Enrichment Suggestions? What was I thinking?!

As an elementary teacher, I believe it is important for parents to continue academics throughout the summer. In my last classroom newsletter of the year, I provide activity suggestions for parents to do with their children. In order to practice what I preach, I tried some of my “great suggestions” with my own son. Here’s some of those conversations:

Me: I’ve got a great idea! Why don’t you plan a meal for dinner and then we can add up how much money we spent?

TBP: No, thank you.

Me: Oh come on! It will be fun!

TBP: No, thank you.

Me: Why don’t you want to do this with me?

TBP: I don’t mean to hurt your feelings but, why would I want to do that? You buy the groceries all the time and you don’t ask me to do this!

Me: I thought this would be something different and fun

TBP: It doesn’t sound fun to me.

This was a bit surprising, because I always considered this idea as a good one. Later, I try a different suggestion.

Me: You know so much about Mine Craft! Why don’t you write a story about it.

TBP: No, thank you!

Me: Why not?

TBP: I would rather PLAY Mine Craft then write about playing it. I’m sure other people feel the same way. Plus, if someone wants to know about Mine Craft, they can watch my tutorials on You Tube. That would be more fun than reading my story.

Strike Two! This suggestion was my “have your child write a story about something they love” or it could be the “don’t forget to include procedural writing” suggestion.

Instead of hitting my son with another suggestion right away, I decided to take a more upfront approach. I explained that I suggested these activities because it was important that he continues to read, write, problem solve, and build math skills during the summer months.

I curse the hours that he plays Mine Craft, but he is learning valuable lessons about problem solving, spatial skills, determination & persistence. New vocabulary, filming tutorials, and searching You Tube for information are all acquired skills because of this game. Although it is a video game, he is learning more than I expected about social skills. If he plays unfairly, even the cyber-friends won’t want to play with him.

We worked out a deal that in addition to Mine Craft, we would spend some time reading, a bit of time outside, and do either a board game or some type of math/problem solving activity. I couldn’t help myself, I bought one of THE math activity books. I agreed that it was not necessary for him to complete the entire page to demonstrate the skills. Instead, he selects 5 problems on the page and if he can do those correctly, he is done. Feels like a win-win situation because he spends time completing most of the problems in an attempt to circle the easiest ones. I see this as not only math time, but the skill of completing something right the first time, checking the work, and doing something that he might not love…but is required. Reality, right?

For my son (and many others) learning must be purposeful & meaningful. The value has to be clear or it becomes busy work. The problem for my son (and many twice-exceptional children), is that most of the school work feels phony! Spending these summer months with my son, reminded me about the need for purposeful learning opportunities for all students.

I know that I will rethink my “enrichment” ideas when I return to school! I wonder how many of my classroom parents cursed me while they completed my “fun and easy family learning activities”?

12 thoughts on “Enrichment Suggestions? What was I thinking?!

  1. We do enrichment work with both our children over the summer. My wife sets up this calendar and there is a place to check off after each day of work is completed. The last day shows the gift they will have earned if they complete their work. We (she really) hae done this past summers (and other school breaks), and it has worked well.

  2. Pingback: Small Daily Improvements Add Up « Publish N Prosper

  3. I’ve heard the debate about continuing learning in the summer but don’t our kids naturally learn on their own(even if it’s not what we would choose). I recall my summers were full of free time and exploration(outside) and those are some of my happiest memories….perhaps that’s how your son will look at this time when he’s grown-up and full with responsibilities.

  4. I believe that there can be lots of learning that happens during this extended vacation. I remember lots of great memories during the summer outside with friends or long days at My grandparents.

  5. My son is so happy during the summer months! With his slow transitioning issues, he is able to do things at a slower pace which makes him more comfortable. He learns a lot of interesting things during the summer. The conflict that I have is that sometimes I worry if we set him up when we allow him so much freedom to learn what he is interested in and at his own pace. This is not his school experience (although we are working on making it more appropriate for him with accomodations) when there are many things that he might be asked to do that are boring to him. I try to provide a balance.

    • My son is in a Montessori school and i have the same concern during the school year. If he gets to choose the work all the time he only does what interests him. As a result he becomes weaker in the areas where he needs help. Sometimes I tell my son he needs to do something(dreaded fine motor related work) because it will help his eyes/fingers/etc. work better…he loves the human body so that works for us.

      this works for us.

  6. Just a suggestion…my son loves to teach others…especially adults or higher grades. You could approach your son’s essay as a tutorial…an example of how to correctly prepare (outline), research, and construct one. The subject could be on his beloved game of Mine Craft…however the tutorial portion would be on actual essay construction. His could be an example for his grade or above (modified to great simplicity for his grade). It could be a simple essay but with proper preparation and construction. He has already done the research portion…he would just have to cite where others may get the information.

    Simply teach him the basics of outlining, research, and construction of an essay…
    keep the examples of his outline….the chronicles of his research…and his essay for an example.

    You could show your students (higher grades) that not only what you are teaching is valid, but what they can achieve…and most importantly…how they can achieve it…and how it was effected through your teaching methods.

    You will win on not only two fronts…but you will, perhaps, ignite a fire of interest in your son…in not only expressing his thoughts in essay format…but in his teaching of others.

    He would also develop great pride in knowing that his essay will be used to teach higher grade students on essay construction.

    By the very nature of your son’s very rational replies, he has the capability to do quite advanced essay work. Perhaps by covering one small section per day as a summer academic project…it would keep his interest high.

    • You always have such great idea! I think that we can motivate our TBP with a more formal approach, if we used it to outline video tutorials and for him to think of a good title and description. He was thrilled to find out that people had actually watched his You Tube Videos!

  7. Great post, Kelly! And you are such a fantastic teacher to know that you have to change up your end-of-the-year curriculum to fit the needs of the students. Although always a challenge to do so; knowing if you provide them with the right work, they will be totally into the assignment and you’ll have fantastic papers/projects to read.

    Don’t you love how kids are so honest? I’m waiting patiently to have a similar conversation with Oster when he’s in school 🙂

    • @Oster’s Mom
      Thank you for your comments and support!
      After this experience and reading everyone’s comments, it reminded me that students need meaningful practice. I need to share with parents to continue active learning throughout the summer. Each family should decide what that looks like for their child. While some children might practice reading and math through cooking, that might not be motivating to other children. Some children might find keeping a journal interesting while others would prefer practicing their writing skills sending emails to family members. I will be thinking about this for sure!

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