Rethinking summer Vacation

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Those days of long summer vacations that included hours at the pool or playing outside are only a memory - but only for my husband and myself. Summer vacation for my son Ian and his buddies includes a significant amount of school work.

Please don't get the impression that I'm a so-called Tiger Mom (although I can confess to Tiger Mom tendencies). We've made the most of Ian's break from school with baseball, visits with the grandparents, and family bike rides.

As he gets ready for the fourth grade, we've also spent a lot of time studying. Yes, studying - as in reading, writing and arithmetic. As you might imagine, it was all fun, frolic, and family love until it was time to hit the books.

Our school, with the assistance of the PTO, sends home a "Brain Games" activity book. Many districts do this now as a way to keep children engaged over the summer. The books are filled with activities to keep skills they've learned during the school year fresh.

In addition to "Brain Games," there's also the summer reading list. Ian was fine with the activity book and even excited about the reading list because we signed up for the summer reading program at the library. Then the swimming pool opened, baseball season was in full swing, and he and his neighborhood friends remembered how much fun they could squeeze into the long summer days.

But children are expected to be ready to learn once the new school year starts. Gone are the days when teachers had time to spend weeks reviewing. My teacher friends tell me it is critical to keep skills sharp because children can drop several reading levels if they don't read over the summer.

If you've been reading my column, you know how much I "enjoyed" third grade and all of its homework, tests and projects. The notion that all that hard work (and good grades) could be for nothing was motivation enough for me to introduce Ian to the idea of multi-tasking.

The way I see it, he's learning from the Master (Mistress?) of Multitasking. We all know life-work balance is a monumental task. I figure since we hear so much today about preparing children for global competition, it may not be too early to learn to multitask.

Of course, I am only half joking. We're making it through the summer by carving out the reading time and making it a "Mom-and-me" activity where we both tuck into a good book. The morning commute to camp includes math drills after we listen to our favorite summer song and talk about plans for the day.

All of this does make me re-think summer vacation - or at least the "vacation" part. My sister, who is a married working mother of two, agrees with me. She says it should be renamed ... but we're too busy to come up with anything because, after all, there's reading to do, math to review, and book reports to write.

Tracy Townsend is a news reporter and anchor with 10TV News HD.