After a disruptive school year caused by Covid restrictions the long-awaited summer break is here. In order to reintroduce some kind of learning framework to children this summer, an overwhelming majority of large school districts in America are providing summer school programs. If implemented correctly, it is the right move. Excessive free time is a recipe for disaster.
Around 97 of 100 districts across the U.S. are offering summer school programming, in-person, virtually, or a combination of both. The plans include recreational trips, outdoor activities, and artistic programs according to monitoring educational organizations. After the challenging circumstances imposed by the pandemic, these measures could be an example for other societies around the world.
Children should not feel that they have so much free time that they have no idea what to do with themselves and hours seem to stretch endlessly. They need to have their time organized so that they will be happy with the built-in agenda, and understand that the expected plans are exactly what they want and need. Otherwise we spoil them.
There is nothing worse for them than free time with a huge void wasted lying on the couch, staring at the screen, or wandering around in the street. Children are not used to having free time and filling it themselves, so giving them “freedom” is like teaching them not to do anything. Children have desires and thoughts, all kinds of natural impulses, and we sort of tell them, “Do nothing with your drive or aspirations. What are they good for? What benefit will you get from them?”
There is of course time to rest, but it is not advisable to lie on your back for hours or walk around aimlessly. Playing football or dancing after studying geography for example, can be a break. Anything that is different from the intense action that preceded it is called resting.
If children are left without studies and without other activities, the impulses that are naturally vibrant in them can lead them to bad places. Parents should be greatly concerned about their children having unlimited freedom and should contemplate ways to fill their time constructively in order to further their development.
Firstly, a clear goal should be established: What do the parents want the children to achieve with their free time so they can provide enriching activities accordingly. In my opinion, the most important goal is to build the children into integral human beings, to develop a person who knows how to communicate properly with others, how to manage complex situations, how to create beautiful relationships with others, and who achieves in-depth understanding on the multiple levels in nature: inanimate, vegetative, animate, and human.
With the goal of elevating the child to a higher scale of merit as a human being—one with values, sensitivity, and consideration of others—the activities programmed for our children must have nurturing content that develops their thoughts and expands their feelings. At the end of the activity, it is valuable to promote a discussion for them to share their experiences with each other.
We should consider bringing children to the theater, to the symphony, to various museums. As a child, I lived in a city in Belarus that had a large building specifically designed for children. In the summer, I sat in a photo lab and developed pictures in a darkroom. In the winter, we went skiing together. These are only examples of some activities that could be implemented according to the conditions of each society.
Today, the schools we enroll our children in and entrust their education and a significant part of their upbringing have largely become breeding grounds for crime, violence, promiscuity, bullying, and drug dealing. Everything except what we would wish for our offspring.
A summer break where time is properly managed by parents can heal some of the hardships of the past year, but the real test of educating our children will be in the next school year. The education system, with just a few of its deficiencies touched upon, was founded about one hundred and fifty years ago. We need to think carefully about whether it is suitable for today’s world.
Let’s thoroughly examine and scrutinize what we are doing with the institution called “school” and the education we provide for our children. The scrutiny should include the appropriate plans for how to spend the next summer break. As adults, thinking about the future of our kids’ education might be a good idea on how to spend our free time this summer.
Children dance at the “Bundle Up & Dance Dance Dance Party” organized by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6 in New York, NY, March 10, 2021. Limited to 50 people at a time, children and parents dance to a DJ spinning kid-friendly music in a closed-off space as they are asked to wear masks and maintain social distance. (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)