This summer I promised myself a break. Last year we built a house and this year we’ve been working on the farm in what seems like every spare moment. Our weekends are dominated by farm work so I’ve tried to compensate by letting our weekdays drift.
Not all rules have gone by the wayside, tv is still limited to certain times as is i-pad time. We eat at regular intervals and have predictable evenings and bedtime routines, the times may slide a bit in favour of cooling our bodies at the swimming pool or hanging out in the vegetable garden a bit longer, but a pattern still exists and stops life descending into chaos.
You don’t have to look far for information on how much is ‘lost’ over the summer as academics slide away and children spend their time on fun and play. There are statistics on how much data escapes their brains, leaking away out of their ears, making the transition back to school so much harder. Valid concerns for sure.
But this year I’ve taken a different perspective. After several years of driven activity of one sort or another, I’ve been happy to take a break from the fast lane. Our summer report will certainly not have an ‘A’ for achievement but I think something more important has taken place. We’ve rested our minds and bodies, truly taken a break from academic work and allowed the days to slip by without any great ticks on our to do list. While we’ve had some fun, embarked on some projects and games as the mood has taken us, we’ve steered clear of anything too structured or taxing.
Unstructured days are not without their problems. Siblings bicker more without focused activities to keep them occupied, sometimes it is easier to provide them with something to do rather than mediate all the time. The days can end up merging a little and the less fun domestic tasks end up being the focus of the day because there is nothing more pressing to set them aside for.
But as the summer has gone on I’ve noticed a few things. The boys have become firmer friends, playing more complex games for longer periods of time. They’ve also found little grooves of time in which to play independently, working on their own ‘projects’ for a while. Neirin’s attention span has extended to allow for complex play dough landscapes mixed with playmobil and anything else on hand. Huwyl’s reading has steadily improved, he now attempts to read anything he sees when we are out and about and can be regularly found with a book or annual; he’s even taken to reading stories to his little brother on occasion! Neirin has begun to recognise numbers and can now count up to 11 or 12 easily and recognises individual numerals. All without formal instruction.
It makes me wonder if this period of down time, this drifting time in which our brains can slip into neutral for a while, is really very necessary. While the boys haven’t done formal school they have learned to use their bodies with more confidence, can dive and swim underwater, climb on tall hay bales….and I’m sure a million things I haven’t noticed. And for me this has been a time to recuperate a little, release myself from the demands of a specific schedule and time frame.
In a couple of weeks we’ll be starting school again, this year (for the first time) I will be schooling both boys. I’ve got all our resources sorted out, I know roughly what we’ll be doing on each day and how we’ll be fitting our new extra curricular fun in. Unlike my feelings in June I’m actually excited about starting, I’m looking forward to the mental challenge of mixing preschool and grade 2. The time off has given my brain a rest but it is starting to rise from it’s slumber and stretch a little.
But for now I’m happy to drift for a little longer. A couple more weeks of tomato collecting, pool visits, sofa lounging and field meanderings. Sounds good to me.