School may be (almost!) out here in New York, but just because there are no teachers or homework doesn't mean my daughter's education will end this Friday. And I don't mean that Rosa will be doing drills or working with tutors, although I know some kids do. Instead she'll be learning a few lessons unique to our family's experience of summer.
1. How to Be Bored
Okay, boredom is not a seasonal experience. But with no homework to do, some camp-free days, and long car rides on the horizon, Rosa will have plenty of time to suffer the indignities of boredom. Do you remember being a kid and just having to look out the window on car trips? I sure do. It's a sensation my daughter rarely experiences. She's either watching a TV show on a smartphone or reading a book, which doesn't help with her carsickness incidentally. I anticipate many, many requests for screentime, both in the car and lazing about at home. We'll give in to some of them. But, both my husband and I think boredom is actually a good thing for children (and grown-ups for that matter). It encourages kids to get creative or even just to daydream. Kids need to learn how to make their own fun; going into adulthood expecting to be constantly entertained is a recipe for a needy and unhappy grown-up. And usually Rosa's boredom is short-lived. I often marvel at the projects she comes up with when she has proclaimed her everlasting boredom just 10 minutes before.
2. How to Read for Fun
Instead of reading a non-fiction text for homework or a novel for a book report like she does during the school year, in the summer Rosa can choose the books she wants to read. It might be a graphic novel, mystery, sci-fi adventure, or whatever catches her eye at the library. We are lucky that Rosa likes to read for pleasure, and summer will offer many, many more opportunities to do it.
3. How to Make Friends on the Fly
Rosa attends day camp most weeks in the summer. She bounces around to various STEM and arts camps, and even one based on the Percy Jackson books. (Was there such a variety of summer camps when we were kids? I sure didn't attend them.) All of this variety ensures that her summer is fun, but it also forces her to make new friends on an almost weekly basis. I think of it as social boot camp. Making friends, or at least being friendly, with strangers is a reality of school, work, and plain-old daily life for kids and grown-ups alike. Being comfortable with it is a skill that's valuable to hone.
4. How to Feel at Home in the Outdoors
Even though we live in the city, we're lucky to have a small backyard and live near a large park. That's a long way from saying that Rosa is comfortable in the outdoors, though (starting with her spider phobia, for one thing). This summer we're going to get out into nature as often as possible, whether it's a day at the beach or just a picnic lunch on the grass. But, I also want Rosa to experience the jaw-dropping majesty of nature. For that, we're taking a road trip through the Colorado Rockies down to the Grand Canyon. We're also going to try to check out the new Wild Walk in the Adirondacks. There is nothing like feeling small before the world's great natural wonders to grant perspective, no matter what your age.
5. How to Convince Mom to Buy Ice Cream
Actually, Rosa already has this one down pat. Lesson learned.
What lessons will your kids learn this summer?
Jenna Helwig is the food editor at Parents and the author of the cookbooks Real Baby Food and Smoothie-licious. She really loves ice cream, ice pops, iced coffee, and any day that isn't winter. Follow her on Twitter.
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Image: Young girls reading via Shutterstock