Friday, August 15, 2014

Summer "School" for the Whole Year

I don't know about your area, but around here the Back-to-School frenzy has already started. The newspaper is full of ideas for "what to do" with your kids while you are waiting for school to start. There are also suggestions for getting your child back into "school" mode. Parents and teachers worry about students getting back into a "normal" sleeping routine and fret over summer brain leakage. One parent in the article talked about how she had gathered her children's school clothes and summer assignments together to prepare for the start of school.

Wait a minute...Summer assignments? I thought one of the joys of summer vacation was the lack of homework? Sad but true, I've heard this from parents at the library. Some schools assigned four summer reading book reports. And just to make certain kids are well rounded from the experience, the schools specified two reports on works of fiction, one on a biography, one on a work of non-fiction.

I shake my head over it all. 

How I loved summer! I spent most of it wandering around our backyard. I remember lounging in the hammock reading "The Wind in the Willows," not because someone told me to, but because I wanted to. I watched TV. Sometimes I played with other kids, but not usually. Other kids complicated my quiet world and most of the time with my two older siblings usually ended in fights or tears or both. I preferred sitting with our chickens and in later years, our pigeons. I set up my plastic animals and used my Matchbox cars to play safari. I would peel the bark away from sticks to use as toys. I collected morning glory seeds and pretended they were coffee beans. I had unlimited time to draw. Most of the time I simply moved dreamily about the yard making up stories in my head. I'm sure it looked like I was bored, but I wasn't. The things I did and learned during the summer always stayed with me.

It makes me wonder: Why are we surprised children forget so much school learning over the summer? Schools try to cram a myriad of information into kids during the school year with the main goal of a passing grade on a test. For what purpose? To move up to the next grade and do it again? How is that incentive? I never got the hang of school math when I was little because, to me, it was all endless numbers on a page. In summer I built a dollhouse (geometry) and learned how to make miniatures to scale. I didn't consider it math, and so I decided I was terrible at math. For me, history was wars and dates in school. In summer, it was trips to places like Colonial Williamsburg or the Cloisters. I didn't consider this history, so I decided I was terrible at history.

I'm grateful I had the opportunity to homeschool/unschool my kids. I'm glad I gave them the room to be creative and spend their days like I spent summer. Learning should not be an "old grind". Learning should be endless days of summer--thinking, doing, exploring the world around you and within you.

7 comments:

Inner Elder said...

I love your description of playing in the back yard. No wonder you love your garden. I too have happy memories of my childhood back yard. Playing in the dirt box, visiting my Pop-Pop's roses, discovering a box turtle. What a gift summer is! Love, Mom

Susan Gaissert said...

Great post, Cristina. I always cringe when the fliers that come in the mail from department stores start advertising "Back to School" in July. Those poor kids. I also see signs along the road here advertising local learning centers that will help your child not "fall back" over the summer--if what your child learned is that fragile, if it can be forgotten that easily, maybe she never really "learned" anything at all. Thanks for this post!

Paula Vince said...

It is sad. And when we try to explain, people nod politely to fob us off. I hope more people will latch onto blog posts like this one of yours. Your childhood in the 70s sounds very, very similar to mine. I loved those days of 'acting out' books in the backyard :)

Kez said...

I loved the whole post - your childhood sounds similar to mine. Loved this line most though as I could relate to it - and now my son is the same! "Sometimes I played with other kids, but not usually. Other kids complicated my quiet world and most of the time with my two older siblings usually ended in fights or tears or both."

jugglingpaynes said...

I love that other writers had similar play experiences growing up!

CS Peterson said...

Lovely post Cristina - brought back many memories of mine as well.

Dawn @ The Momma Knows said...

Yes! Summers were slow and lazy and fun and creative and yes, filled with books for me but that was only because I was happiest with my nose buried in one. The kids and I break from our homeschooling in the summers because it's too hot to do anything else and I can't expect them to focus on schoolwork when the weather is so nice. Summer Assignments?! For public school?! Yikes!

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