Lately I've been seeing tons of commercials about places to send your kids so that they don't lose academic abilities over the summer. Living in a rural community, maybe I have a different perception of what summer is about. When I was a kid, we learned life skills during the summer. We learned how to work hard and play hard. While I recognize that parents might be worried about academic skills over the summer, there are some very valid reasons why this isn't really an issue.
What is learned cannot be unlearned: Unless there is some type of neurological trauma you really can't "unlearn" things -- even if you want to. Actual knowledge is developed through active learning and use of the knowledge. So, you may forget some concepts, but you aren't going to forget everything you've learned in the past year and more importantly, neither is your child.
There's more to life than test scores: I'm a perfect example of this actually. I always did well in school. I was in advanced classes and breezed my way through. But, in real life, these skills did very little for me. I literally had to go out of my way to learn social concepts that most kids already knew. Summer offers kids a chance to develop their social skills in a setting that isn't as controlled as school is. This is a time for them to practice real-life skills.
Work does the body good: Summer vacation originated as a way for kids to help their parents around farms. It wasn't something that was planned to give the kids a break. Rather, kids simply didn't show up to school because they were working with their parents. In rural communities like mine, this still happens. In fact, our schools even offer jobs for kids through the agricultural programs. Our society has created children who expect things to be handed to them. Why not use summer as a time to teach them the value of a good day's work?
Summer offers different kinds of tests: With all the pressure about great test scores, there is very little time for teachers to have any kind of moral influence over our children. In point of fact, teachers sometimes even face penalties for even attempting to teach morals in school. While academics can certainly help our children to move forward in life, they also need a chance to develop and use morals so that they can pass real life tests, like making the choice to do the right things without an adult over them.
Life skills take practice: So, you want your child to have awesome grades. What good do those grades do when they can't use what they've learned? It's fine to sit down and apply what they have learned on paper, but what about using that knowledge in real life? The more that students have a chance to actually use what they know, the more they can retain and develop those skills.
There are all kinds of ways to learn. Our job a parents is to help our children learn using whatever methods we have at hand. There are far more important tests in life than any ISTEP or SAT. Excelling in academics is not the only thing that matters. But, summer break does not mean that you are necessarily neglecting those skills. It just means you have the chance to help your children to apply them in a way that might be more beneficial to them than what they get in the classroom. Common sense and life skills are just as important as academics -- in some cases more so! Use this summer to be your child's teacher and the academic skills will only be nurtured.
More from this author...
References: Personal and professional experience