When I think about my own childhood summers, I fondly remember waking up, putting on my shoes, and running outside to find my friends. We spent the days catching turtles in the pond, building forts, and playing flashlight tag when it got dark. We rode bikes, ate popsicles, and swam for hours at the pool.
Today’s students have a bit of a different experience. Many times, especially in higher grade levels, students receive lists of things they need to accomplish before the next school year begins: summer reading lists, math drills and worksheets, and more.
It can destroy the purpose of a summer break, which should be rest and rejuvenation for kids who work hard and learn so much throughout the school year.
Not so for Betsy Eggart’s class, though. Eggart, a first grade teacher and mother from Pensacola, Florida, gave her students another type of “summer packet”.
In a now viral facebook post, she ponders the idea of summer homework, but ultimately writes, “…the more I thought, the more I decided that this summer packet should be less addition practice and sight words and more…LIFE.”
We were already slow clapping at this point. Her list of summer projects included:
–Teach your child to tie their shoes. Find a fun trick! Watch a video! Give an incentive! Be persistent! Just make sure your child isn’t the one dragging their laces through the bathroom and cafeteria then asking the teacher to tie it.
–Keep bedtime in the routine. It may be a little later and there will be nights that bedtime doesn’t apply. But overall, if we keep our bodies in a routine with sleep, August won’t hit quite so hard.
–Choose a few family members and friends to write a letter to this summer. Ask your child to write in full sentences, ask questions and give details. Writing with a purpose makes it relevant and real for your child. Maybe someone will write them back! Include an envelope with return address and stamp to encourage that!
–Sit at the table and eat together. Really watch your child. Is he sitting on his knees, mouth wide open, food everywhere? This is how he looks in the cafeteria. Work on that.
–Encourage kindness. Find someone or several others that your child can do something simple to bring a smile. Deliver cookies, make a card, flowers, chores, a song…something simply for a smile.
–Don’t rush to the rescue. Hear me out. Our children need us. But they need us to let them learn to problem solve. If your child is in a situation that is frustrating, but not harmful (example: can’t put together a new toy, can’t open a lunchable, can’t decide which color shirt to wear) let them work it out! It saves time and our nerves to just do it! But in the long run, it’s crippling our children of the basic and necessary skill to problem solve and think through an issue…for themselves. Hang back…just a bit. They’ll be ok!
–Read TO your child. I can’t encourage reading enough! Please visit the library and make books a part of your summer days. Most importantly, let your child see you read- to yourself and to them. Let them hear your silly voices. Let them tell you the best parts and predict how it will end. We tell them all the time they must read, but are we showing them WE read?
–Put down your phone. On Mother’s Day, I create a booklet with my students. They answer questions all about their Moms, write sentences and draw pictures. One page is “Mom’s Favorite Things.” Can I tell you the top item colored first on most booklets?
We must look up from our screens and look at our children. They are growing so incredibly fast. We could spend this summer scrolling through strangers’ vacation pictures wishing we had their reality or we could be chasing our reality through the sprinkler in our own backyard.
–Rest. Be ok with not constantly going somewhere. Society, media, Facebook all have us believing we must seize the day and do it all. Our children have worked hard and they need to rest. If we keep them in perpetual motion through the summer, it will feel like a continuation of the chaos with less homework. Squeeze in the fun, but allow the time to rest. Boredom gives way to creativity. Rest renews our bodies and our minds for all the next school year has in store.
As a mom, this list completely inspired me. I intend to do all of the things listed here. Not only are they important for their development, they’re important for their future success as human beings.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.