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Interested in learning more about The Summertime

Survival Guide for Parents?  Well, here is

Chapter 2!  Enjoy!

 

Chapter 2

This Summer, Fall in Love with Learning

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such

gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who

can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the

world we live in.” -Rachel Carson

 

The approach of summer evokes spectacular images of fun in the sun and a

chance to finally slow down and spend more time with our families. In the

last months of school, most students can barely contain their excitement as

they imagine time with friends, adventures outdoors and perhaps attending

camp or going on a family vacation. Summertime is the best!

 

At the same time, many parents develop anxiety wondering how their

children will fill all of the empty hours looming ahead. Perhaps a shortage

of time, finances or transportation makes this scenario especially daunting.

If you are a family on the road all summer long, though excited by the

prospect, you may be looking for ways to maintain some semblance of a

regular routine.

 

Maybe you are simply looking for ways to keep your child’s skills sharp over

the holiday while expanding his or her thinking in all sorts of wonderful

ways. When done right, summertime learning can address all of your goals

and concerns by transforming a long stretch of vacation into a meaningful

opportunity for adventure, growth and learning. Summertime learning is

also a sure-fire way to enjoy some serious fun.

 

The ideas and activities collected in this book will be of use for all sorts of

families, budgets, schedules and environments. You can easily adapt most

of the ideas I share with you for use with one or several children and with

larger groups. All of these resources have something in common: they will

provide you and your kids the chance to have fun this summer and to learn

at the same time.

 

What is Summer Learning?

Let’s begin with what summer learning is not. This book is not an appeal for

traditional year-round schooling. Summer vacation is a wonderful tradition

and one that is well worth preserving. A break from our usual routines is a

chance to replenish creativity, enthusiasm, energy and spirit. This slower

season rejuvenates parents and educators as well by providing a chance to

view learning through a different lens and to develop new sets of dynamic

learning tools.

 

Summertime learning is about freedom and learning on our families’ own

terms. It is a chance for each of us to roll up our sleeves and plunge deep into

projects that ignite our curiosity. This special season provides a unique

opportunity to create educational goals that are in harmony with the specific

needs of our kids. Your child may have the mind of a specialist wanting to

delve deep into a single subject—perhaps entomology, calculus, theatre or

the violin. Introduce this child to local professors, members of an acting

troupe or musicians in your community. Perhaps you have a young

Renaissance kiddo who enjoys sampling a smattering of everything. Summer

is a great time to introduce such a child to a range of diverse experiences. At

last, there is time to pursue the individual learning needs of your child.

 

Summertime learning leaves room for uninterrupted, undirected play.

Children make some of their most profound discoveries and connections

when given the freedom to explore, move and navigate their own learning

paths. While mapping your family’s plans for the summer, be sure to leave

ample time for doing “nothing.” Often times, these are the most magical

moments of the summer season, allowing incredible opportunities for our

kids to flourish.

 

This summer, your family will develop practices you can easily extend

throughout the school year. Some of these practices might just be the best

summer souvenirs your family acquires.

 

Who Benefits from Summer Learning?

Not all children are natural students. In fact, many struggle in a traditional

brick and mortar setting, which can lead to lowered self-esteem and other

problems. However, all children are natural learners. Kids come to us

hardwired to seek out new experiences they can explore and apply to their

own lives.

 

Summertime learning appeals to the inherent curiosity in all of our children.

It is a not a punishment for kids with bad grades. If Tom fails math, vacation

is not the time for times table drills that didn’t seem to work in the first place.

Instead, the summer months are a chance to reintroduce math to Tom, to

grab his attention and to help him see both the value and fun in this subject.

How one goes about doing so depends on Tom’s interests. Does he enjoy

carpentry, mountain climbing, cooking or music?

 

Parents who sit down and ask these questions are taking a perfect first step

toward making math come alive for their child. Before he knows it, Tom feels

good at math, perhaps returning to school with a fresh outlook and renewed

sense of confidence.

 

To “reward” a child who had a successful academic year by providing him

with a summer plan void of learning opportunities would be a mistake as well.

Though a child might have performed well in the classroom, there’s no

guarantee that the academic year adequately addressed the student’s learning

needs. Perhaps the teacher was unable to delve as deeply as this child may

have liked. Maybe there are new subjects to explore. Opportunities for

learning are a gift, so don’t present them as a chore or a punishment.

 

Kids aren’t the only beneficiaries of summertime learning; parents and

teachers have a great time, too. Many children spend the majority of their

year absorbing the teachings of adults. This model can be as exhausting for

the adult as it is for the child. Summertime is a great chance to give the

grownups a break. Switch places with the children in your life and let them

lead the way toward new learning adventures. You’ll be amazed by the things

you discover when your child becomes the teacher.

 

Throw Out the Have-Tos and Focus on the Want-Tos

During the school year, even the most creative teachers and home educators

have a certain amount of required “stuff” we just have to plod through. In the

best-case scenario, we find ways to bring this learning to life through a range

of engaging practices. Still, as any child will point out, an adult usually

determines what students learn during the school year.

 

In the summertime, all of that changes! It’s time to hand over the keys.

Let your kids take the wheel and steer the course of their own learning.

