Mom, what are we doing this summer?
As we enter the summer season most of us are trying to pick from the myriad choices we have around us for summer camps for our children. During the school year, the after school programs or extended care programs provide our children with some value-add on top of what they learn at schools. There are several dimensions in which parents evaluate these programs. Do they supplement the curriculum being taught at schools? Are they complementing the education the children are receiving at schools in any way? Can they help with homeworks? Are there other special programs the children have access to which can potentially help them more? Some parents may simply depend on the after schools to provide simple “baby-sitting” function until they get home from work. Whatever it is, it seems like this question is a lot easier to answer than – what is your child doing this summer?
Planning an entire day for the child during the summer is a challenging task. If you wish to make the program more meaningful and tailored to developing the child’s interests and potential, the problem only becomes more complex. Thankfully, there are specialized programs which cater to every kind of interest known to us. Many summer camps are even able to provide all these programs under one roof – karate, swimming, gymnastics, chess, language programs, math, painting etc. They are just as convenient as schools as far as the parents are concerned. Often, their programs are very similar to a full day of a regular school program. So, the children may feel like they are really back in school. The real question is, is this really good for our kids?
A generation ago, most kids spent their entire summer at home, with cousins, other family, neighborhood kids etc. There were no special summer camps or dedicated programs to see them through the summer. Does that mean that not much learning happened during the summers until a few years ago? On the contrary, most children seem to have learned quite a bit in the summer. They entered the new school year having learned valuable life skills – maybe their helped their grandparents fix the barn, maybe they played tee ball for longer hours and honed their gross motor skills. Maybe uncle Jim taught taught them to fly a kite better etc. All of these led to us learning various skills while we had fun and to collect a lot of fond memories.
Fast forward to today. Many parents are looking for summer programs which can give kids similar memories to carry with them and cherish for years to come. They are really looking for hands-on programs – outdoor programs which take children beyond the classroom learning environment to a little less structured, unpredictable environment. Programs where they can encounter the unknowns and learn from those valuable experiences. The re-creation of the care-free learning environment in an over structured complex world has become the new holy grail. More recently many programs attempting to do just this are gaining traction and for good reason. In a world where information is easy to come by, “knowing” about something has become easy, however, our brains stuffed with excess information seems to have less appetite for spending the time to “understanding” what we know. These new programs are trying to bridge the very crucial gap of giving our kids the necessary experiences and time to digest what they learn. They are really helping our kids embark on the exciting adventure of learning new things, free from the pressure of tests and grades – perhaps, the way learning was meant to be – truly a memorable summer experience. I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand!
Have a good summer!