When school is “out,” students are happy to be free of the tasks involved in getting a diploma. No more homework, no more papers, no more research, no more speeches, no more tests, no more learning! Hurray! Only problem is that this isn’t really true. Just because school is out doesn’t mean your kids won’t be learning. In fact, some kids learn more during holiday breaks and summer vacations than they do all year long in the classroom.
A teen who has a summer job at the local pizza parlor might become proficient at counting money, measuring ingredients, figuring out ratios, multi-tasking, customer service, fixing machines, sanitation, telephone etiquette, and may even have to learn and perform first aid.
An older child left in charge of younger siblings may learn about time management, fire and water safety, entertainment, child development, behavior management, and the importance of routines and schedules.
Children who are allowed a summer of leisure may learn the importance of self-care, relaxation, rejuvenation, how to entertain themselves, how to engage in hobbies, and the importance of developing social relationships and networks of support.
On the other hand, kids who are left completely unsupervised with no summertime plans may learn all sorts of things you don’t particularly wanting them to learn. Summertime is a great time for kids to learn new bad behaviors or develop problematic habits if they have too much free time without much responsible adult supervision. These days, it is not enough to make sure they have adult supervision as many people over the age of 18, 21, and even 30, are irresponsible enough to let your kids get into trouble, and may even encourage dangerous, illegal, or immoral behavior. Therefore it is important to specify that the supervision they receive be responsible as well as adult.
Today’s kids may have access to much more than their parents’ generation. Drugs and alcohol might be much more easily obtained. Pornography is at their fingertips. Internet connections allow for the immediate and wide-spread sharing of intimate communications. Cell phones allow for very private discussions. The amount of money that children carry allow them access to people, places, and things of which their parents’ generation did not even dream. Not only is school in session, but kids are often much more eager students during the summer than they are in the classroom.
As summer unfolds, be cognizant of how much time your child is engaged in learning the lessons, values, and priorities that will help them develop into a productive and happy member of society and be careful not to leave them too much time in the study of things that will lead to poor mental, physical, or spiritual health, or things that may leave them with permanent damage of some kind. You do not need to hover over your child every minute of every day to accomplish this, either, you just need to be involved, be paying attention, and have frequent, random visits with your kids.
It used to be enough to have a kid call in every so often and report on what they’re doing. Cell phones have made this a less reliable method for supervising kids from afar. With a cell phone, a kid could be anywhere, doing anything, and you’d really never know. This is why it has become important again to plan to pop in on your kid from time to time, unannounced, to be sure your youngster is where he said he would be, with the people he said he’d be with, doing that which he told you he’d be doing.
Some kids and parents would consider this activity to be spying. Not true. Spying is done secretly. I’m saying your kids should know you’re doing this. They should know that you could pretty much show up anywhere at any time and just check to see if they’re there. You really only have to do this a few times here and there for them to know you’re serious about doing it. Having this policy will require that they keep you informed about where they are, even as the plans change, which they frequently and repeatedly do.
Additionally, if other kids know that you are likely to show up unannounced from time to time, they’re going to seriously consider whether or not to invite your kid if something will be going on that would cause them trouble if a parent were to witness. Your kid might be very angry that your nosiness is preventing them from getting invited to some events, but secretly, they will be somewhat glad that they don’t get invited to other events that made them nervous to attend. Having involved parents often gives a kid an easy ‘out’ when it comes to turning down something they’re not quite ready for.
So, remember, school is always in session, whether your children are in a classroom or a park, whether they are in school or in someone’s back seat, whether the teacher has a degree in education or just some really interesting ideas. Stay just as involved in their summer education as you were during the school year.