Here we go again closing the door on another school year and heading outdoors for summer break!
The first instinct is to do nothing, to recuperate from the projects, papers, tests, Open House, culminations and graduations, appreciation luncheons and, finally, the end-of-year parties and classroom good-byes. Taking a few days off is necessary and it is helpful. We can begin to think of what we want to do with these precious weeks of summer.
Finding a balance between structure and disorganization is an important first step in creating a summer filled with memories but one that also has an underlying foundation that will ease both the transition from school to summer and the return to school from summer break.
Here is how to make the most of your child’s summer B.R.E.A.K.:
B=Begin by planning some activities—A little structure goes a long way in providing foundation for a summer that is balanced. Some activities to consider are lessons, such as swimming, music, dance, sports and martial arts. Having lessons continue throughout the summer allows children to gain progress and maintain learned skills. It is also important to continue academic skills through the summer whether it is informal review with practice books, or more formal tutoring or classes. The summer is a great time to bolster up skills taught during the school year and to make sure children remember important concepts taught during the year. Many families consider summer camp, especially if a parent’s work schedule doesn’t stop for the summer break. Many summer camps are available locally including specialty camps; sleep-away camps and traditional day camps. There are so many good choices, here are just a few: Cali Camp-calicamp.com; Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, theatricum.com/education/youthclasses/; Fitness by the Sea, fitnessbythesea.com; Camp Kinneret: http://www.campkinneret.com/about-camp/welcome-to-kinneret/; STAR Summer Camp, starcamps.org.
R=Reading—Summer is a great time to enjoy reading books that are purely for pleasure, books that are read at a comfort level and that are self-selected. Weekly visits to the library provide lots of choices (for free!) and it is always a calming experience to browse the shelves. Most libraries also have DVDs and CDs to borrow as well and many offer story times for children. Check the schedule to find out what special activities the library has planned for the summer months. colapublib.org/libs/topanga/
E=Enjoy time with family and friends—Summer is the perfect time to have play dates, family reunions and get-togethers. Without the restrictions of “school nights,” summer offers the warm summer nights that are perfect for outdoor concerts, picnics, a late swim, watching the sunset at the beach or stargazing. For those who like to camp, there are so many places close by that offer an easy camping experience.
Near Malibu: Malibu Creek State Park, reserveamerica.com/camping/malibu-creek-sp/r/facilityDetails.do?contractCode=CA&parkId=120051; Sycamore Canyon/Point Magu State Park, parks.ca.gov/?page_id=630; Leo Carrillo State Park, parks.ca.gov/?page_id=616
In Ojai: Wheeler Gorge Campground, fs.usda.gov/recarea/lpnf/recarea/?recid=11027; Rose Valley Campground, fs.usda.gov/recarea/lpnf/recarea/?recid=11026; Middle Lion Camground, usda.gov/recarea/lpnf/recarea/?recid=11023
State Parks: There are many campgrounds in and near State Parks that can be found at: parks.ca.gov/?page_id=91. Information about camping in National Parks (Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, etc.) can be found at: npca.org/regions/pacific#sm.0001gp1oh1kopesfw8910w5zhs1v8
A=Allow time for hobbies and travel—The lazy days of summer allow for uninterrupted time to pursue hobbies. Children love to spend time creating art, building models, exploring outdoors, writing and learning new hobbies. By providing materials needed for the activity, a space to use and an uninterrupted block of time, children can let their imaginations run free and create uninhibited.
Summer is also a great time to travel. I remember the road trips we took as a young family and the happy memories created as our children became Junior Rangers, explored distant beaches, National Monuments and traveled to foreign cities. The experience of seeing things in person that had only been seen in books allows children to open their minds to possibilities, builds tolerance as they view the world from a different perspective and plants the seeds of future adventures in their imaginations.
K=Kick back and relax!—Balance can be achieved when time is allotted for just kicking back and relaxing. In the normal rush of the school year, we don’t often take the time to allow ourselves to be “bored.” Every moment is filled, homework is scheduled, lessons are on the calendar and the weekends are filled with sports practice and birthday parties. In the summer, we have the time to “unschedule” ourselves. We can slow down to the warm summer pace and allow ourselves to take in the breeze, a bird coasting above the shore, take our dog on leisurely walks, hike a trail and just listen to the quiet of a summer day.
When I was young, we had 12 weeks off for summer break. I believe it originally had something to do with harvesting crops, but all children welcomed the long summer! Over the years days have been added to the school year and the summer has become eight weeks. We are lucky to give our children the time to enjoy a more flexible schedule, to take family trips, go to summer camp, engage in hobbies, maintain academic skills and possibly progress a little, too.
As parents, even if we have to work during our children’s break, we can take part in some of the special time when the heat of the day melts into the warm summer nights that let us recall our youth and the freedom that accompanies summer.