Sara L. Ambarian
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Summertime means something different to each of us, depending on our ages, backgrounds, and interests, and even the regions where we grew up. What is fun and fulfilling to me or my family might not appeal to you or the children in your lives at all.
Frankly, I think that is part of the beauty of summer. It is a time which is much less “externally” scripted for many of us, allowing us – and the children in our lives—to write our own scripts, set our own priorities, chase our own muses, choose our own adventures. As fun as that is, if you look back on your own childhood summers, you will probably realize that a lot of your leisure time was actually very productive time for learning about yourself and the world around you, as well.
“We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.”
We asked the American Montessori Consulting Primary Recommended Resource Center partners http://www.amonco.org/resource_topic.html to share with us some of their favorite summertime memories to get you in the mood for planning your own summer activities and adventures.
Gari Stein from Music For Little Folks (http://www.little-folks-music.com ) remembers summer road trips, a favorite of many families.
I didn’t take too many summer vacation, as I went to camp; but I remember when I was younger, we would drive to visit my sister at camp. It was special because my grandmother came with us, and I can’t remember any other time she came joined us on vacation We drove from Michigan up to Algonquin Park, Canada. This was before the interstate and often traffic would be so backed up, we would get out of our car, and walk around right on the highway. I remember it so vividly. Another part of fond travel memories are the sing-a-longs, especially when the five of us were packed into a sedan driving to Florida. Singing our hearts out and arguing over the correct words. Making fun of those out of tune. Those are the best memories ever.
Elaine Murphy from Kimbo Educational (http://kimboed.com ) also chose a car trip as a favorite summer memory.
My favorite vacation was a long, long road trip I took with my daughter and 3 granddaughters two summers ago. We drove thousands of miles to visit historical sites in the East. Since the girls are home schooled the purpose of this trip was for them to not only read about history, but to truly experience these important and famous places where history occurred. Our stops took us to Williamsburg, Washington D.C., Gettysburg, Philadelphia, New Jersey battlefields, Sturbridge Village, and Boston. It was not always easy to drive long distances each day, but it was actually much better than I expected it would be. “Are we there yet” is just not in the girls’ vocabulary, thank goodness. We sang often, listened to music, took in the beauty of our country and enjoyed the abundance of its wonders.
The kids learned to read guide books and maps and helped choose where we would stop and stay. They learned to cooperate and share. After the trip they were able to apply their newly acquired knowledge and extend their experiences in a myriad of ways.
Some of the top favorite songs we sang, “On the Road Again”, “Let’s Go Riding in the Car-Car”, and “This Land is My Land” helped make the miles pass more quickly. These Kimbo singalong songs from Car Songs, Favorite Songs for Kids, and Songs About America were fun and often the break we needed when the highways were boring and tedious.
We also took stretch breaks with Kimbo fitness CDs such as Cool Aerobics for Kids and Catch a Brain Wave Fitness Fun. At night we relaxed with exercises from Yoga for Kids or Yoga and You, and we fell peacefully to sleep with quiet music from Sweet Dreams, knowing we were making lifelong learning opportunities and memories from this special summer vacation.
On a road trip, there’s always something new around the next bend, if you are looking for it.
Some parents hesitate to take their children on long driving trips, but many families find them delightful.
The keys to happy and enjoyable car trips (and indeed, most successful travel with children) are preparation and engagement.
You should carefully choose your destinations, based on the interests, ages and attention spans of the people on the trip. Consider learning something about your destinations ahead of time and/or bringing some additional background or supplemental information along on the trip. Plan the itinerary trying to allow for unexpected problems or inspirations, as well as fatigue (of adults or children). Be sure to bring (or know your options for) timely meals, snacks and cold drinks, because being hot, hungry or thirsty will dampen the spirits of the most-intrepid travelers.
Try ahead of time to also manage your expectations. Not every stop in every outing will be a home-run with every member of your group. Sometimes the best thing about a trip is just getting away to see something new together. Also remember, if you take a child somewhere to “edify” them, but aren’t able to be enthusiastic about it yourself (unless it was the child’s idea to visit in the first place), often neither you nor the child will enjoy or benefit from the experience.
On the other hand, I have seen situations in which a child seemed not to enjoy an outing which they later remembered with fondness for decades. So, if no one’s having any fun, you might shorten your visit, re-arrange your itinerary, etc.; but don’t automatically assume that a visit has been a failure just because you aren’t getting immediate overwhelming enthusiasm. Sometimes children (and adults) need to let thing sink in a little before they make a final assessment of the value of an outing.
