Wednesday, August 03, 2016

How To Combat The Mid-Way Summer Slump

by Amber Chandler

As so many well-meaning moms and dads do, I think I over-scheduled my kiddos this summer. I had thought that if I scheduled their mornings, then their afternoons would be filled with wonder and freedom. Unfortunately, it has turned into lounging, epic Minecraft battles between my kids, and a general blah. Then, a couple of times a week I’m trying to drag them to karate too. The problem, of course, was that I hadn’t considered that it would be impossible for me and my lackadaisical parenting style to get my kids to bed before ten o’clock (or eleven. . . or even later…) when there was so much “summer” out there. Concerts, ice cream, birthday parties, picnics, outdoor movies, swimming at sunset--when you live in Buffalo, NY, where for about 7 months it is cold, and about 4 of those months it is frigid, you suck in the “summer” no matter how late it gets. It was a complete accident, of course, but I’m feeling it right now. We’ve hit the “mid-way slump.” As a public school teacher, my summer break mirrors my own kids, and yesterday marked the 1 month mark. This basically is the half-way for us, and we need a reboot.

What’s a girl to do? I’m not going to abandon their Passion Projects (Zoey’s turned into a poetry writing obsession and a deep desire to be published--I don’t know where she gets it! Oliver’s project has turned into a Minecraft DIY handbook, which he has explained justified his hours of “research.”) However, I’m going to allow more spontaneity into our summer routine; rather, I’m going to capitalize on the spontaneity that I already have in search of more “summer” experiences. Instead of shape the experiences, I’m going to let the experiences shape what they learn.

For example, next Friday we are going to see Zootopia (again) at an outdoor movie event at the beach. We saw Star Wars there last month, but ended up leaving because we were freezing and the breeze was too much. This is Buffalo, afterall. Anyway, next week as we are preparing, I’m going to ask my kids some leading questions that they’ll research, and we can talk about. What will the temperature be at 9:00 pm when the movie starts? What is the difference between the hottest point of the day and the coolest point? Is this difference like other places in the country or do you think we have bigger swings in temperature? How much will the wind matter? How do they measure wind? Can you have windchill in the summer? Does the windchill impact the lake water? Does it matter if the lake froze or not this past year? You get the point. There’s so much to learn in the things we do everyday, so I don’t need to formalize so much.

For older kiddos, another angle for an event like this is to use the movie as a jumping off point about the world around them. Having the benefit of seeing Zootopia before, I’m planning on raising their awareness to the level of social commentary. They already know the plot, so I’m going to encourage them to look at the movie through a different lens. I think I’ll have them read this review, which delves into the social commentary. I also like the ideas in this review that can be directly linked to the disturbing unrest in our country, as well as some great lessons on the complexity of stereotypes.

In the end, I love the projects that are still happening in my household, but I want to also suggest that the midway slump can be alleviated by a little more serendipitous learning experiences that might lead to some of the social emotional learning that is important as well. Let me know some of the “teachable moments” that you’ve found this summer--I’m always looking for new ideas, and I have 41 days left, but who’s counting?

Amber Chandler is a mama, teacher, and education writer. She believes in student-centered, Project Based Learning, as well as integrating technology at every turn. Her book, The Flexible ELA Classroom: Differentiation for Grades 4-8 will be available this fall. She’s launching, a website companion to the book, but also a space for teachers of all kinds to share their resources. Please submit your best ideas to her to appear on the website, as she’d like to highlight the work of the homeschool crowd. Follow her on Twitter at @MsAmberChandler and visit her website for lots of resources that you are welcome to use.

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