What is summer for?

Do you remember your summers? Were you required to read, go to academic classes, or practice math? No, me neither. Mr. Geeky and I revisited the kids vegging out issue this morning. He thinks they’re vegging out too much. I say, meh, whatever.  I vegged out in the summer and look how I turned out.  The thing is, I overscheduled myself this summer.  And when I’m not scheduled to do something, *I* want to veg out.  I spent the first part of the summer working almost every day, even weekends.  When the last conference was over last week, and the family was gone, I balanced out doing work, cleaning the house, and having fun.  I went to the dog park, played WoW, and watched a couple of movies.  When the family got back, the Sunday before July 4th, we continued to laze around a bit, and I’ve pretty much done very little work this week.  I went into work Tuesday, and I poked at a project yesterday, but today I woke up feeling a little ill, so I’m planning to take it easy.

The thing is, I’m lucky.  I should take advantage of that luck, of having weeks of free time and not spend it doing work or thinking I should be doing work (which is really what I do when I’m not doing work.  Witness the writing of this post to justify said not doing work.).  When I was Geeky Girl’s age–that is, 12–I went to the pool almost every day, or I played at a friends house or we went to matinees.  When I was Geeky Boy’s age–16–I did have a job, but I didn’t work the whole summer, and I still went to the pool when I could and I took at least a two-week vacation with my family.  I didn’t not, at any time, do any kind of enrichment activities.  I was a smart kid and that just wasn’t the culture then.  Now, as I think Mr. Geeky and I both feel, the culture is different.  It feels weird somehow to tell friends that your kids are actually just hanging out this summer, not working, not going to camp.  Geeky Boy is going to a class every afternoon from 1-4:30.  It takes 45 minutes to drive there.  When he’s not in class, he’s on the computer.  And therein lies our trouble.  Nowadays, kids’ leisure time is more likely to take place in front of a screen rather than at a pool or hanging out at a friends house doing something non-screen related.  And that makes me anxious.

When I was a kid/teen, my parents didn’t much care what I did in the summer.  Or after school or at night for that matter.  Somehow, we all now feel like we have to structure our kids’ time, even their leisure time.  Is that fair?  Does it help or hurt?  I really don’t know, but I know I both don’t like it and feel uncomfortable when I’m not structuring their time enough.

5 Replies to “What is summer for?”

  1. When I was a kid I HATED summer heat (Kentucky in July is like living in a sauna 24/7). So we got up early and played outside until around noon. Then I retreated inside until after dinner. My time inside was spent playing with Legos and reading all the interesting subjects in our Encyclopedia Britanica set (yes, I was THAT nerdy). Then in the evenings it was back outside until dark. Occassionally I braved the daytime heat to bike to a friend’s house or go swimming.

    I think you hit on it in your post – the trick is balance. Vegging out is fine, just not doing all of it in front of a PC.

  2. I think the biggest problem we have, comparing our summers to our kids’ is the computer and TV. I did watch a lot of TV when I was a kid vegging out (I don’t think you mention TV in the post above, just matinees & pool), but my parents limited it to certain things. My sons can easily spend 5 hours watching TV or playing the Wii or watching stuff online, and that’s what I think we have to try to avoid. the worst part for me is that I can spend more than 5 hours online reading blogs & stuff, so I don’t give them a good example.

    I think it’s a completely different thing is they spend hours and hours reading or playing with trains, legos, whatever, that is fine. I feel bad that I haven’t put them to study piano this summer yet, I have to be better about that. They do have math workbooks and the 9 year old is working well on that, but the 7 year old… much harder. They’re watching a video now, I have to listen for the timer so I can go get them to turn it off!

  3. Mike, yes, balance is the key. It’s a big challenge, sometimes, though, especially when getting them to do other activities involves work on my part. 🙂

    Lillian, I also don’t set a great example. I’m often reading, but I’m not sure that’s what it looks like to them. When Mr. Geeky said this morning that he thought the kids “should do more around the house,” I thought, like what. There’s not that much to do. The house is mostly clean. My kids are past the age of getting out a bunch of toys, etc. I spend a little time every day doing something–and there’s always dinner, etc.

    Maybe I just really need a vacation. 🙂

  4. Laura, my summers as a child sound identical to your own. I watched loads of TV and played outside all day, sometimes we went to the pool. I never did camp. When I was 15, I got a very part-time job, but otherwise vegged out. I turned out fine, too.

    My kids’ summers look a little different. They do 2 weeks of camp a summer, plus some swimming lessons, a few piano lessons and horseback riding lessons. We vacation about 2 weeks. We go to the pool @ 3 times a week. They don’t get screen time during the week, but Friday night through Sunday evening they get limited amount of TV/computer time.

    Also, about halfway through the summer, I start doing academic stuff with them at home. Last year, they had to do a certain amount of pages in workbooks, this summer we’ve started doing Khan Academy for math. I make sure they’ve read at least 50-100 pages a day. They also do laundry, loading/unloading the dishwasher, sweeping, taking out the trash, etc.

  5. I read a lot, painted, played with other neighborhood kids and my sisters, swam (when it was available) and took 1-2 hour classes on occasion (which my mom didn’t like, ’cause she really didn’t like the carpooling). I did, however, do academic work over the summer — can’t remember if it was after 10th or 11th grade, but I took classes at a college campus.

    One of those college consultant books has a summer schedule for kids aiming for high-profile colleges that maps out summer vacations (hey — just realized I can download it from my library — it’s Wissner-Gross’s “What High Schools Don’t Tell You”):

    Here’s her plan for the four year summer plan:

    pre-9th (2 talent search 3-week courses, two week family vacation, two week downtime)
    pre-10th: College course, credit, 6 weeks, 2 weeks starting a long term project (science art, community service athletics, etc).
    pre-11th: 8 week project
    pre-12th: 8 week project

    The projects are supposed to be active endeavors (creating something new and independent on your own).

    I don’t think we have to do that stuff, but I think that one needs to know what others are doing (or might be doing).

    My kids are surprisingly wedded to organized activities, and academic activities. I think at least part of the problem is lack of neighborhood friends to hang out with. So my guess is that they will make these “active” schedule choices, not necessarily ’cause I think it’s best but ’cause of lack of better alternatives.

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