You also cannot always predict how a child will most enjoy a trip. Some children are happy to sit in the backseat and look out the window and just see what’s there. Some children will be more interested if they know the route and have a map with which to follow along. Other children appreciate you pointing out things they might have missed and commenting on them.
I know a lot of us are used, now, to keeping kids entertained with computer games, iPods, and on-board DVD players. For a real family adventure, however, I think that there are big potential benefits to leaving them behind or limiting their use, in favor of one-to-one personal interactions and discussions.
Arts and crafts are a favorite leisure pursuit for many children and families. It is probably no surprise that Kim Stitzer, co-author of Draw-Write-Now (http://www.drawyourworld.com ), and her family are among them.
We rarely took summer vacations, but we did have a morning summertime activity—drawing and writing together after breakfast—which became a special summertime routine and memory for our family.
We cleared the breakfast dishes to do a DRAW WRITE NOW drawing together. I sat between my two kids as we focused on the subject —i.e. dog, tiger, house. I pointed out the shapes and lines in the subjects as they made the drawing on their papers. After the subject was completed, I’d get up and wash the dishes while the kids created a background for their drawings. It was nice to be close enough to watch their ideas go on paper, yet enough removed so that I was out of the process.
After I was done in the kitchen, we moved on to working on writing. Most of my attention was directed toward my 5-year-old as he was learning the basics of letter formation and spacing. I modeled a simple short sentence as he copied it on his own paper. My 7-year-old worked more independently, writing a story about her drawing. Some days, if it seemed like her writing had gotten messier, I’d ask her to simply copy the sentences in the lesson, focusing on making her writing look as nice a possible. After writing, we all moved outside for playtime. Sometime before lunch, we came back inside, eager to color our pictures.
Almost all of us have pencils, crayons, markers, paints, paper, and other art supplies around our homes. Bringing them out or just making sure that they are available when inspiration strikes can be a very economical and open-ended source of summer fun for children of a wide range of ages.
Lois from Bountiful Spinning, Weaving and Knitting (http://bountifulspinweave.com) shares her experiences with another interesting arts and craft project — sharing her love of weaving and the joy of design with her granddaughter.
Arts and Crafts—
Our granddaughter, Kaitlin, spends a lot of time with us in the summer. In 2009, I taught her how to weave on a Schacht 10” Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom. Rigid Heddle looms are quick to set up and quick to weave on.
I took her out to my warehouse and opened up 2 big bins of yarns for her to choose from. She choose 3 colors and designed the stripe pattern herself! We warped up the loom together, and she wove her scarf while I wove a scarf on my Schacht Flip Rigid Heddle loom. We had a marvelous time. We did some of our weaving out on the deck. It is fun to weave and spin outside, so it was really nice that the looms are so portable.
This was just her second time to weave! It was the 40th Anniversary year for Schacht, and Schacht had a weaving and spinning contest in conjunction with their big anniversary celebration. Kaitlin went to the celebration with us and got to see her scarf up on display along with all the other lovely projects that were submitted. I am very proud of her weaving and designing abilities! It is great to be able to share my love of weaving with her.
Kaitlin’s pattern is up on our website here: http://www.bountifulspinweave.com/Rigid-
Textile arts like sewing, knitting, crocheting, weaving and embroidery are a natural for summertime. The more-flexible scheduling suits these projects which often take more than a weekend for children. In summer, you can both retain and promote continuity with an on-going textile endeavor, encouraging kids to spend a little time working on it every day or two. As Lois mentioned, you can sometimes take your projects outdoors to enjoy the fine weather, or you can use them as a quiet, cool indoor pursuit that gives children a break from the heat and busier outdoor activities.
Even very small communities usually try to offer these kinds of opportunities for local children and families to enjoy. Check with your local library, parks and recreation facilities, children’s clubs and afterschool programs, churches, and even community colleges for classes, camps and other fun and educational summer activities for a variety of interests and ages.
Science and Nature—
You can also find interesting programs and resources when enjoying the great outdoors and famous historical sites.
The U.S. National Park System has junior ranger programs at many of their sites, as well as distance activities children can enjoy. Because of the variety of scenic, historic, and recreational sites within the system, they could appeal to a wide variety of students. You can find a list of participating sites at: http://www.nps.gov/learn/juniorranger.cfm
The U.S. Forest Service also offers fun activities through their Junior Forest Ranger and Junior Snow Ranger programs. The Adventure Guide is also offered in Spanish. http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/conservationeducation/smokey-woodsy/junior-rangers
Maria Montessori once said, “We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.” Summer is a great time to let our imaginations go with non-traditional scientific adventures.
