Reflecting on priorities of family & work
Summer slide is well-documented. During summer, kids lose much of what they have learned during the school year, effectively starting them several weeks or months behind when they return in the Fall (this phenomenon is most pervasive in lower-income communities). I see summer as a time for my kids to get ahead even more. Last summer, I got a lot of interest on a Facebook Post of my kids’ summer learning challenge. What I tried to do was create a comprehensive set of challenges for my kids to accomplish during the summer that motivated them and kept them learning. Their goals included everything from reading to math to making and coding. It worked to an extent, but their interest waned during the summer as the novelty wore off.
Here are some lessons learned and what I’m going to do this summer to try to improve the experience for my kids.
1. Invest my kids in the process of goal setting. Last summer, I came up with the goals myself. My kids kind of thought it was a neat idea. They preferred some of the goals more than others and tackled those with much greater abandon. This summer, I’m going to work with them on setting their own summer learning goals. My job this time around will be to guide them to appropriate goals based both on their interests and areas they need to work on.
2. invest the babysitter in the idea. During the summer, we hire a college student to watch our kids and take them around to their activities. I did not spend enough time with her describing what my expectations were for this activity and why I, as a parent, thought it important. We also did not set expectations around time the kids should spend on it and how she could help them plan their activities so that they could accomplish their goals. As expected, the babysitter would opt to do “fun” things with them over typing practice or math facts. This year, we have the same babysitter – she’s really good with the kids so we wanted her back. I’ll spend some more time with her and getting her more invested in their goals.
3. Have the goals be more collaborative. Last year, there were a couple of goals that required our assistance and support. This year, many more of the goals will require the kids to collaborate with us, each other, the babysitter, and their friends. The social construction of knowledge is hugely powerful and was sorely lacking from last summer’s goals.
4. Create more “fun” projects. Last year was heavy on math, reading, and writing in very ways they did not enjoy. I don’t know why I structured it this way. As a teacher, my classroom was never set up this way, so why would I do it for my own kids? My kids get enough rote learning in school. The last thing they need is more of it during the summer. I was treating the babysitter as a substitute teacher and wanted to ensure that my kids had goals they could mostly attain on their own. This summer should be much better.
5. Model. I’m setting up my own summer learning goals so that I can track along with them. I’ll align my goals to theirs (i.e. reading targets) and be equally responsible for collaborative goals (i.e. building a dog house together). I can’t speak for my wife, but i think she’ll be on board, too.
I look forward to seeing how my kids do this summer on their summer learning goals vs. last year as I institute these changes. I’ll share my kid’s goal charts when we construct them together next week and then update you all on their (our) progress. What do you do with your kids during the summer?