Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A syllabus for summer vacations to remember

This "Because I Said So" column first ran in The Commercial Appeal on May 26, 2011.
A syllabus for summer vacations to remember 
Another school year has come to an end. If yours was anything like ours, the year was one of ups and downs, overall good grades, some conduct issues, large and involved projects and plenty of homework.  
School days are, by necessity, rigid in their schedules and run smoothly because of their rules.

Summer days are not.

So, to my kids, and to yours if you wish, I give you your summer syllabus.

First, take your school pants, the ones with the knees that are frayed and worn thin, and rip the legs off there at those knees. This is your summer uniform.

Next, go outside and stay there until called in. And then complain that the day is over. Catch fireflies. Explore the woods. Build a fort. Tear it down and build another. Spend an entire day reading comic books. Have your fill of snow cones. Learn the names of the birds in your backyard. Drink from a hose. Track down kids in your neighborhood and get to know them. Read "Tarzan, the Ape Man" beneath your largest tree. Spread wildflower seeds around your neighborhood. Build a sand castle. Laugh at the tide the next day when that castle is gone. Build a kite. Fly a kite. Use chalk to make a sidewalk mural an entire block long. Go barefoot. Everywhere. Learn new songs and sing them. Draw a picture of your house every day and color it a different color each time. Camp in your backyard. Write a story. Write a poem. Plant a garden. Wash your neighbor's car. Go whole days without putting a shirt on. Play in the rain. Shoot 20 baskets in a row. Eat new foods on a blanket on the lawn. Drink lots of lemonade. Make your own popsicles. Eat a popsicle for breakfast. Read your parents' old encyclopedias; they were the first Google. Conduct a census of the squirrels. Climb trees. Oil a baseball mitt. Dig a hole. Read the funny papers. Watch a Marx Brothers film. Forget where you put your video game. Roast marshmallows. Count the stars. Lie in the grass and listen to the cicadas; you'll be adults the next time they sound like that. Make mud pies. Operate a lemonade stand. Nap in a hammock. Run through a sprinkler. Visit the zoo. Stay up all night and watch the sunrise. Tell ghost stories. Build a birdhouse. Ride your bike farther than you ever have before. Swing on a rope. Find some shade.

I understand the concern for lazy children and the fear that the Chinese or Canadians or whatever group is currently overtaking us in math and science scores will be studying these next two months. But maybe we as parents can go this summer without thinking of us vs. them. Maybe we can look at these long summer days through the eyes of our children and remember just how quickly it all slips away.

Kids, soak up these days, and be sure that at the end of the season, when you're back in your desks and your teacher asks, "What did you do for summer vacation?" you can answer honestly, "Everything."