John Grunder of Exploration Education http://www.explorationeducation.com shows us “Can Do!”, an easy experiment which illustrates concepts of balance and center of gravity. This is a quick, fun lesson you can do with children (and adults) of any age and anywhere you might enjoy a canned drink, including a summer picnic.
For more science ideas for picnics and other outings, check out these lesson plans.
North American Montessori Center suggests this outdoor science activity for preschoolers– Montessori Twos Activity and Presentation: Observing Nature Close Up
If your summer plans include an amusement park, older and/or bolder children can experience physics concepts first-hand while riding rollercoasters and other thrill rides. Review these concepts before you go for a better understanding of how the attractions work and what the forces are that you feel as you ride.
Less time in structured activities for school and other pursuits, plus longer sunlight hours and generally more-favorable weather, means summer often offers more opportunities for families and friends to work together on special projects. It is also always a busy time for outdoor chores in rural areas, especially if those areas experience cold, snowy winters.
Montessori practices emphasize learning by doing, and there always seem to be a lot of interesting things to do in the summer.
Rae from The Creative Process (http://www.netposterworks.com ) grew up on a farm, and her summer memories mostly revolve around helping her parents with farm chores.
As the eldest child, and with no brothers, I was called on for a variety of farm chores that seemed to me, at the time, to fill hours. When I was quite small I was an excellent deliverer of messages – either fetching my Dad from the field, or if I happened to be with him when a piece of machinery broke down, heading back to the house with instructions for calling the farm implement store for the availability
I was also put on a tractor, charged with keeping the wheels straight, so my dad could “pick stones” and put them on the slow moving wagon. I think “picking stones” was a Michigan thing – the glaciers of 14,000 years ago seemed to churn to a stop in mid-mitten, dropping their load of small, and not so small stones, right on my folks’ farm. They had to be taken away so the crops could grow. My dad had been doing it his entire life, starting out alongside big work horses when he was a child. Eventually my sister was big enough for the steering straight task and I got to help pick stone. What a thrill!
Another necessary task was weeding the bean field. That meant walking the rows of young bean plants with a hoe and chopping out ragweed and pigweed before they damaged the crop….One summer our folks “paid” us for farm work. The deal was the profits from one acre of beans for each of us, we could choose which status of a part.variety and the time of sale. I had rapt attention on the radio for the farm report that fall. I knew exactly which kind of bean had produced the highest yield per acre and had calculated what I thought might be the top price. So when that price was announced one morning I hollered out “SELL!” My dad did. He sold his, too, for what turned out to be the high price for the season.
I gathered eggs and walked down the lane to the back pasture to bring the cows up for milking in the afternoon, too . I really don’t remember doing much in the garden, other than eating a tomato straight off the vine. Preserving food, however, would turn into everybody helping to cut corn kernels off cobs. It’s summerunder the big tree with not quite enough breeze to shoo away the flies attracted by the sweet juice, canning tomatoes and string beans.
My grandmother had suffered a stroke, so sometimes I would be with her during the day. I could help her to the bathroom, get something to drink, change the channel for the Tigers baseball game, and call if we needed more help. It was this grandmother who taught me to spell “cat”, “dog”, and “wagon” (I liked that big word!) She also helped me learn numbers. I wrote 1 through 1000 and then sent the pages in a letter to Aunt May. There certainly was a blending of sitter and sittee….
It wasn’t all “work” . We did manage swimming lessons, and sometimes I would go with my Mom, a teacher, to her summer school classes at Central Michigan University. I also polished off all the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Boxcar Kids, and moved on to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
Whether you live in the country or the city, or somewhere in-between, I am sure that there are many summer chores and projects in which you can involve the children in your life. Whether it is gardening, home improvements, cooking, or something as simple as doing a jigsaw puzzle, these experiences teach practical life skills. They also teach the satisfaction and enjoyment that comes from working together to accomplish a common goal.
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Generational interests vary and times change. However, I think that all of us, whatever our age, enjoyed many of the same basic summer opportunities: exploring new places or new experiences, having time to loaf or to dream or to recharge from the busy school year, and spending more time with family and friends. I hope that this upcoming summer includes whatever blend of these pursuits will make the best summer memories for you and your students.
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