Preparing for Summer: Projects and Playtime

Geek Culture

Small child runs on Morro StrandSmall child runs on Morro Strand
Image by mikebaird via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution License

We’re still in the middle of spring, but summer is approaching fast, and summer break from school even faster. Even though we homeschool, we still take a nice long break in the summer. It’s incredibly useful for recharging our batteries. I have found that it is also helpful for learning to take a long break from formal instruction. Sure, the kids forget a little bit over the summer, but the rest sinks in more. They also mature, which makes subjects that have been difficult in the spring seem like cake in the fall.

But how do we spend our time during the summer? Me, I’m just as busy during the summer as I am during the school year. Throughout the year, I make a list of projects that require more time and attention than I can give. Then I tackle them in the summer. Last year’s list was quite long, with a couple dozen items. I got about half of them done. I’m building on what’s left from that list for this summer. My project list includes such time consuming gems as organizing and printing digital photos, selling a few things on eBay, getting everything ready to build our house, preparing for the next school year, doing a lot of writing and craft projects and, finally, planning a big treasure hunt for my daughter. Oh, and probably some Jane Austen.

My daughter is already started her own list of things to do. She plans on spending some quality time with her Erector set, watching plenty of Star Trek and Star Wars movies and practicing writing with her left hand. She’s also recently expressed an interest in genealogy, so perhaps I’ll dig out my tubs and tubs of family photos, letters and other memorabilia from the past couple hundred years.

My son doesn’t have anything specific planned, but I’m guessing he’ll ask me daily to play games with him. Perhaps a giant LEGO creation is in store. I will also try my best to keep him from spending every waking hour in front of some kind of electronic device. He and I also will try to see the light of day more often, as we have a matching deathly pallor to our skin.

As the kids get older, I’ll start requiring them to do a major project each summer, of their own choosing. It could be a research project, learning a spoken or computer language, volunteering somewhere, a science project, a photography project, writing a book or anything else they can think of. Or if we have a big trip planned, trip planning and documenting could be a project. Summer break is a large amount of time in one chunk where they can dive into one interest on their own time and schedule. They will also learn how to plan and budget their time. My kids are very creative, so I look forward to seeing what they come up with in the years to come. I’ll just have to make sure they stick with the projects long enough to complete them.

In addition to projects and activities of their own choosing, summer break is a great opportunity for children to have plenty of unstructured time to play and explore as they grow. They need time where they make the choices about how to spend their time. I cringe when I see other kids we know so booked up that they never have time to just play. There is growing evidence reported by places like the American Academy of Pediatrics, Scholastic and the Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette that unstructured time is important for development. When children are bored, they come up with the most creative ways to spend their time. They put on plays, read or write books, create videos, draw pictures, explore nature, run around or build architectural masterpieces out of blocks. Teach kids to use their creativity and they won’t be bored for long.

What do your kids during their break from school in the summer? Do they go to camp, do projects, take classes or just run amok?

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