Do our children always need to be learning?

Fun in the sun...magical summers with the kids

children playing in the sun


At last, summer is here, and with it the summer holidays. Hooray!!! I love this time, spending long, sun-filled days with my children, without a schedule to think about, classes to run to, and  fixed bedtimes to observe (or pay lip service to, at least!). This is the time for day trips to wherever we fancy, picnics and splash parks, bike rides, seeing friends we'd never otherwise find time to meet, and, when we are all exhausted, movies with microwave popcorn!

I don't have a schedule for the holidays, I'm not one for summer camps or crash courses, so it's easy to not have to plan too much. We can do what we please without having to fit other things around it.

Summer activities and classes for kids

childrens summer classes extra curricular classes summer camps


But as email after email hits my inbox with opportunities for kids' summer courses, I began to wonder. If I'm not "advancing" my children in summer activity camps, teaching them the latest martial arts or acting techniques, what, oh what, will they learn this summer?! Might they actually just be left to have fun, without a discernible milestone reached or certificate issued at the end of it?!



children learning


Now here's the thing...I get that we need milestones and targets in teaching. I don't necessarily agree with them all, but I get why the principle exists. I also understand that for many parents who are working and have limited leave, as I did myself until fairly recently, the summer holidays represent a real logistical challenge and it's a constant juggling act to find care or fun activities for children. But what I don't get so much, is the mixing of concepts, and the need to be learning or achieving something new, to be striving towards a "target", even in the holidays. Can't children just be left alone to be children? If they need or want to go to a camp, so be it, but it doesn't need to come with a "goal" attached.  



Raising our children to focus on targets and competition

children learning targets gaols


I read an hilarious blog recently, detailing the frustrations of a mum over school open days and end of term gift-giving. It was "expressive" to say the least, but the underlying theme was around the competitiveness of parents in striving for "perfection", giving the best gift (or being seen to be giving the best gift!), or making the best Viking model to be displayed in the classroom! And I can't help but think this competitiveness, in possessions and achievements, is what we are teaching our kids. "My child wants a certificate at the end of their activity camp" you might say...well no wonder; that's how we are raising them to be motivated. But did you ever get an achievement certificate in your summer holidays 30 (cough cough) years ago? I didn't. 

Teach children to have fun and enjoy life!

fun with children learning summer holidays
I'm not saying we will do nothing 'constructive' this summer. We will (try) to do the Big Friendly Read, and we will keep the times tables ticking over. But

mostly we will have fun. So to come back to my question, what will I teach them? Here's what...


I helped at a school swimming gala for my eldest this was brilliant fun, but sweltering hot. By the end of this great activity, which involved every child (they even had walking races in the shallow end for non-swimmers) we really needed to cool off. So six of us, including a staff member, jumped into the pool fully clothed, to screams of delight and laughter from the children. Now I know we won't have won a traditional role-model badge for doing this, but what did we achieve (other than a very nice and much needed swim!)? As we squelched the mile back to school in our dripping wet clothes, we taught them that life doesn't always need to be serious. We showed them you can laugh at yourself and have fun, and that you can occasionally just do something just for its own sake, without worrying about whether it will make you look good or become the best. And if I help my children embrace that value a little this summer, so that they can carry it with them through life, I'll be very pleased with their achievements!  




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