The Summer Slide…Why I Will NEVER, EVER Let my Kids Stop Learning

halls-of-middle-schoolJuly 3, 2017

Dear Families,

A word of caution. This post is not for the faint of heart. I might even suggest some will find my words offensive. Yet, as I mentioned early on last year, I will never shy away from challenging topics. When I was young, summer days basked in all the glory of laziness. The Paxton Court Posse left the house early seeking adventure. We returned well after the street lights illuminated themselves. It was their vain attempt to assist mothers everywhere seeking the return of their Wanderers.

I suppose I should clarify.  The Paxton Court Posse always found freedom at least 45 minutes before my sister or me. Our departure fell hostage to our “chores.” My sister and I found ourselves the victims of THAT mom. You know the one. The one who made sure you had the proper amount of protein and vegetables. The one that limited sugar intake. The one who made sure you washed behind your ears and made your bed. Yep, you guessed it. And the one that required 20 minutes of reading and a math page before we played outside. It’s a wonder I’m still alive. I mean, calculate it. We missed 45 minutes of our 9 hour play day. Can you imagine the scandal?

You know the old cliche, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”? I guarantee that my children will testify, to this day, in a court of law, that I lost my mind every summer. Yes. They too marvel at the fact that they made it to their young adult life. They, too, bore the burden of summer reading and math sheets as children. As soon as he discovered his ability to debate (which was about age 5), Hunter challenged the requirement. He argued the finer points of why he should simply not be expected to complete such abusive tasks.

Poor darling. He failed to realize that education was actually the VERY last thing I thought I would do with my life. Initially, I applied to Santa Clara University as a pre-law student. After being accepted, I changed my mind. Too much reading. Oh, the irony in that statement. As he grew older, his debates intensified. I lost patience. I argued that in the time he spent debating with me his reading would have been done. For every minute he argued, I increased his reading requirements. There were days the child absorbed no vitamin D.  When a strong-willed child is raised by a strong-willed child, things get exciting.

At twelve, his arguments included data. Often, he brought articles supporting his position for me to read. I countered with educational journals and required a compare and contrast essay examining each position. Graphic organizer and all. My all time favorite argument, “But mom, I have to practice baseball if I am going to play D1 ball.”

I like to live in the land I call reality. Hunter is a decent ball player. He lives by the motto, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” He studies the game. He eats, sleeps, and breaths it. But D1, not likely. In my 23 years as a teacher, I calculate that I have taught over 3,450 students. According to statistics, two of them will be good enough to play at the D1 level. Both of them already graduated from high school.

Hunter continues his pursuit to play ball at the next level, whatever that may be. But he does so while he completes his summer reading and math. Much to his surprise, he is still alive. His debates ceased in middle school. He failed to realize the level of my creativity when writing is involved. I find myself in awe at times. I do not understand the need for a break from reading. I do not understand why reviewing math formulas that will be needed next year can be so earth shattering. Learning is a process that occurs over a life a time. I equate it to taking 100 cuts with the bat. Baseball speak always gets through to him. He never argues the need to improve his baseball skills.

Hunter’s team begins travel July 5th. He will be home a total of  9 days in July. He and his teammates will play ball at TCU, Washington State, and Arizona. Hunter packed two books. He will complete his daily reading. You know, just in case he doesn’t make it to the MLB and needs a fallback. My guess, he will survive, avoid summer learning loss, and play some great baseball. I assured him it wouldn’t ruin his summer.

But how can I, given the competitive world we live in, look myself in the mirror if I don’t encourage my children to be life-long learners? When Hunter steps foot in his math and science classroom in the fall, I want him set up for success.  I don’t want him to spend 3 hours a night reviewing formulas he learned as a sophomore so he can complete work that should take 30 minutes. Yes, his learning is still ultimately his responsibility. But while he is still in my house, I am his coach. When he struggles at the plate or on the mound, his coaches don’t shrug their shoulders and say, “Gee, good luck with that.” Why on earth would I do that with his education?

Honored to Serve You All,

Janet Worley

Food for Thought:  Summer Learning Loss 

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