As the school year draws to a close, I start to think about summer and how to best spend those days and nights. Many schools, such as the one in which I work, have summer reading and math requirements. As an educator, I can understand the theoretical ideas behind these requirements, but as a parent I am a bit of a rebel and opposed. I am a firm believer in down time and passive educational opportunities. Lazy summer days with quiet reading, trips to museums and outdoor exploration. Summer nights filled with bonfires and s'mores. I spent a large amount of my childhood summers wandering aimlessly in the woods and fields. For some reason (I'm sure it all goes back to my relationship with my mother), I take great offense to someone telling me what I HAVE to read, especially in the summer. I am in two different book groups and yet I know I can choose to NOT read a book if I so desire. (Rarely does this happen because of my nerdy nature.) Anyhow, my prescription for the summer for most school children and their families would be the following:
1) Regular DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time. I think adults need to model this behavior. Depending on the household, maybe 1/2 hour a day, maybe 1 hour a day, maybe one hour 3 times a week. Free choice of reading materials. What if you don't like what you have started reading? Pick up a different book. No book reports. No stopping after each chapter and writing a summary.
2) At least one trip to a museum or cultural event. Local or not, the family should choose based on their vacation plans and financial situation. Many museums offer "free" days and passes through local libraries. Trips to museums and historical sites are a part of my family's regular routine, much to my 14 year old son's chagrin.
3) Time to reconnect with family. For some this might mean the nuclear family -- too busy during the regular school year to sit down and talk. For others this might mean the extended family -- family reunions and barbecues and time to meet and talk to cousins.
4) Time with online resources. Summer provides a great opportunity for kids to refresh their math skills via Khan Academy or, for older students, to take the time to brush up on current events via their Google Reader or News or a variety of news sources (Yahoo, MSN, Bing).
5) Time outside. Playing, camping, swimming, exploring -- family's choice. I was a Girl Scout leader many years ago and remember very clearly one of my girls being openly hostile to the idea of our troop going on camping trip. Let me just start by stating that I am, by no means, an outdoor enthusiast. At one point we were making s'mores and she said to me "this is my first one". I was a bit surprised, but the big smile on her face said it all. Even a city kid can gain something from the most basic of outdoor activities.
I know this all sounds counter to my "educator" title, but I truly believe in down time and, and as time on this blog will reveal, in activities that are not overtly educational on the surface. Kids are, in general, over-scheduled, and the summer is no exception. Purposefully plan some time this summer to be lazy and carefree.