10 Lessons My Kids Learned Over Summer

I hate summer vacation.

Don’t get me wrong. Kids need a brain break and I love having fun in the Pacific Northwest sun with my daughters. 

I hate the antiquated notion that states kids need a three month chunk of time away from academic learning so they can help their families with the harvest. (Which is strange in the first place. Aren’t harvests in the fall? Hmmm.) This idea should have been abolished when my grandmother graduated from high school. 

As a former teacher and current mother concerned about brain-inactivity, I’ve always given my daughters math and spelling worksheets to keep their minds active during the non-learning months. They can’t stand the fact that I make them do homework during the summer.

“Why do we have to do Math? No one else has to do it!”

“Spelling? Who cares about this stuff anyway? I have spell check on the computer!”

In June, I checked out math textbooks from the library and bought spelling workbooks on Amazon. I put the books on the bookshelf and told my kids I’d give them 2 weeks free, but then the academic practice would begin. 

Two weeks passed. Then three. Then four. Now school starts in 6 days and the textbooks remain in the same spot on the shelf. 

I didn’t plan for a lazy summer. But as weeks flew, I realized my kids were learning, even when they thought they were taking a break.

10 Lessons Learned Over Summer Vacation 2012

1. How to Follow a Recipe
It took 2 days of school being out before the whining started, “There’s nothing good to eat.” 

“So make something”, I replied.

And they did. They looked up recipes on the internet and took over the kitchen. 

On an unrelated note, I’ve gained 5 pounds this summer. 

2. How to Do Laundry and Dishes
I know. Learning these tasks at ages 12 and 10 is a bit late in the game. I get it. It’s my fault.

I’ve always been a control freak. I want dishes loaded and t-shirts folded the right way. And by the right way, I mean my way. This summer I let go. I figure wrinkled t-shirts now is better than the college kid who doesn’t do her own laundry later.

3. How to Entertain Guests
The girls’ BFFs stayed with us from Washington for a week. My daughters were to ensure everyone stayed comfortable and no one felt left out. If my kids needed quiet time, they needed to politely figure out how to remove themselves for a short while. At meal times, they cleared their own dishes as well as guest plates.

This lesson was a little tough for the 10 year old. I’m hoping things improve with age.

4. How to Use Proper Cell Phone Etiquette 
We bought the 12 year old a cell phone. After a 48 hour play-and-explore period, the following rules were set:

  • There are certain hours you may call others.
  • You may not text a message and then send a second text 3 minutes later asking if the recipient got the first text.
  • You may not phone me from upstairs to ask what we are having for dinner when I am downstairs making your dinner.
  • You may not hide your cell phone in your bed so you can secretly watch t.v. shows on YouTube.

5. How to Ride a Horse
My youngest has been begging for horseback riding lessons, but it just hasn’t fit in with our life schedule. While on vacation, we paid for a private lesson. She loved learning about her horse and having that one-on-one attention from a guide. 

6. How to Babysit
The 12 year old earned her Red Cross Babysitting certificate and can now watch other people’s children for money. She even created business cards to pass out to our friends. This girl is ready for spending cash.

7. How to Kayak
A few days at our friends’ lake cabin gave the girls a water-filled playground. A kayak was the “toy” of choice. Now we want one of our own. That, and a cabin on a lake.

8. How to Appreciate Shakespeare
We spent a day in Ashland, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The girls wandered through costume shops, marveled at masks, and begged for souvenirs that paid homage to the playwright. Their favorite purchases were Shakespeare scripts partially re-written in “kid language”. The girls are now huge fans of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing.

9. How to fly a kite
The windy Oregon coast provided the perfect setting for kite flying. My husband helped them get the kites in the air, and the girls spent what seemed like forever watching them float in the sky.

10. How to Show Compassion for Others
True, they’ve been practicing this lesson prior to summer, but the girls participated in a lot of volunteering in the past 12 weeks. They still show bouts of pre-teen brattiness at home, however when caring for others, they listen and show respect. Definitely the most important lesson of all in my book.

Outside of Portland’s “tent city” with our friends

Today, I’ll return the textbooks to the library in the same condition I borrowed them. I can’t promise my 12 year old will win the spelling bee or my 10 year old will remember her multiplication facts quickly.

I will say I’m proud of the lessons they’ve learned, even if to them it seems they’ve played all summer. 


  1. says

    Those are my favorite plays as well. I have seen them many times and always love to see how a director and actors will interpret the play.

    Sounds like a great summer!

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