Hop, Skip, Jump – Into a Balanced Summer #TeachMeTuesday By Pam MacIsaac

When I was a child, only a few people I knew went to summer school or academic and arts camps. Unless we’d failed a class in high school or were very serious about an extra-curricular pursuit, most of us avoided productivity of any kind during vacation. For our own kids, those lazy, brain-draining summers are rare now, if not extinct.

My generation takes a different approach to parenting, one that can make it difficult to know what to do with our kids during the summer break. Most of us work year round, and wouldn’t think of leaving our kids unsupervised. We’re more involved in their daily lives and more likely to exercise our options regarding education. We see it as our responsibility to ensure that our kids have goals and are engaged with and committed to their own learning. However, we’re also frequently reminded that over-programming can be counter-productive, when it comes to learning. If we want to cultivate creativity and curiosity in our kids, we need to give them time to dream, be with family and friends, exercise in the fresh air, and decompress from the demands of the school year.

Suzanne, a mother of three, points to research that shows kids perform better in school when they participate in academically enriching activities during the summer break. As a result, she enrolls her children in a range of camps and courses, from math support to theatre classes. Jennifer, also a mother of three, says she wants her kids to kick back during the summer. If they do participate in academically enriching activities, those activities are about fun, “And my kids seem to be doing alright,” she points out. Sally, a mother of two, occupies a middle ground between the two perspectives. Her kids continue to work directly on their skills in the summer, specifically math and writing, but she sets aside 15 minutes every day for those activities and plans them herself. Otherwise, she says, their summer days are reserved for non-academic activities.

As usual, the choice is an individual one. There are situations in which a child should pursue academic activities during the summer: to bring up a failing grade, maintain continuity as part of an Individual Education Plan, or alleviate boredom through enrichment in an area of exceptional strength. As parents, we know our kids best, but we often question our choices when inundated by opinions on either side of the debate; whether those are warnings about the dangers of over-programming or enticing advertisements for courses, camps, and activities.

Some of our kids are self-directed perfectionists who need encouragement to relax and play so they’re refreshed and ready for school in September. Other kids thrive on structure, and they’ll be better prepared for the next academic year if they participate in activities that support, maintain, or enrich their skills. Our job is to listen to our kids without imposing our own desires or anxieties on them. One way or another, they’ll tell us what they need.


PMacIsaacHeadshotPam MacIsaac is a writer, teacher, enthusiastic amateur cook, mom, and lifelong pet owner. Her academic coaching practice, Think Academic Enrichment and Support (www.thinkae.org), offers literacy tutoring, enrichment classes, PA Day and March Break Creativity Camps, and other services for kids in midtown Toronto. She lives in the Arlington Village/Oakwood & Vaughan neighbourhood, and loves her local parks!  thinkacademicenrichment.org


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