Summer school or not to Summer School

3 May

With the school year winding down, it is time for the tiger parent to rise again – with summer school and activities planned for the progeny with CVs. It is never too young to start planning for the future.

Gone is the notion that holidays are about fun, or about long summer afternoons doing nothing of any significance. The memory of boredom, and all that it fosters will probably die with our generation. Today’s young are driven to excellence or at least to certification. It is never too young to start the CV or even to start writing the first draft of the SOP (Statement of Purpose) note to college. The race is on, and the race starts early.

Not all parents are like this, but for each parent this must be a question that confronts them in the run up to the annual break. What is the best decision for the child? On one hand, boredom is said to foster creativity, on the other hand, children need to be supported in learning new things. At summer school they will be busy, they will learn and they will make more friends. It is what every one in the neighbourhood does, so it must be the right thing to do.

Working parents of course, as usual, have it both tougher and easier. For them summer school is a necessity not a choice. The children need to be safe during working hours and this is the only way to manage it without completely disrupting the household. But the question of the tradeoff remains for them too, compounded by the guilt of not being able to provide the soft, comfortable, unstructured holiday that some children would be indulging in at other places.

Like all choices this has to be an individual decision, but the issue is universal and goes to the core of being parents that support the learning and progress of their children. Does one become a laid back supporting parent, or a helicopter parent that hovers and supervises every part of the child’s development. Some cultures have experimented with the parent as friend, but as a society they may have lost more than they gained. Societies stand upon structures, and demolishing generational hierarchies is a scary experiment. Parents have a role to perform in leading their children towards progress and plenty, and for this some element of respect and discipline must be maintained. The summer school choice is a great example of how this choice plays out.

Of course, there is the usual middle path available – do summer school for half the day, for half of the holidays, and chose a school where half the time is spent in play and fun. Some call this balance. I may call it a half-decision

And yet this is an opportunity to do things differently. Holidays give us the space to learn new skills that we could not have at school. To see life from a different point of view. To indulge in luxurious ways of learning that take time for no immediate benefit. To make ourselves literate in sciences that we would not have been able to access via mere book learning and school textbooks. To watch and observe other ways of living, and even to use our minds and bodies as we have not been able to in our daily routines. It is a time for experiments, for song and dance, for theatre and drama and of course for science and stories. Disclaimer: I support and run workshops in story writing, science literacy and financial literacy. I do so, because I believe that these holidays are not about sloth, but are about journeys into curiosity and exploration in safe supported environments.

This was published in the Times of India blogs on Tuesday, May 2, 2012 Link here: http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/educable/entry/summer-school

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