Thursday, June 16, 2011

What To Do With The Kids This Summer

I've never liked "having" to report somewhere every day -- a key reason I like my work-from-home, self-employment situation now. Growing up, I was always happy to take a break from school for the summer. Of course, as a parent now, I can also see that summer can pose massive logistical challenges. Not only is school de facto childcare for many families -- a problem, since it suddenly ends for 2 months -- it also gives kids something to do with their days. No structure can be good or bad, depending on the kid.

Lots of parents enroll their kids in summer camps, and I always enjoyed mine, but summer can also be a time for larger self-directed projects. School seldom gives kids the chance to pursue such projects, but for many of us, learning to tackle them is a useful skill. Some ideas for kids:

1. Research. The holy grail is, of course, working in a professor's lab over the summer. But even if this isn't possible, a child can come up with a topic that fascinates her, figure out what the unanswered questions are, and spend time in libraries, online and interviewing experts to come up with a hypothesis. The child can write up her thoughts and send the paper around.

2. Start a business. Also a challenging way to spend a summer! Encourage the child to figure out what needs are unmet in the neighborhood and what she could do to solve them. What would people pay for that? How can she find customers? How many customers does she need to cover start up costs and make a profit? How can she advertise and how can she meet demand? For help, visit the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship website.

3. Read with a purpose. Shakespeare's tragedies that don't get covered in freshman English, for instance. Then seek out where such plays are performed and figure out a way to go see them. Or perhaps biographies of leaders of the Civil Rights movement, in anticipation of a family trip to a destination like Birmingham.

4. Write a novel, or a book of poetry. All first novels need work, but the sooner a young writer gets her head around the idea of cranking out 50,000+ words, the easier it will be to do the next time!

What are you doing with your kids this summer?


Annie said...

I'm not much for too much structure during summer vacation either. Yet, a few days into summer vacation, my husband and I realized that our three boys were happier with some direction. So, we brainstormed a list of roughly ten tasks for our boys each week. We tried to keep them somewhat opened ended, like doing an art project of their choice or trying a new board game of their choice. The list has really helped on the days we are home. Other days, we try to be out in the fresh air by either hiking and biking in new areas or swimming.

Stephanie said...

One thing my 7 and 9 year old boys are doing this summer is blogging. My husband and I both blog and the boys were excited to get in on it. I am a high school English teacher and my students have dabbled in blogging, so I thought the boys might like it. It has given me a natural and easy way to discuss things like audience and purpose as well as grammar and development. Plus, they get comments from their readers which they love. Each boy has decided on his own focus, design and topics and that has been really interesting for me. Overall, it has been a terrific summer project!

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

4.5 weeks of teen summer theater (2 productions), reading through "Conceptual Physics" in preparation for AP Physics next year, starting on science fair, rebuilding the underwater ROV for robotics club.

Jo in OKC said...

Well, my daughter's a rising high school senior, so I'm not doing much *with* her this summer.

We started the summer at a family reunion, then she had 2 weeks at home. She did her summer required reading, but mostly enjoyed relaxing, being on facebook and e-mail at will, and watching sports.

Then, she flew out to Boston to visit a friend for a few days and now is at RSI (at MIT) for 6 weeks. She'll have a few days home, then go to MathFest (with a side trip to ride roller coasters) for a week, then another week at home before school starts.