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”?