So I’m sitting on Pinterest, marveling at the number of summer learning activities people generate for kids.
Despite being what I consider an Old Pro (emphasis on old) at the whole school thing, I’m always taken aback at how intense some parents get about summer learning. Avoiding the “summer slump.” Making sure there’s no backslide.
I’ll never forget the year after Boy Wonder finished kindergarten. I purchased a 1st grade workbook and a composition book, intending to have him journal our activities every day and do a couple of worksheets a few times each week. And I was feeling damn proud of myself.
Then I heard about all of the other moms who were enrolling Boy Wonder’s peers in double sessions at Kumon.
“Is your kid having trouble with math?” I’d naively ask.
“Well, no. He actually is right at grade level. But I don’t want him to fall behind. And in fact, if we work really hard this summer, he’ll qualify for accelerated math next year.”
I blinked and stared, wide-eyed, trying to hide my confusion.
Then I discovered that many parents had contracted their kid’s kindergarten teacher to come to their house once a week all summer to keep up their schooling.
I couldn’t understand why someone would put a kid in summer tutoring that didn’t need it. Or was doing it just to boost skills to pass a test that’s supposed to measure innate ability (theoretically).
And that’s where my Fear of Missing Out, Screwing My Kid And Forever Destroying His Chances of Going to Harvard, Even Though He Probably Won’t Want To Go There Anyway comes into play.
Boy Wonder had done fantastically well in kindergarten. He was above grade level in math and on grade level in reading.
But if Everybody Else was doing things like hiring teachers and going to Kumon, was I putting my kid at an utter disadvantage by NOT doing those things? If Everybody Else was working so that their kid landed in an accelerated math program, would my just-doing-worksheets-but-good-at-math kid’s score even qualify for the program?
Like always, I rushed off to my husband and told him we needed to consider enrolling Boy Wonder in… something. You know, because it’s what people do.
He got that look on his face, that he does when he knows I am running off half-cocked and worrying about shizz that I shouldn’t.
“He’s not struggling, Gigi. I’m not against spending money to help the kid if he needs it. But, the kid’s FINE.”
I started to think about the message putting Boy Wonder in tutoring might send:
You did great, kid. But it wasn’t great enough. And we’re going to steal away part of your summer to BE great enough.
And then I thought back to the summers of my childhood. They were a juicy, full twelve weeks of utter chillax. My mother had no program in place, no worksheets, flashcards, tutoring or structured play. At 8:00 a.m. every day, Wayne Smith, the neighbor boy, would knock on the screen door, yell, “Can Georgann come out to play?” and I’d be outside for the rest of the day, returning only for meals.
Admittedly, I was several grade levels ahead on everything. But could I have used some extra help on fractions or division? Yeah. Maybe. But that didn’t matter.
Summer was for fun. Freedom. Mischief. Food. And a hell of a lot of TV on rainy days.
My kids barely get 8 weeks of summer, not 12. And they are both good students – actually, they’re great students. They’re reading on their own each night, and that’s cool by me. Boy Wonder could be working on his writing and Little CEO could be practicing her atrocious penmanship.
But they’re not.
I’m not teaching my kids anything formal this summer – just like every other summer we’ve had.
Instead, I’m choosing to teach them that breaks are a good thing. That they don’t need to wring their brain cells dry to be good students. That their hard work during the academic year deserves the reward of relaxation.
I’m teaching them that right now, they should experience fun and freedom and mischief and food and yes, a goodly amount of TV and video games. I’m teaching them that they are good enough, and I don’t expect perfection.
I’m teaching them that they’re still kids. And that’s really all they need to learn right now.