Introduction to the Summertime Survival Guide for ParentsMay 18, 2017
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Survival Guide for Parents? Well, here is the
Summer Learning Changed My Life
Each of the summer learning ideas I share here with you is inspired by the
fun-filled years that I’ve spent raising and educating my own children. From
the beginning, engaging my daughters and son in imaginative play and
sparking their curiosity with hands-on activities and fieldtrips brought my
family tremendous joy. As my children embraced new learning opportunities,
I stood in awe watching their worlds expand.
Summer learning also had great significance in my own early years. Childhood
was not easy for me. My family was poor and while my parents did their best,
education was not a priority. It couldn’t be; keeping a roof over our heads and
putting food on the table was always their main concern.
Summertime provided respite from these challenging circumstances. At the
end of each school year, my bags were packed and I spent the weekends with
my dear Aunt Mary. The wide Victorian staircase that led to her apartment is
still in my memory.
One otherwise ordinary afternoon, I remember my aunt asking me to read
aloud to her. As I stuttered and stumbled over each word, the gaps in my
education surfaced. Although it was an excruciating experience for us both, it
also proved to be life-altering.
Immediately, my determined aunt made it her mission to teach me how to
read. Not once did she shame me or make me feel badly about my difficulties.
Rather, Aunt Mary lovingly put me in her lap and we read together—for hours.
We devoured piles of children’s books purchased from the neighborhood thrift
stores and my love of reading was born.
Aunt Mary also taught me to play the piano and she gave me Lincoln Logs that
I used to create whole worlds, each filled with dramatic story lines and
characters. Baking angel food cakes in her tiny apartment’s kitchen is among
my favorite memories still.
My Aunt Mary was a skilled teacher. Intuitively, she infused our days with
opportunities for learning, each one bundled up in love and care. There were
neither drills nor stern announcements proclaiming it was time for lessons.
Instead, she instilled a love of learning in me by modeling her own curiosity
and love of books.
I was eight when my parents died and a different aunt and uncle took me into
their home where I remained for the rest of my childhood. In the summer
months, Aunt Dorothy signed me up for swim team and for sewing lessons.
Uncle Ed had Mondays off and he would take me on factory tours throughout
our town. We visited the almond factory and the Wonder Bread factory and
afterwards we always stopped by Wienerschnitzel for French fries. These
Mondays with “Unk” were some of the happiest days of my life.
By high school, I’d become fond of preparing for summer by writing lists of all
of the activities I wanted to explore and of the books that I would read. Summer
provided freedom to learn whatever I wanted. I took full advantage of this time
My love of learning followed me to college where I earned a Master’s degree in
education. After graduation, I became the private teacher for Barry Goldwater
III. I enjoyed a fantastic spring with his family sailing through the Caribbean
aboard their yacht. I believe his family hired me because I recognized the
unique learning opportunities that were possible in the midst of these
extraordinary travels. Biology class consisted of studies about the fish we were
seeing firsthand. History centered on the stories of the islands that we explored
together. Each of the books we read somehow related to the sights we were
visiting. I suppose I wanted to provide young Barry with the same gifts my aunt
and uncle had given me. I wanted to make his learning fun, exciting and
Years later, when it came time to send my own children to school, I decided to
teach them at home instead. Our days spent homeschooling were full of
fieldtrips, science kits, art and a good amount of travel. Our house was a mess,
but we sure had fun!
Throughout the year, my family enjoyed our time learning together but summer
was something extra special. Any pressure we might have felt to complete
material and achieve particular goals during the school year evaporated in June.
Summer learning isn’t about specific academic expectations. Rather, it is
no-pressure learning and it is during this special season that great things can
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