A Different Kind of Summer School: Learning Life on Purpose
“Kids these days just can’t (fill in the blank) like they should!” Raise a hand if those words have at least crossed your mind. Most parents have some skill that they would like to teach to their kids, but there never seems to be time for it. Between work schedules, school schedules, extra-curricular schedules, and social schedules, the summer breakis often a needed respite from the constant go-go-go that most families experience. But using this time to pass on some practical knowledge will really make a difference, and it leaves everyone feeling like summer was valuable for more than just not having homework.
It’s remarkably easy to coast along until August 1, and then realize that it’s time to get geared back up for school. At that point, the busy-ness of school takes back over and there’s just not time to properly teach that life skill that needs to be learned. Instead, pick something that your child needs to learn and make a plan to mentor them. Come August, they will have finished their reading list AND become more capable future adults.
Step One – Decide
If the decision on what skills to learn can be mutually agreed upon, then success seems to be more attainable. However, deciding what needs to be learned does not have to be a joint decision. No one wants to do the laundry, so it’s unlikely a child is going to pick this task. As far as how many things to teach, don’t get crazy – summertime can be super busy too! Just pick a reasonable number of useful things. For some, that might mean just one or two around-the-house chores like laundry, cooking, changing the oil in the lawnmower, painting, or cleaning soffits. For others, there might be 4 or 5 skills that could be taught. But, what a child might be wanting to learn could be surprising, so be sure to ask their opinion. Then, with that knowledge in hand, add in other life skills that are on the must-know list.
Step Two – Make a Schedule
Don’t depend on a cheerful “let’s learn how to properly wash whites today, Mom!” to come out of anyone’s lips. (Refer back to the aforementioned opinion of laundry.) If the teenager in your house needs to learn how to do some specific thing, then pick specific days to do those things, and put it on your calendars if need be. Some skills will necessitate some outside assistance, whether it be from hired teachers or benevolent grandparents or other adults. For example, a lot of kids would probably like to learn to sew, but a lot of us parents never learned ourselves. Find someone who will teach them! And then schedule it. Don’t depend on things to just work out. One hour a week for 8 weeks can take a person from zero to sixty in terms of skill advancement.
Step Three – Encourage
No one is going to become an expert over the summer. So, be that parental cheerleader to help them keep up their progress. Don’t expect perfection as they’re learning, and then encourage them to continue improving even after school starts back up. Yes, the school year is busy, but if they already have the basics learned, they can improve without immense input from parents who are back to trying to manage homework and lunches.
Parenting influences the culture more than just about anything. The things that were once taught in home economics and “shop class” often need to be taught by Mom and Dad, now. All kids are able to learn these things on their own, but having it formally “handed down”, in a sense, is good for the parent-child relationship. So often, it will require a conscious choice to make it happen. This summer, make that mutual decision to work on at least one new thing that will make your child more capable, and it could make home life a little bit easier as well. Everyone’s a winner!
Leah O’Gwynn Kackley is the homeschooling mom of three in the Rez/Fannin area. She is preaching to herself in this article, but is hoping that it encourages someone else who knows that their teenager needs to learn to manage their laundry consistently!