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Enrichment Opportunities: Summer Edition

Despite a slew of lessons and classes, the stumbling block is the kids.

Yesterday, the co-president of the Butler PTA asked me and several other Butler moms what ideas we had to keep our children learning over the summer. Weekly museum trips? Reading logs? Art projects? She also wondered whether we'd like to participate in a panel discussion to address this topic.

I realized I would have to decline.

Now, it's true that I, like other parents, value my children's education. Not only do I send them off to school with high expectations, but I provide them with as many extra enrichment opportunities as possible. I'm not a 'tiger mom' or anything and I value an unfettered childhood, but even our household has memberships to the Museum of Science and the Museum of Fine Arts, we take our little ones to visit historical sites and fascinating natural monuments on occasion, and we shuttle them off to after-school enrichment courses or sports camps when we can. Yes, like everyone else in Belmont, we try to offer an environment where our kids can learn and grow.

But often the kids have different ideas.

My second grader had the special honor to be selected this year to join an after-school Math Club. The club was to meet about twice a month after school on Fridays at which time the kids would be presented with more challenging and formidable math concepts. 

When I spoke to my daughter about this invitation, I told her it was a great opportunity to expand on and dig deeper into the things that were being taught in math class during the day. I may have suggested it might even be fun to work on problems together with other kids who shared her aptitude for math.

She looked at me blankly, and then said, "No thanks."

"What do you mean?" I asked, "This is an honor, a great opportunity, this is ... enrichment."

"Look," she said while flipping through a Taylor Swift book, "I work hard every day, from 8:30 until 2:30. After-school time is my time to relax, to play, to, you know, not learn anymore. So, no thanks."

Okay. I can appreciate that. No need to push them if they don't want to go.  Studies have shown that homework in the lower grades doesn't correlate with proficiency in the upper grades anyway. And I do tend to lean toward providing them with the opportunity to have a full, unladen childhood. Unstructured playtime is good for them, right?  Same goes for downtime.

Besides, I have other youngsters.

I recently suggested to my seventh grader, who does well in his French class, that summer programs exist whereby he could swap places with a middle school child from Quebec for two weeks. He would go there and get steeped in the French language and culture, and the child from that family would come here and improve his/her English and learn about our culture. 

Again, the blank look, followed by "No thanks."

"Well, pourquoi?" I asked.

"Why" he asked with unwavering vehemence, "would I want to spend two weeks with people I don't know, in a city I don't know, to learn a language I hardly know during my SUMMER VACATION!?! Why would anyone want to do that?  That sounds awful."

Sigh.

Well, there's something to what he's saying. The child from Quebec may have found our pursuits rather insipid.  Summers in our house are different. They're simple. Maybe some morning camps, definitely a lot of long afternoons at the Underwood Pool, the occasional beach trip, ice cream, bike rides. We do frequent the library, but not one of my kids has ever completed a summer homework package. My middle child tends not to even read during the summer, strictly on principle. (Although she is read to on a nightly basis.)

So, it's not that I don't introduce enrichment opportunities during the school year – even if they do decline them with unsettling frequency – but I really can't advise my fellow moms about how to keep the cerebral fires burning during the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Watching a beautiful sunset may constitute our summer enrichment efforts.

Now, if anyone new to Belmont has any questions about life at the pool, I'm the woman to talk to!

Kim Marie Nicols June 08, 2011 at 02:51 AM
Let's hear it for the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer!
Stacey Hammerlind June 08, 2011 at 11:06 AM
Love the honesty Lisa! My kids, too, decline many enrichment activities on principle-OK, ALL during the summer. Very familiar with the blank stare as well :-)!
Rebecca Richards June 09, 2011 at 02:15 PM
Hi Lisa: I think this piece kind of said it all about trying to encourage our kids to take on more "academic" activities during the lazy, languid days of summer. Here's looking forward to my own few carefree days up in Rockport... Rebecca

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