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Setting the Stage for Summer
By: Upper School Director Gail Clark
The months between school years have always been an opportunity to relax and spend more time with family. However, as we know, the daily routines of the school year become disrupted once summer recess begins. We often find ourselves allowing children to sleep in and focus on T.V. or computer games rather than holding them to a daily schedule of constructive activities. The summer flexibility, which is a good break for students, can sometimes lead to too much loss of routine and skills that take time to get back when school starts again.
Maintaining Reading, Communication and Motor Skills
If too much time is left idle in the summer, learning digresses and children have to relearn lost skills when they return to school. First, teachers can easily discern which students have not read over the summer. Without practice, the skill lays dormant with no growth. Reading exercises the brain, keeping the skills sharp.
Second, it is important that language development is nurtured, with time to talk with family members at home or in play and interactions with friends. Communication skills need to be practiced in order for children to clearly express themselves and their ideas.
Third, According to Dr. Robert Sornson, President of the Early Learning Foundation and a well known author of child development books, "Children today have forty to fifty percent less activity per day, which can affect sensory motor development.” Unfortunately, too much screen time contributes to the child’s idle times. Practicing reading, communication skills, and project-based summer activities generally help children to continue to grow and to transition more easily into the school year at the end of summer.
Make a Plan Together
Setting the stage for summer requires a family meeting to decide together what routine fits your child’s needs. Start by connecting with family members in between your work, sports games and other weekly obligations. You could possibly wake up early enough to eat breakfast together, or take a walk with a parent before they go to work. Take a bike ride or play a game before or after dinner. Make the habit of reading together before bed. If children are reading themselves, modeling reading as a family sends a positive message. Also, create a list of chores that are to be completed each day with a family member. This promotes a sense of stability and accomplishment, making a stronger family unit. Each interaction promotes learning and conversation, which is crucial to the development of your child at any age.
In addition, learn something new with your child or help them discover what they are interested in but do not have time to pursue during the busy school year. Build something with wood or Lego, visit a museum, experience a creek walk looking for creatures or go for a hike through the woods, observing and drawing what is around you. Plant a garden to tend to and watch it grow. Investigate and participate in a charity organization, read about or research things your child wants to learn. Intrinsic learning, communicating, and keeping the mind active is the summer time goal. Also, modeling learning for your child helps them see that acquiring knowledge is a lifetime event, not just while they are in school. Make a plan together and mark your schedule on a family calendar.
Enjoy a Relaxed but Structured Routine
Whatever your family decides for a summer routine, Sornson suggests making it a positive and happy experience. Take time to talk about the successes and what went well during the day. Sornson goes on to say, “Use more energy and words to notice good effort, behavior and learning habits rather than focusing on the problems or challenges in your child’s day.” For example, “You seem to have more stamina when we went on our walk today,” or “You took your time building the model airplane and didn’t get frustrated when the directions became difficult.” Without the stress and business of the school year, take the time to enjoy your moments together with a relaxed but structured routine and find much positive in each other while you learn and play together over the summer.