I slipped on the snow when I got out of my car this morning. You know what that means? That’s right—it is time to start thinking about Summer. In particular, start thinking about those experiences that will continue the growth—academic, artistic, physical, and social-emotional—that has been happening in the Colorado Academy Middle School since September. Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t want any child to be overscheduled, particularly during the long, lazy days of Summer, but I do encourage parents to thoughtfully consider with their child those types of experiences which might be of benefit.
Build in time for boredom
I am a true believer that boredom is a rite of passage for children. Having nothing to do for long stretches of time is good for kids; yes, good for kids, provided it is not soaked up by screen time. Boredom is one of life’s great motivators. Playing with one’s younger sibling never looks quite as good as it does after three hours sitting around the house. All of a sudden, the prospect of creating a game of cards, monopoly, or whiffle ball seems much more inviting. Boredom also can make even the most reluctant reader curl up and turn a few pages. For parents, having a son or daughter say “I’m bored,” more than a few times during the Summer, should sound like music to your ears.
Build new friendships
I am also a believer that Summer can allow kids the time and freedom to create new networks of friends. Perhaps your child plays in the neighborhood more during the Summer. Perhaps they travel to see a relative and get to know kids there. Perhaps there is a tennis, painting, Frisbee, or hacky sack group. This is all for the good. Every chance your son or daughter has to practice their friend-making skills is a bonus. Having to decide how much to share with the new group and what parts of themselves to reveal is good practice. Kids often benefit from having different sets of friends: team and school, neighborhood and school, grandparents’ neighborhood and school. It can be grounding and reassuring, particularly when relations with one or the other network are rocky. This kind of redundancy can provide a sense of comfort and reassurance.
Read, read, read
I am also a big believer in the importance of developing the “habit” of independent reading. When I am on my soapbox, I often remind parents that reading is great exercise for the mind and provides all sorts of near magical benefits for young people. It is also one of the things that sometimes falls by the wayside during a busy school year. Between outside sports, music lessons, homework, skiing, and family, the hours get filled. The slower pace of Summer can create just the right opening to discover (or rediscover) just how wonderful a good book really is.
A bit of ketchup and mustard
Of course, there are lots of different “experiences” that can also be a part of a young person’s Summer. I see these as the “condiment of choice.” If being with family and friends is the hamburger (impossible burger?!), the camp experience of rock climbing, sailing, riding, or coding is the mustard and ketchup. The hamburger is plenty nourishing without it, but having a little bit on top can be quite tasty. Those experiences that encourage a passion (almost any passion) while deepening skills and encouraging independence are the ticket.
What is NOT on this list
You will notice that, with the exception of reading for pleasure, I have not encouraged much review and study as a Summer main course. We do a lot of academic skill development during the school year and ask kids to do a little bit in August before returning to school. This is unquestionably important work. But there is much more to life than math facts and proper punctuation. Having a break is important for almost all children, but particularly for those kids who find school difficult. Summer is about recharging, enjoying family, expanding horizons and, yes, discovering the joys of boredom. It will be here before you know it, but for the time being, let’s all agree to enjoy the snow!