Recently, a homeschooling mom told me she didn’t want to stop schooling for a summer break because “they will forget all we learned in school.” I responded that little minds (like adult ones) need vacations and breaks from routine.
Summer vacation brings rest, new learning and skills, and the chance to let some of the academic work “jell” in their developing brains. Reflection is important to critical thought, and we seldom get enough time for it. Even a short summer break will allow for everyone to catch their breath and for you, as a parent, to assess some neglected areas.
In today’s world with its electronic distractions and busy parents, practical life skills often get left in the dust. I remind my children I’m preparing them for adulthood and they need to know how to cook, clean, and manage money. They also need to learn how to relax, have fun, and evaluate the world around them. In the process, I can see their unique talents and gifts shine. Just like in their school work, they have to cover the basics. But then they are free to pursue what they love.
We put aside scholastic pursuits every summer and take stock of practical, life skills. The pace of our academic year, my part-time job, and my desire for my kids to have free time and the rest they need, leaves very little time for me to focus on some of life’s most important lessons.
Summer is the perfect break to reassess and teach new things.
We start every summer by reviewing this check list of age-appropriate skills across a variety of areas. Each child reviews what they have achieved, where they need work, and what they need to learn. In addition to these skills, I add in specific household cleaning goals.
This summer we have already learned about cleaning the bathrooms. After cleaning his toilet, my son had a new appreciation for what I’ve done for years. “How about I cook, you clean?” he said. My 8-year old daughter is a cleaning fiend and it brings me tears of joy to watch her scrub the bathtub. She has a goal in mind. She wants to clean houses for a price. She is honing her work skills.
Cooking is by far the favorite “new” thing my kids tackle each summer. They love the opportunity to plan and prepare a meal each week with me. My 11-year old recently woke me up on a Saturday morning before 7am to let me know that he had already made himself eggs, bacon, and toast. Exciting! But I prefer news AFTER 7am.
My two older kids recently learned how to make homemade instant oatmeal. They were so excited they schemed up a kid’s cooking show for a YouTube channel and ordered kid’s chef hats with Amazon 1-click ordering before I had a chance to say “Halt!”
Last summer they took up gardening with Grandma. My 10-year old entrepreneur wasn’t that enthused until vegetables started to appear and then he saw a money-making opportunity. He joined in the work and asked if he could sell the leftovers to the neighbors for a share of the profits. My kids could be seen trotting through the neighborhood hauling produce door-to-door to see if they could get the neighbors to buy cucumbers, tomatoes, and beans.
Even with these new responsibilities they still get bored and use up an hour of “screen time” pretty quickly. Summer is the time I encourage the focus on learning keyboarding and they are allowed extra screen time if they use the extra time to work on their typing skills. Clearly, this is a valuable skill in today’s world and we just don’t have time for one more thing during the school year.
Lastly, summer is the time to soak up fun things: extra park time, swimming lessons, bike rides and running through the sprinkler with friends. Childhood ends too quickly and the chance to play is something every kid needs.
So before summer is over, do a quick evaluation, set a few goals, and don’t forget to enjoy it!
BOOKS THAT HAVE INSPIRED ME:
- Chop! Chop! The Kids’ Guide to Cooking Real Food With Your Family by Sally Sampson
- Help! Around the House: A Mother’s Guide to Getting the Family to Pitch in and Clean Up by Don Aslett
- Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement by Kay Wills Wyma
Photo Credit: First photo graphic design by Charity Klicka; all other photos taken by Rachelle Reitz.