Another school year has come to an end. I remember the last days of school fondly. We’d all scream “no more pencils, no more books!” The last day of school was always the best day ever.
Sure, we’d maybe miss our friends and teachers over the summer but that final moment of leaving the school on the last day was a feeling of something ending, a time to stop the everyday world of expectations and work and learning. It was time to just be a kid.
That’s why, when in a moms group someone asked for tips on how to incorporate academics over the summer for her young kids, my knee-jerk reaction was “I don’t.” It’s the summer. I let my kids turn their brains off.
That doesn’t mean a free-for-all where all they do is sit in front of technology. They go to camp. They have play dates. They go to the park and go on bike rides. But it’s never even occurred to me to get work books and work sheets and have time set aside every day for learning.
I had no idea this was even a thing. Are we really supposed to incorporate academics into the summer?
I’m not talking about kids who have struggled with confidence or capability in academics though out the school year and who now need to catch up to be on par come September. Nor am I talking about high school kids who need to fight their way into university. I am talking about young children, who do just fine in school.
Some moms said they encourage or expect their kids to do worksheets every day, just to keep their brains sharp over the summer. I’m sure there are studies that say such activity is valuable. I’m also confident there is likely a study or two out there that says that the break is needed for kids to be kids, to be back and ready in September, to be engaged little sponges with renewed bandwidth to take it all in.
There was one mom who said that before her children are allowed to do anything fun, they have to complete some sort of school-type work first. They have to, and I quote, “earn their fun.”
Kids. Earn their fun. Call me a lax mom, but isn’t part of the job of a child to have fun? Isn’t there plenty of learning to be done while having fun? Aren’t kids also learning when they use their bodies and their imaginations and their interpersonal skills and problem-solving skills? Isn’t one of the very rare joys of childhood the ability to be a child, and have fun?
There is plenty of value in boredom. There is value in not having stuff to do, nothing that’s planned for you, expected of you or demanded of you.
There is plenty of time for being run ragged, dogged down by life and responsibilities and expectations and demands. At some point, these kids will grow into adults where time is no longer their own, when even their ‘down time’ is spent thinking about the things you should be doing, and will have to do as soon as that down time ends.
It’s the summer time! In Canada! We finally have long days and warm weather to enjoy. Now is the time to let them run around, take it in, and play. Let them go ride bikes, play baseball, play tag, hit up the playground. It’s the time to take advantage of the best part of being a kid; summer vacation!
Is it possible that this will make September more difficult, as we struggle to get back into the groove? Maybe. Probably. Will they be at a lifelong disadvantage because of it? Almost definitely not. Because aside from the fact kids don’t lose their brains over the summer and forget every single thing they’ve learned before the break, the reality is that the entire curriculum is based on building on what they’ve learned. The curriculum doesn’t assume that the previous months were spent unlearning everything. And neither should we.
Let’s give our young kids some credit. And most importantly a break.
Learning is like riding a bike. You don’t just forget to learn, because for two months, instead of work sheets and homework, you used your brain to do other things.
I reached out to my friend Robin, who is a K-7 teacher, who sees the effects of the summer break on her students each September and who has two kids of her own. I wanted to know if I was out to lunch and failing my children by not insisting they do academics all summer.
“Play is the work of childhood,” she said. “Let them play! Let them be bored! Let them get dirty and stay up too late camping! Let them be kids!”
And that’s exactly what I plan to do.