Friday, June 14, 2013

Summer is for Learning

Now that school is out, most children are probably lounging around at home. Mine have been since school let out last month. The boys have sat around playing video games and my daughter has been catching up with friends. This arrangement was fine until I walked home one day and found all three of them zoned out in front of the television while a pile of mounting dishes lay neglected in the sink. So the first thing I did after settling in was announce the start of summer educational activities. Of course, the news was met with a roll of the eyes (my teen girl) and groans (yes, the boys).

I responded as any mom does when greeted with such enthusiasm: got the girl into summer school and signed the boys up for the local reading program with the public library. My daughter is excited since she will be spending a month in the DC area, where I'm gladly shipping her off to next month. My boys were fine with the reading, until they learned it required them to record the entire process. Somehow reading became a chore at that point.

I've spoken to many teachers in the past who confessed to dreading the first few months of the new school year. That period is spent just catching up on the prior year's lessons before they can even consider introducing the current grade's assignments. After two months of vacation, our children apparently forget a lot. But who wants to burden their children with academic work during the long summer months?

At first, I was going to buy a few educational books from the bookstore and have my sons work on them, but the response I received told me it would be one miserable summer getting them to cooperate. I gave up on that idea, but it seems so unfair to burden teachers with keeping our children educated. What happens is that when they determine the kids are too far behind, the rest of the school year is spent on boring writing lessons, with absolutely no engagement. 

I'm heading to New York City next week to attend my nephew's wedding. Because of my workload, I was able to squeeze in only six whole days of vacation time. The challenge now is to divide that time equally between reuniting with family I haven't seen in years and glean some sort of learning benefit to stimulate the kids with. So I planned a one-day trip to DC (history and politics), a trip to the Museum of Mathematics (obviously math) and MOMA (humanities). Now all I need is to incorporate literature and science into the mix. My family scoffed at my plans. They have more interesting things to do: Central Park, Times Square, and the comedy clubs. Boy, am I jealous. 

But here's the thing: if we don't encourage our children to learn, education remains an after-thought. They will never learn the importance of education unless we make it a part of their lives. That's exactly what happened with financial literacy. For so long, math-based courses were viewed negatively and taken begrudgingly and now we have this global campaign going to help citizens just catch up on the basics. It's not a risk I'm willing to pass on to my children. I don't want them catching up when they're adults. I want them to be well-rounded children with an innate love of learning. Central Park will just have to wait. 

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