Summertime is always the best of what might be.
~ Charles Bowden
Park students, faculty, and parents all agree – summer is special! It is a time to slow down, relax, have fun, recharge, and eat popsicles. Just the mention of “summer” can make you smile, get a far away look in your eye, or breath a nice, long sigh.
It’s true, we hearty (or not so hearty) New Englanders pride ourselves on surviving – and even thriving – through long, cold winters. But even those of us who love winter still delight in everything we hope summer will bring. For this story, I connected with many adults who harken back to childhood memories when describing what summer means to them. Without the slightest hesitation, Mrs. Ball (receptionist) listed swimming, sailing, and reading. Jerilyn Willig (Grade I teacher) expressed that her “most powerful, delicious, evocative, long lasting childhood memories were made in summer.” Peter Bown (Grade II teacher) remembers the unstructured freedom of running around his neighborhood and the woods all summer. Fellow Grade II teacher Kat Callard reminisced about spending one week on a New Hampshire lake every year and how the time spent on that lake felt like it encompassed the entire summer, not just one week.
On the flipside of all the dreaminess, nostalgia and optimism there can be anxiety and even trepidation attached to summer. How will we fill all of those unstructured hours without the routine the school year brings? How will we create the wonderful summer memories that we are almost obligated to provide for our children? At my kids’ nursery school, there was even a name for the last day of school that put these feelings into words. It was called “Mad, Sad, Glad Day.” While I never fully understood the mad part, “sad” and “glad” nail the bittersweet emotions that we can experience at the end of the school year/ beginning of summer. It can take time to figure out the new routine. Be patient and do not expect magazine-like perfection. Even if it seems everyone is posting beautiful, smiling, summer magnificence, bad days can happen, even during summer vacation.
We all have different goals, budget constraints, time parameters, and individual preferences to work with as we strive to make summer the best it can be for our families and ourselves. While some kids thrive with the daily routine that camp delivers, others need unstructured, lazy days to recharge. Whether your family falls into one or the other of these two categories, somewhere in-between or both, Olivia Moorhead-Slaughter, Park’s psychologist emphasizes the importance of changing the routine during the summer and slowing down when possible. “Make summer different than the rest of the year. Pursue what you and your kids love more often, even if it’s just a little more than usual. Whatever evokes summer for you, go do that.” Kimberly Formisano (Lower & Upper Division Head), agrees: “Take an activity or hobby your kids love and dive in. This act of diving in breathes life back into us.” Give your kids time to pursue their passions. Psychology Today (July, 2018) speaks to the benefits associated with kids losing themselves in an activity they find challenging but not stressful. Dopamine and other neurochemicals are released, energizing our kids vs the inertia that comes with watching television.
Remember, too, that downtime is productive. According to Psychology Today (July, 2018): “A hundred years ago, educators worried about year-round school, hewing to the view that young minds, like productive farmland, needed time to lay fallow.” It is easy to badger our kids to do something productive when we see them idling. It turns out that when our brains are resting – “daydreaming, staring into space, meditating, and sleeping” – it is processing new information and skills. “When given time to rest, the brain is healthier when it returns to a period of activity.” However, screen time doesn’t count. “Every hour of screen time for kids is associated with increased blood pressure, while every hour spent reading is associated with decreased blood pressure.”
In addition to allowing your kids plenty of downtime, let them make choices as often as possible, or at least feel as if they are a part of the decisions that affect them. Psychology Today (July, 2018) states that when kids have some equity in a decision, there is often a higher level of engagement. This can be true with summer school work as well. Kids do not benefit much from academic help they don’t want. However, Kat Callard and Kimberly Formisano both stress the importance of maintaining children’s aptitude for reading and math over the summer. Each and every faculty member I consulted for this story mentioned the importance and joy of reading for pleasure (which is quite different from reading because you have to!) And there are lots of “fun, holistic ways to do math through cooking, art, and just living.” Time spent on math and reading will help kids feel confident during the early days of the upcoming school year.
Summer’s coming. Get ready. Whatever that may mean for you. Just don’t forget to slow down, enjoy it, pursue a passion, and read. And it’s OK if you don’t savor every single second.
For us, summer is the time to do every kind of reading: catch up reading, next in series reading, books for adults reading, professional development reading, audio book reading (okay, listening!), read aloud reading, binge reading, learning how to make reading, friends’ recommendations reading, discover a new author reading, summer book club reading, magazine reading, blog reading, early morning reading, hang out in bed reading, beach reading, just before bed reading, come back to school with new ideas reading. What fun!
~ The Park School Librarians