Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Summer Slide

I love summer. I work fewer hours so I can be home with Bird and Deal while school is out (the biggest perk to running my own marketing consulting business!). Since Bird is perched on the cusp of first grade, I especially love the time we have together over the summer. He often feels left out when, at the end of the day, an anxious Deal who has patiently waited for his big brother to get home from school, sputters on and on about our adventures and escapades from the day. Bird shrugs it off, but I can tell he feels like he never gets to join in our reindeer games.

Our weekend jaunts are markedly different from the places we frequent during the off hours Monday to Friday. We rarely go to the same places with the boys over the weekends because a warehouse full of jumpy houses is utter mayhem. A stress factory. So I suppose Bird does get ripped off. I promised him that our summer would be chock full of adventures, popsicles, Happy Meals, matinees, swimming, exploring, duck feeding, and general frolicking. The boys have half-day camp one week a month, all by design. There's no need to over schedule kids, for childhood is precious. Bird, Deal, and I spend our days relaxing and romping.

We stay in our pajamas until lunch time.
We eat pancakes and waffles and breakfast sundaes.
We build LEGO vehicles and race them down the hallway.
We watch Ace of Cakes.
We make Playdoh cannolis.
We paint.
We make popsicles.
We eat store bought popsicles because we are too impatient to wait for ours to freeze.
We rock out to Mamma Mia.
We build ramps and catapults.

And that's all before lunch.

But the lazy days of summer can go too far. Education is not folly.

Three months of no teachers, schedule, routine, or homework can be detrimental. Imagine doing your job after a three month hiatus. I don't want my kids to spend the first two months of school re-learning everything they accomplished. Bird ended his kindergarten year as a pretty strong reader and mathy kid. One month into summer vacation has killed it. He loses a brain cell for every firefly that lights up its glowing bum. The adage "practice makes perfect" should not be reserved for the September to June months.

Now I'm not a believer in summer tutors, ruler-on-the-knuckles study time, or any such Draconian measures, but I do think summer is a time to keep the ole noggin fresh. And I ain't talkin' a certain "preschool on TV" variety.

And so I traipsed off the to Teach Me store to stock up on school supplies. Bird has some workbooks to complete, and Deal has letter writing to practice. They actually enjoy their "school" time, and they'll never admit to this, but they like the break from running around like banshees. Deal learns an awful lot just from watching and listening to Bird. Bird likes to engage his brain and thrives on taxing himself. He's a creative, energetic, precocious kid who loves T-Ball and Transformers. But he gets jacked up on learning too. What a disservice it would be to take that away from him. We don't have formal study hall or anything and we don't even pull out the pencils everyday. But we do have workbook time throughout the week, and I squeeze in a seat at the kitchen table to chat, explain, and help.

I know naysayers are out there grumbling the whole "they're only kids once" drivel. I echo that with an emphatic yes, they are only kids once. We owe it to our children to teach them about balance, education, discipline. The Spartans believed in a sound mind and a sound body. I think those toga clad dudes had it right. Learning and Fun are not mutually exclusive. At any age.

So if you're looking for ways to engage your kids, come up with clever crafty ideas, or just figure out what to do about swimmers ear, check out Shine from Yahoo. And get yourself a subscription to Family Fun magazine. Oh, and here's my secret to making reading seem like a video game...BrainFlips online flashcards. There are tons of fun ways to exercise those blank slate kiddie minds. A little laughter tossed with a little learning will go a long way.

Here's to "Summer Slide" referring to just the playground equipment and a kicky pair of sandals!
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Kim Moldofsky said...

Sadly, they are going to spend the first two months of school re-learning everything anyhow because that's how most schools work.

@sweetbabboo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
@sweetbabboo said...

This former first grade teacher LOVES to hear that. Adjusting to 1st grade and the tougher standards will be challenging enough without losing all the good knowledge he attained in kindergarten. Although, as long as he comes into first grade doing some reading, he's ahead of the curve.

If you need any ideas or supplies, my attic and I are full of them.

Ilina said...

Yes, I realize there will be time spent rehashing the old. I just hope it's decreased. Teachers are so under appreciated and under valued.

Sweetbabboo, I might be tapping into those supplies and leaning on you for support next year. How can it be that my baby is going into first grade?!

Anonymous said...

Ah, we are two peas in a pod--a little school work to keep the concepts fresh, a lot of free,unstructured time to just hang and BE!

The Mother said...

I did used to push summer learnin'.

Now that I homeschool, I need the break, too.

Plus, they're teens. Irrational anger is a real summer bummer.

Anonymous said...

We start a year-round calendar tomorrow - yes, my girl's time has arrived. I couldn't be happier for her, me, her brain. Will let you know when the jury is in at track out/in time...