Ask them what they want to know more about, and help them find the tools

they’ll need in order to pursue those interests. Then sit back and enjoy the

ride.

 

Here’s a story I tell often because it perfectly captures the great learning that

is possible when we ask kids the right questions and really listen to their

responses. When my son was quite young, I asked him what his #1 goal was.

“I want to learn to drive every kind of boat,” he told me. Since I knew

absolutely nothing about boats, I was uncertain how best to support him.

However, as I’m sure you understand, when your child has a dream, you can’t

just stand there shrugging your shoulders. You have to do something!

 

I hunkered down and did my research. Sure enough, the local university was

offering a children’s boating camp. Each day, campers took turns driving a

different kind of boat. Canoes, kayaks, wind surfers and mini sailboats were

all a part of the fun. My son attended the camp and enjoyed it so much that

he returned for a second summer the following year. He is twenty-five now

and though he did not become a sailor or a sea captain, he did grow up

knowing that his parents take his dreams seriously and that we believe he

can accomplish anything he sets out to do.

 

Keep the Focus on Fun

At the start of the season, we may feel especially ambitious. Mapping out

plans for an extraordinary summer is wonderful fun. Let your child’s

excitement fuel discussions concerning how best to spend the summer

months. In the early planning stages, do your best not to put the brakes on

any ideas. At the same time, it is helpful to remember that summer is a season

for rest and rejuvenation; the goal this season is to grow your family’s curiosity

and love of learning. This may require moving at a slower pace than you are

accustomed to during the rest of the year.

 

Of course, if your child’s plans involve other people—such as is the case with

volunteer work or summer employment—she must honor those commitments.

However, there may be instances in which a child identifies a more personal

goal; perhaps she aims to read all of Shakespeare’s works by August. Commend

her for coming up with this admirable plan but should she find it to be

unrealistic or less interesting than she’d expected, encourage her to recalibrate

and come up with a new plan that excites her.

 

By providing our kids the space and freedom to pursue their unique interests

joyfully now, we are encouraging them to become life learners who

continuously seek out new experiences and ideas and engage deeply with

their environment and the people in their lives. These traits will serve them

well down the road. Should our children run into financial difficulties, they

can learn their way out of them by strategizing a new plan. If their job

downsizes or their industry fades out, life learners are better able to adapt

and develop a new trade or career path. When health challenges arise, they

can do research to determine the best way to manage the problem. For these

reasons, inspired learning is a vital part of every child’s education.

 

Changing How We View Summer Learning

“The natural opportunity for learning during the summer months is exciting

to me. I love all of the little moments that come up and make new

discoveries possible—all without any need for curriculum.” -Jill W., Tennessee

 

In creating artificial divisions between school time and vacation time, we send

our kids the message that learning is something unpleasant we get to escape

from in the summer. When families make it a point to pursue learning

opportunities enthusiastically throughout the year, we are telling our kids that

we value learning. We let them know that being open to new experiences,

knowledge and discovery is our family’s way of life. It may look more sparkly,

quirky and colorful in the summer than in February perhaps, but the message

remains the same—always, we are individuals striving to learn, to grow and to

try new things.

 

My parents died when I was eight-and-a-half years old. The months following

my parents’ death were extremely difficult. Stomachaches and nightmares

bothered me constantly as I struggled to navigate my deep loss. School was

also a challenge; I was the new kid and that is never easy. Even more painful

was my growing awareness that, academically, I was lagging far behind my

peers.

 

An announcement of the Willy Wonka reading contest came just in time. I

listened intensely to my teacher, Mr. Hagrid, as he explained the contest rules

to my fifth grade class. He told us the student who read the most books would

receive a certificate, a giant chocolate bar and a free karate lesson. I really

wanted that chocolate bar. And, in the depths of my soul, I wanted to be a

winner. So, I read like crazy. I devoured and digested pages and pages of books.

 

My hard work paid off: I won the contest. Hearing my name announced in

front of all of my peers affected me deeply. I felt a shift in my entire sense of

self as my confidence grew.

 

This achievement made me eligible to attend a summer school program

for academically gifted students. There, I learned about new ideas that

challenged and engaged my thinking. My natural curiosity received attention

and it blossomed. For the first time in my life, I believed in my own

intelligence. It pains me to think how things might have turned out if I had

spent that summer with low achievers instead of in a summer program for

gifted kids. I imagine us all stuck indoors together, forced to review dry, old

material while wearing invisible labels marking us as the “bad students.”

 

This experience is evidence to me that we must revise how we think about

summer learning. Summer should not be a time to dole out learning as

some form of punishment nor should kids spend it behind desks following

pre-selected curriculum. Summer learning must be inspired learning; it is travel

and it is fun times in the kitchen. Summer learning is exposure to great films,

music and dance; it is about movement, exploration and calculated, intelligent

risk. Summer learning is hands-on, experimental and—above all else—deeply

personal.

 

If I had my way, of course, these would be elements of every child’s education all

year long. Since circumstances make this difficult for many, let summertime

be that special season when our kids can pursue the passions that

move them the most.

 

The Summertime Survival Guide for Parents is available on Amazon.com.

And the Planner is FREE!

 

 

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