27 Jul 2023
By Louise R. Shaw
School is almost out and you know what that means, moms.
That means that the education of our children is back in our hands.
For nine months, a huge chunk of their day was spent in school, hearing and reading and reporting about the world around them with capable and dedicated teachers.
Now that summer is here, we can be capable and dedicated too even if we know better than to go around calling ourselves teachers in front of our kids.
When summer hits, we can help our children go beyond hearing and reading, to tasting and touching and feeling the world around them.
With time less structured, there is real opportunity to explore, and exploring always results in discoveries, which always result in learning.
Parents who stay at home, whether moms or dads, or parents who an arrange more time away from the office or workplace, or parents who get creative with their schedules, can take advantage of those extra unscheduled hours to open the wide world to the wondering eyes of their children.
Let me tell you first what this does not mean. This does not mean ordering math and English workbooks and tasking the kids with worksheets to fill each day.
I did that once and was faced with the biggest, most organized revolt of my mothering career. Not one page got filled out. Even though no one was older than 12 at the time, their combined affront overcame my well-intentioned ambition.
So here's what we did instead. We went to parks. We threw rocks in rivers, we got memberships to the zoo and the museums and used them often. We built sandcastles, we explored coastlines, we had picnics, we discovered, we touched, we tasted. And we felt.
We lived in Oregon at the time, but any state has its natural and historic resources.
Utah (where I am living now) is a paradise for such adventures, with canyons and lakes, national parks and comunity recreation centers, with gardens and museums, historic monuments and even an island with buffalo on it.
All we have to do is plan it, drive to it and answer the questions that will come from it.
That's much easier than correcting papers.
Vacations make the perfect opportunity to find new and different places, and learn new and different things about cultures, wildlife, history or geography.
There's sure to be a visitors' center with answers to questions mom or dad might not know, and don't forget library excursions for filling in the details of a place before and after trips and for keeping a fresh book handy at all times.
We had only just walked down the embankment to the beach when our one-year-old grandson dropped to the sand and started running his fingers through it, moving it from one side to the other, arranging rocks in it, running sticks through it, throwing it.
His three-year-old sister headed to the water to do her favorite thing: throw rocks in it. Find, throw, watch the splash, find, throw, watch the splash.
Older children also find delight in the outdoors, climbing over and around rockfalls on hikes, building exotic sandcastles at beaches, making up crazy games in an open field.
And maybe you'll get a question about why that cliff has layers or why those rocks are red.
And maybe you'll spot an eagle or a cormorant, or maybe you can point out an Indian Paintbrush or a cumulus cloud; maybe you'll comment on how this canyon was carved by a glacier or this island never had antelope.
Maybe you won't have to say anything, but just sit quietly and watch your children or grandchildren run their fingers through the sand, knowing one of the greatest gifts of all is to learn a love for the beauties that surround us.
And maybe, even when they're not in school, they'll be getting an education.
Updated from first printing in Davis Clipper, May 24, 2012
Louise R. Shaw