This is the reason why I’ve always been of two minds about the “Summer Slump.” It’s an all-too-real phenomenon, easily observed and documented by teachers everywhere–the loss of skills that atrophy over a roughly two- to three-month vacation.
Worse, for children living with food insecurity, the long summer vacation can be a time of deprivation, if not outright famine.
Taken together, the “summer slump” and the serious problems of food insecurity and sketchy childcare for children living in poverty have led to calls for year-round school.
Yet I remember some of my best childhood moments from those months of long, unstructured days and unbounded imaginations, when my sister and I would invent our own worlds and delve into new, exotic realms through books.
Looking back on it, I was a lucky child–a child of privilege, though I didn’t realize it and my cash-strapped parents would have been startled to hear that evaluation. But we had enough to eat, a safe place to play, and all the books we could read, thanks to our local public library. Untold riches!
I worry that the value of “down time” is being overlooked these days, in our concern about other pressing concerns.
The mentality that prescribes “drill and kill” approaches and “minimum-security prison” protocols for inner-city schools is the very approach that de-funds and eliminates the music, art, and sports programs that give at-risk kids the will to fight on and stay in school.
Even in more well-funded neighborhoods, the pressure of competition tempts parents to lock down a child’s every moment under the relentless tyranny of “enrichment” activities, such as tutoring, organized teams, and summer school, that allow no time to sit and watch clouds go by or think big thoughts.
Rich or poor, kids need time to just be. To think about stuff, to experiment, fail, succeed, and make up their own stories and games. To learn who they are, and what they value the most. Indeed, as explored on Studio 360, a little boredom can be a good thing!
Wise parents know it’s a delicate balance that absolutely must be struck, if kids are to grow fully into themselves.
Do you have any good stories about fun things you did as a kid that were “freeform” and creative? What imaginative adventures did you enjoy? Please share them in the Comments.
IMAGE: Many thanks to “The Artful Parent” Pinterest board, for the image, and to Studio 360 for the audio clip.