Our kiddos’ summer vacation starts today.
I’m sure there’s hundreds (ok, probably thousands!) of students that would disagree, but I’m not a fan of summer vacation. It’s horribly stressful and complicated for dual-working parents and their families. And it’s a horribly inefficient way to educate–you spend half of next Fall reviewing last Spring. I totally believe in breaks and vacations. I just think 3 solid months of…nothing…is too much.
But summer vacation is a reality for us right now and finding summer care is an annual issue. I know everyone has to do what works best for their family, but here’s a few of my thoughts on the challenges we face as our family cobbles together our summer daycare plan. (and this post doesn’t even touch on the issue of finding Christian care–that’s a post all by itself!)
First, consistency. Most summer “camps” run for a week or two at the most. Even if an organization like the YMCA offers care all summer, you have to sign up for each one or two-week session separately and you have new care providers, a new routine, and sometimes even a new location each session. I, personally, find the lack of consistency and routine frustrating and stressful and at least two of my children are the same way.
Second, age-integration. This is a super-big deal to me and I think it’s a huge missing element in the majority of our modern school and daycare settings. Huge. There is so much children learn from interacting (under supervision!) with different age groups. I think this constant age-segregation is unnatural at best, and actually harmful to socialization skills as they grow.
Not to mention that it inhibits family bonds by separating siblings for the majority of the day–even when they’re in the same place at the same time.I always say that even if Mr. Fix-It and I can’t be there all day, at least they can still all be a family together.
Third, continuing education. Most summer programs are just week after week of endless recreation and entertainment, with only the slightest veneer of superficial educational components. We saturate our children in the idea that summer is a time for them to do nothing but enjoy themselves and that our job as parents is to endlessly hunt up more and more ways for them to do so and that any education that we do think needs to be conducted needs to be hidden beneath layers of water parks and craft supplies and IMAX theater shows.
How completely artificial is that, really? They’re in for such a rude awakening when they enter the working world! Not to mention the harmful precedent we set that learning only happens between September and June, and only from 8:30 am to 3:15 pm, and only Monday thru Friday. (Or that learning is not fun and we need 3 months to “relax” from the school year.)
I’m not saying that recreation and entertainment are bad–I’m just saying balance, balance, balance. And spending three solid months being endlessly shuffled from soccer camp to art camp to swimming camp to zoo camp to basketball camp…isn’t it.
Up until last year, we used a Home Daycare Provider (HDCP) for childcare. She was our consistent daycare provider year round for 7 years. During the school year, the children when to school and then went to her house after school, or on holidays, and all summer. All of the children were together all day (along with 2-4 other children their ages), and they were in a busy, highly-verbal environment where they were exposed to everyday life as well as having access to learning materials, workbooks, videos, and story time.
It was as ideal as anything I can imagine outside of being home myself and homeschooling year round–and I could go on for pages about the blessings the Lord heaped on us when He sent us to Mrs. Benita.
Last year we had the Ladybug at our children’s Christian school camp for the whole summer and used our HDCP for the boys. Although everyone had a good summer, I don’t think this was ideal.
This year we’re trying something different. We have hired a church youth (rising senior) as our home daycare provider for the summer at our home. The children will have routine and structure, they will be together, and she will be incorporating any educational elements we request. They’ll also be home to do their chores (along with some extra jobs) throughout the summer and have an energetic leader to share in taking hikes, playing soccer, and being secret agents. I have high hopes!
This year I’m also creating a “learning plan” for the summer for the first time. I’m setting some specific goals for us as a family, and for each of the children, about what we’d like to do or know by the end of the summer.
I’m looking forward to sharing it here on Thursday, but I’d love to hear what your plans are too!