You're Only a Kid Once

Today's guest blogger is Frances Ruiz, former lawyer and current stay-at-home mom of two. Enjoy!

My
next door neighbor was a school principal and he mentioned that when
he interviewed his first grade students and asked them what their
favorite part of school was, he almost had the same response every
time: "recess". I don't think it's because these students
are all lazy bums. I think it is because this is the time they get
to relax, play, connect with other children and form long lasting
relationships.

School
is over and summer is here! The memories I have of my childhood
summers (circa. 1975) are all very happy. I was lucky to be sent to
wonderful camps, where the main activities were playing games,
painting, performing on talent shows, swimming, and simply making
friends. The rest of the summer, I remember staying up late, thus
waking up late, riding my bike, watching movies at home with my
parents (on our VHS) or at the theatre and simply "pass" the time
playing with my cousins. We would have water ball fights, play in
the rain, chase each other ("tag") or play "tira y tapate"
("dodge ball"). Other days we would invent dramatic plays that
my cousin would record in her taping recorder (nope, no video
cameras, no itouch those days) and we would listen to ourselves
afterwards. Or we would just "camp" in our living room and make
our own camping sites by placing blankets on top of chairs or sofas.
It was very simple then...and it should be this simple now. I cannot
retrieve a memory where my parents would sit in front of me and flash
Math cards or ABC cards so I could maintain my academic status once
summer was over!

Boy,
oh boy, times have changed! I just received an email message
alleging that students can lose up to approximately 30% of their
skills and knowledge during the summer!
They call
it "
Summer Brain Drain". Ok, so what should
I do as a mother? Run to the store and grab any and all products
that will help my kids maintain their 90% of skill and knowledge this
summer? Instead of going to the pool, stay home and read books about
science and math? Prepare the flashcards Mommies, it's going to be
a busy summer...NOT.

I
understand there are children who need some assistance catching up in
the summer what they did not achieve during the school year. My
parents had to find a tutor for me to help me with English.
Apparently, I was failing... I am also in love with learning and
reading. That's why my husband and I read to our kids every night.
However, I think that the school year is for studying and summer is
for kids to be kids. Childhood is a precious and fragile time for
our children. That's why we say "you are a child just once".
After childhood, summers are full of summer reading and summer
projects...ask any tween or teenager. I want my boys to grow up as
well rounded kids. I understand that my duty as a mother is to help
them achieve their academic goals as well as develop long lasting
relationships and memories. The latter, in my opinion, are best
formed during summer "recess" with your family and your friends.

Today,
I am who I am because I worked hard in school, but also because
summers were spent being a kid. I earned a degree in Law and
currently work as a translator so I guess I did learned my ABC's.
But, thanks to those summers full of nothing and everything, I have
the tools to teach my boys that it is okay to just hang out once in a
while; that "chilling" (that's what my boys say when they want
to relax) on the sofa watching a program together eating popcorn is
a great time to enjoy each other's company; that riding a bike is
not only exercise, but also fun; that they can stay up late because
their friends are over and thus, wake up late (and giving Mom and Dad
an extra hour of sleep in the morning).

It's a simple solution for your child to feel like a
child while "rebooting" her brain and refreshing it for when
school begins in the fall. And if you are still worried your 7 yr.
old is not practicing his Math enough this summer simply ask him that
if he has $5 and he buys two popsicles at 1.50 each, how much will he
spend and how much will he have left? I did this "exercise" with
Javier and he excitedly answered: "I'll spend $3.00 and I'll
have $2.00 left!" We both had a special moment of pride while we
savored our popsicles together in our backyard.
Have a great
summer!!

Filed under: summer vacation

Tags: summer

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  • Summers "full of nothing" can also be great stimulants for the brain. Parents who are actively involved with their kids in conversations, activities, and yes reading a bedtime story, will find that for the most part their kids will not lose anything educationally over the summer. Learning does not have to involve flashcards or workbooks.

