I get it…it’s universal. Every school, every summer vacation in every state, city, county and town (as far as I know) assigns summer….B. S. Yes, I call it what it is, and I am really done.
Summer vacation is supposed to be just that…a vacation. It’s not only vacation for my kids, but a vacation for me as well: the parent, the provider, the tuition payer, the fundraiser, driver, you name it. But, when you start assigning summer work to my kids, really, you have assigned it to me, too.
Let’s face it, unless you have some off the charts beguilingly gifted kid who’s solstice aspiration is to live in the lab and/or the library, and needs NO nudging whatsoever to read a book or “enjoy” a math packet, your urging, nagging, pushing, whatever euphemism you apply to the situation, becomes part of summer anxiety, and as a summer baby, summer should be flowy, and free, like the women in long dresses running through cornfields in Summer’s Eve commercials.
As we laughed our asses off at my birthday get together last night, the mood turned cold and somber when I asked my girlfriends if they had done any of the summer assignments. One turned to me, face similar to the grotesque figure in Edvard Munch’s “The Scream," and almost crying asked, “we had summer assignments?” Oh yes we do, and guess what, I haven’t gotten off my tanned ass to do them either, because they suck.
Imagine if you worked all year for your boss, and here it is, the moment you’ve been waiting for all freiking year, your two weeks of vacation have finally arrived! As you are walking out the door, dreaming of Bellinis, Prosecco and handsome men in Speedos as you head for your dream vacation in Monte Carlo, your boss turns to you and says, “Oh yeah, in between dips in the Mediterranean, can you please finish these files. I mean you can just upload and download and have them ready for me in an email. No rush, as long as they are ready by the Monday you return. But, have a great time and enjoy your vacation.” I would be like, F-OFF. But oh no, summer assignments are allowed, and it’s the same concept.
How much does a kid get from a summer “reading” assignment? Not much, really. I’ve been at this a long time, and the only thing, even for some of mine who are honor students (the names have remained anonymous to protect the innocent on both ends of the spectrum), ZERO, ZERO, ZERO. Nobody wants to read, it’s a chore, and the absorption of fact and enjoyment on the acidity reading stick is albino colored, so my time and theirs has been wasted.
I don’t understand what the education system is afraid of…is my kid coming back illiterate because they didn’t read two books in the ten weeks they didn’t sit at a desk? Do you have such little faith in your teaching staff and your institution that the staying power of what you taught them for nine months will just evaporate with the first jump off the high dive or bite of boardwalk cheese fries? Have a little more faith in your educational rubric.
And the math assignments? I think a week of refreshing when they return in September is plenty. I suck at math, and I certainly remember how to multiply, divide and conquer after being out of school thirty years. Do not get me started on unnecessary math concepts, either. There’s a great adage that applies to this writer mommy, “My whole day went by and I still didn’t use algebra.”
I am a Summa Cum Laude graduate with a double degree. So, yeah, I value education, and so did my parents. All my siblings are college graduates, and my father, a successful entrepreneur, was an attorney as well. My husband is an M.D., and that should sum up how we promote education in our household…we do. But, summer should be a time to pursue other things…not just academics…the arts, athletics, dream jobs, internships, culture, travel…other things that make your little bundles of joy well-rounded, well spoken, and oh yeah, aware of the importance of family time.
So here’s a happy medium to all institutions of both higher education and grammar school: If you want to assign a reading assignment, give the students a month to pick out two books that interest THEM…they will get more out of what they read, extend the absorption if they have a choice, and exercise their creativity and brain function if they can go outside the box and really learn. Scientifically oriented kids should be able to read books on space, theater goers and musicians can read Shakespeare or Mozart’s bio, or similar, baby chef’s can read cooking books..the list goes on. And, a test? How about a demonstration or a project during the first month of school?
You will see a lot more learning, and a lot more enthusiasm from this method, I assure you.
I swear to God, if I have to go over BISCUIT GOES TO SCHOOL, MORRIS THE MOOSE or a choice from the WHO AM I bio series, one more time, I’m going to make book covers out of the collage of pages so nobody forgets what they’ve read.
DONE with summer assignments.
Homework is next…