Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Learning

School is out. The books are gone the backpacks are crammed under beds notebooks are buried in closets. Learning is put on hold.

Nope. Not in this house. Not any more. In the past I've taken summer vacation to be an absence of learning for the children. I've allowed it to be a time to just play. To forget. I am discovering that may not be the best approach to developing the thinking mind in my girls. They work very hard all school year learning very successfully. We don't demand good grades but do demand their best work. We have been fortunate to have two hard working students.

As the years have passed I am seeing what has been failing in their education. Being blessed with curious children is wonderful. I love how they enjoy learning about new topics. Unfortunately those topics are often neglected at school. Nothing to fault the girls. It's the public school education system. So much has to be taught to a large group of children with varied levels of academic strengths how can it can't be done without something being lost. Overwhelmed is one way to describe the public school system. My belief that the schools are going to teach my girls all they should know is a lofty expectation. I should have known better a few years ago. I should have paid attention to those missing lessons. Thinking about learning has me focusing in on what we can do during the summer to pass our time constructively. I'm not thinking about setting up a serious 4 hours a day schooling plan. That is not how we want to spend the summer. I'm imagining taking advantage of our free time to broaden their education. Filling in the holes where the public school is not capable to fulfill as thoroughly as I expect.

What is that exactly?

I'll tell you. It's writing. It's world history. It's geography. It's reading. And always, always math. In my opinion grade schools do not focus enough on writing. Middle schools even high schools neglect the level of writing that should be required. It's the writing I'm very concerned about these days. After being exposed to college and master's level students at a DC area elite university I am convinced that writing is lacking attention. I've edited (and I'm no great editor at that) several papers and wondered how on earth did these kids get into such a prestigious school. Compared to my humble public school education, which way back when required plenty of writing, these kids should have been more advanced. They were not. That important lesson I learned was that writing is becoming set aside to teach children how to test. Because testing to states is far more important than knowing how to communicate in writing your understanding of a subject. I disagree and because I disagree the girls will be taking on some extra schooling over the summer. Together we are going to set a lesson goal for these 5 subjects.

To begin with there will be a writing assignment every week. Topics we will brainstorm together and from those choices we will list them for each week. There will be fun topics for them to explore. They will have multiple options for free writing which is often not provided in a school setting. I have at least two or three assignments that include writing about a book. That idea is based off of a middle school english class requirement. Since Leah has to write one essay about a book on the list provided by the school one of hers will be for real. The other is for experience. In my mind the writing is to be kept simple at 1-2 pages. That is a decent amount to get an idea developed but not too long to be burdensome.

Reading is a big deal to me. I love to read. Always and forever more will I love to read. This is one of those imperative skills every person should improve. Leah is an avid reader and her participation will be less combative. Olivia is going to struggle. She needs to open a book. With her it will be a challenge. She is far more difficult to find topics of interest. We shall begin slow and progress with caution. I want her to be a better reader and at this point she does little to none. Getting 2-3 books out of her this summer is reasonable. As I previously mentioned Leah will embracing reading for the sake of reading. Her challenge is going to be in the realm of subject matter. Her past exposure to books has been limited by choice to what I would refer to as easy reading. That is perfectly fine, however she will read the same 3 series of books over and over and over. This is not improving her reading ability. My goal is to open up her mind to some decent literature. I'd love for her to conquer some classics but she too needs to ease into the challenge. I have a handful of books in mind that I'd like for her to try. If she can complete 2 that would be fantastic. One would be great. My challenge is her preferences are far different from mine which means I need to wrap my mind around a set of different tastes.

After reading a writing come our other subjects. These are the ones I have not put much thought into, well mostly since I just came up with this whole summer learning program idea. World history, geography, and math are the topics the girls want to learn. They are ones I think they need to bulk up on too. Geography and history will be headed up by Dad. I'll seek his input for ideas of focus. From his ideas I'll formulate some sort of lesson plan to implement. For math we'll focus on cooking for starters. Fractions are a good way to begin. I see long division and math facts for Olivia. Perhaps a little algebra for Leah. This too will require some Dad input. I have ideas of combining math and writing for a paper about Fahrenheit and Celsius scales but that might be a bit much.

My goal is to keep them learning. I don't want to make this burdensome; This is summer a time for fun too. Creativity is going to be an active part of this project. Keeping a manageable ideal is key to preventing feelings of failure for them and me. Learning for fun to improve our knowledge is the point. Making the girls see how learning is life long never stopping is my ultimate goal. I hope I can be successful in encouraging my girls to always want to learn. Isn't that what every parent hopes to achieve?

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