In summer the responsibility for the children’s education is passed on from school to home. Therefore summer is not necessarily something some parents look forward to.
How do I keep the kids out of my hair—keep them busy? If I don’t, won’t they deteriorate into illiterate video-game zombies who can’t add or subtract?
But after nine long homework-packed months, do they still have to be kept busy? Don’t they deserve a break?
Don’t they deserve late nights, long, leisurely breakfasts in their pajamas, and trips?
Yes, they do—but maybe not for three months.
It’s always difficult to return to a routine after a long break. Many schoolteachers will attest to post-Christmas vacation-adjustment challenges. “Back to square one—reestablishing rules, reviewing topics of discussion, trying to keep them awake after lunch,” says one.
Having recently stopped exercising for about two months, I, too, had to drag myself out of inertia. When my children were growing up, I made sure there was no difference between weeknight and weekend bedtimes, so we never had problems waking up for school (until they became teenagers).
So, if only to keep them in the learning mode and out of our hair, is summer school necessary?
It depends on the program.
Many studies have been done to justify the summer-school practice, mostly for older kids. It has proved effective for helping students catch up in specific areas—math and Filipino immediately come to mind.
Learning a new skill seems also the goal of some summer programs. A more intense schedule allows one to focus one’s efforts without distraction from learning a new language, taking up dance or learning to play an instrument.
It is also a good time to pursue a passion like cooking or art or sports.
Then there’s the time to expand one’s learning by introducing new ways to apply concepts and skills learned over the school year—think science camps and writing workshops. Sometimes it is enough to just proceed with the progress made during the school year.
But before we say, “Sign me up,” as responsible parents let us take their ages, interests, and skill levels into account.
The younger the child, the less structured the program should be.
For example, a 3-year-old might not enjoy being taught to read as much as being read to. The latter will develop an appreciation of literature, an understanding of the language, a sense story structure and a familiarity with literary characters.
An older child will benefit from a more straightforward effort to teach a skill, but enjoying the program never hurts the learning process, either.
There are programs out there that provide “transition.” If your child is moving from preschool into the “big” school, you may want to explore this type of program. It should help prepare children to meet the expectations of the more traditional learning environments in the “big” schools.
Then there are those that help children who have not yet begun regular schooling to ease into a more structured schedule (Exploration Time, Circle Time, Snack Time, Goodbye), meeting other children, and developing relationships with other caring adults. Try to find a program that a child will enjoy as well as learn from.
Don’t be afraid to ask what the goals of the program are and determine for yourself what might be suitable.
Done right, summer school can be a valuable and productive way to keep children engaged in the learning process and ease their entry into the next school year.
But children also need the break from school. That is why summer vacation is so long. So try to strike a balance in your child’s summer program of activities.
Hone their skills, develop their interests, but give them room to breathe.
I had recently entertained a parent asking about summer programs in my school. As I enumerated the choices, she said that she had promised her kids “fun” programs for May since April was dedicated to reading and math classes.
Don’t forget to enjoy the opportunity of having your kids home; there is no substitute for the time spent with family.
One year I had to be the family driver and it exhausted me to drive the long way to and from my children’s school every day. But that time spent in the car with them taught me more about each one of them.
From our conversations I got to know how they thought and what was important to them. I began to appreciate even their quirks. Since we had a carpool, I also saw what they were like as social beings.
Time with family can teach many things that school cannot; it is, therefore, just as important as school is in learning about life and the world.
Have a great summer!
The author has two grown and one teenage children; she is also guardian to an 8-year-old niece. She took Psychology at University of the Philippines and has an EdM from Boston University. She taught at the International School Manila and Beacon School, and is co-owner of LEAP School for Young Children.