Life As A Summer Curriculum

letterMy daughter has officially graduated from Kindergarten.  Finally she can read, write, and do basic math!!  Such a powerful, proud moment for both the writer and the engineer in me.  Yet I barely had a moment to revel in her wonderful accomplishments before her teacher sent me a disturbing letter explaining the dangers of knowledge loss over summer break.  Parents were tasked with summer homework: caulk the leak in our children’s brains over the next three months so they don’t fall behind in life.

I’ve always been an overachiever, so of course I rose to the challenge, using the two-page suggestion list as a guideline.  In the three days between school ending and our vacation beginning I enacted a knowledge-saving plan:

1)      Signed my daughter up for BOTH the library summer reading program and the Barnes & Noble summer reading program.

2)      Made a custom summer journal for her to write and draw in every day, mirroring the school year journal she was so proud of.

3)      Placed all the easy-reader books she brought home from school in a basket by her bed to encourage reading every night.

4)      Added American Girl books and Magic Tree House books to our home library to learn about history.

5)      Enrolled her in an animal-themed outdoor day camp, in addition to the three overnight camping trips already planned.

6)      Signed her up for Highlights Which Way USA to provide fun mazes, puzzles, and geography exercises.

7)      Selected a Girl Scout Daisy Journey about growing plants to complete together this summer.

8)      Brainstormed educational weekend day trips in the area.

Hmm, now that I’m home from vacation I’m realizing I may have gone a tad overboard.  All those activities will be great to work in over the summer, in moderation.  But I’m realizing it’s also important not to lose sight of the fact that this is supposed to be her vacation.  A break from the classroom routine to have fun and learn in other ways.

I don’t recall any scripted summer “learning activities” as a child, and somehow I survived without permanent brain damage.  Back then life was our summer curriculum.  We learned about nature by playing outside, going camping, and taking care of the garden.  Practiced math by counting our allowance money for ice cream treats and vacation souvenirs.  Read books we enjoyed to pass the rainy days, and wrote in our journals about our exciting adventures.  Learning happens all around us naturally, so maybe the teacher-induced panic was unnecessary.


About Jennifer Kay

Jennifer Kay is a KidLit author and Structural Engineer. She has a VCFA MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, is an SCBWI Rockford Network Rep, edits the SCBWI IL Prairie Wind, and belongs to Mystery Writers of America. Jennifer works as a writer, freelance editor, literary agency reader, and creative writing teacher.
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