    The children who are at risk of losing educationally over the summer are those who are already struggling academically and those whose parents just are not involved with them that much. These are the kids who don't get read to or with often. Who don't get to explore the neighborhood or the other amenities there are to offer in their area. The kids whose parents don't sit and just talk with them about things. Unfortunately, that is way too many kids than it should be nowadays.

    I too allowed my kids to be kids over the summer. One is now a college grad, the other will be a senior in college. Both graduated in the top 20% of their high school classes. I never found that either of them "lost" anything academically over the summers, but then I was pretty involved. As a teacher I had the summers off with them. We went to the pool, the park, museums, the zoo, and sometimes just played with friends in the backyard. There was no formal education going on in the summer (I needed a break too!) but there was learning in a more informal way. And dinner was as a family every day, and we talked and talked. We spent time together and were interested in what each other had to say. My kids thought this was normal until they got older and found out some of their friends did not sit down as a family and have dinner together on a regular basis. I know that as parents someday they will continue this pattern because they have personally seen the good it can do.

  • In reply to TeacherSu:

    Thanks for your comment! It is an honor to know that a teacher thinks I'm on the right track as a Mother. And I'm with you, daily family togetherness is important. Some have dinner together, some have breakfasts together, some play board games together, some stroll arouned the block togehter. It's being together for a certain amount of time that counts!

  • This was brilliant! I agree with every single word.....It's called balance.....They need to know what that means at an early age so they don't become work-a-holics causing strained relationships in the future. That it is ok to relax....to make time for it...and still succeed at work. Translates to "happy".....And it is only when we are truly happy that we have the energy to give to others, to help others, which is what fulfills our spirit and our mission here on earth. Our school only requires reading as what they need to keep the brain flexible. Reading all by itself takes the brain away from technology, invites quiet time, and opens dialogue when you discuss books together. Yes, neuron connections happen as you stimulate the brain and will lose the connections if certain areas are not used regularly, but academics only are not the ones that maintain this. Life does. And different activities actually maintain the brain more viable by giving it different pathways for neuronal activity. Scientists have found that learning new things, driving home on a different route, acquiring new skills, not falling into doing things by rote keep the brain healthy. We need to expose children to different ways of achieving goals and learning in different ways to be at their best. Academics alone are just that, academics. Constantly exposing children, or anyone for that matter, to structured learning alone causes burn-out and diminishes their desire to learn, period. It's called human "shut-down". And what do we do when our computers shut down?? We shut it off and re-boot...Summers are meant to shut off and re-boot!!! So have fun out there, make some vitamin D, create lasting memories.

  • In reply to ces2chicos:

    Thanks sis! You say I'm brilliant...but you know, I have learned many tips from you as a Mother! Remember running around the house chasing me because I "stole" your sherbet? During the summer, we also learn to fight, make up and learn that we love our siblings no matter what! And now we laugh about it :-)

  • In reply to ces2chicos:

    Fantastic entry, Frances!!! I agree with everyone completely! Summer is time to reboot and just have fun! My daughter is in a talent show in Hannibal, MO, for July Fourth this upcoming weekend. so, this first part of the summer, she has had fun preparing what she wants for that show and picking out the costume. Doing something new this summer and having fun! That's most important. That is what she will remember as an adult.

  • In reply to ces2chicos:

    I agree!!!!! In life there

  • I agree!!!!! In life there’s time for everything. We have to teach our kids to feel the difference when there’s a major responsibility and when there’s not. So let them play and enjoy summer! And if we really think we must reinforce something, we can do it “playing” like Frances did with Javier with the Popsicles. It’s the best way having their minds “busy” but also having fun with them……You can be teaching your kids having lots of fun. They even wouldn’t realize they are learning.

    My seven year daughter had a great year…..her First Grade was really hard this year for both of us, me as a mom and also for her. There were a lot of changes from Kindergarten so the plan for this Summer is to have fun, relax and make her feel that now it’s time to do all the things that maybe during school time we couldn’t. My goal this Summer will be to make my daughter feel super, so when school begins on August she will tell the teacher and all her friends how wonderful summer was. But most of all I will like that all those special moments will be on her heart forever and ever. …..making her a special person with values and good feelings toward others.

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