How Kids Learn Just As Much In Summer As They Do In School

by Chris Carter
Originally Published: 

My kids were expected to do at least five pages a day, and the enticing rewards would motivate them to ensure they would have the glorious, hard-earned day trip we planned that year. I was hell-bent on keeping all that information they digested during the school year tucked neatly in their little brains. I always worried they would forget it all, and then start the new school year off with the ruins of a deteriorated brain.

That wasn’t going to happen on my watch. No sir.

My kids were going to stay fresh and educated all summer long, and that’s how every summer began and ended. This goal was a huge part of our plans.

Until somehow, this educational mission began to diminish in its importance. I remember the last time I bought those workbooks, as I recently found my daughter’s fourth grade review workbook under piles of junk in her room. There were four pages completed.

Clearly, we were off to a good start, but somehow, the significance of it all tapered off rather abruptly that year…and I can’t for the life of me remember how or why.

I believe that was the beginning of the end. My daughter is in seventh grade now, and I haven’t bought another book since.

I wonder how or why my incessant need to continue their mind-work fizzled. Perhaps it was the long days at the pool, or the day camps that exhausted them to the point of falling asleep mere minutes after returning home. Maybe I just got lazy. It could have happened.

But what I learned through this drop in academic investment came just as elusively as how I dropped it all in the first place. I vaguely recall those panicked moments of “Crap, we need to get on those workbooks!” But as with so many seasons of motherhood, I can’t quite place where I began the slipping surrender of this laborious goal. It disintegrated, much like the intellectual minds of my children each and every summer since.

But here’s the thing…

My kids did great in school! Every year they would jump back onto the academic horse and gallop off into the sunset of great grades and conscious efforts. After that first year of dreading the idea of my kids suffering because of my own effortless slacking, I realized that they did just fine. They dove right in and never struggled to keep up with the onslaught of material poured out on them each year.

Now, I’m not trying to encourage you to blow off whatever educational intentions you may have for your kids. And I certainly understand the need to address those children with learning difficulties, and I realize every child is completely different in academics and each has varying needs.

What I am trying to say is that if you find yourself at the end of the summer, and those workbooks have only five pages done…your kid just might be all right too.

Don’t sweat it, moms. Apparently, our kids’ brains don’t deteriorate all that much over a few months. And it’s really amazing how the fresh break of summer—and all the good stuff that summer brings—may even feed their brains with the vital juice to make them work that much harder during the school year.

Maybe taking the break is actually the best thing to do after all.

I’m going with that.

Instead of looking down at their workbooks on a long road trip, my kids looked out their windows at the new landscape they had never seen before. They learned to dive off the diving board, grow a garden, play a new sport and catch fireflies. They learned that spending hours outside building forts in a tree and wading in a creek looking for hidden Indian tools can actually fill places in their brains that books cannot.

There’s a whole lot of learning going on in the summer, more than math facts and vocabulary and spelling. I believe it’s called Life Lessons.

I’m going with that.

It’s worked so far.

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