t notice any "brain drain" or "significant summer loss" from our relaxed attitude towards formal learning for the last 10 weeks!
Jill Stahl Tyler is a parent to three children involved in the local schools. She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment and the Brattleboro Town School Board (elementary schools).