I was raised a Catholic, so I am an expert in guilt. Plus, I am a mother, which means everyday I find a thousand reasons to feel guilty about my mothering skills. I am also an Educational academic by trade—someone who knows how to research, someone who should know the right way to do things, which I rarely do because of “Momnesia,” which in turn makes me feel guilty because I am not using my brain, and not using it to better the lives of my children.
That very messy prelude is leading up to a guilt-ridden confession: I have done NOTHING educational with my children this summer. Well, that is not entirely true because I have yelled up to the kids to read a book before going to bed. I am pretty sure one does, one braids her hair, and the other is up there building a Minecraft village with Legos.
- Have I run through the times tables with my soon-to-be 4th grader?
- Have I made my soon-to-be-6th and 7th graders read their three summer reading books?
- Have I even bothered to buy a workbook of some kind so they can keep up with their skills?
The answer to all of these questions is NO! In fact, I have not even insisted that the kids play educational video games.
Now, we were out of town for a little over two weeks, and the girls were at Girl Scout camp for two weeks, and I never make them do anything educational the week they get out of school. So, really time has been my best excuse.
I was talking to some friends who make their kids read an hour a day, do math skills for a half hour, practice their musical instrument for at least 30 minutes a day. The second generation Chinese children in my neighborhood also have to take an on-line course in Social Studies (because their parents do not feel qualified to help with that field) and practice their Chinese language skills a couple hours a day.
What a slacker I am!
When my kids are not in camp, I basically let them have two hours of screen time, kick them out in the blistering Houston sun to get exercise, and then let them play with their neighbors the rest of the day. So, in summary, I basically let my kids be kids. Now, all you anti-Tiger Moms out there, before you applaud my parental philosophy, I want to be completely open with you. I do this, yes, in part for my kids, but I also do it for me.
The academic school year is such an intense time for me with two children with reading problems, three with ADHD, one with sensory processing problems (including severe dysgraphia), and one with a sleeping disorder who refuses to get out of bed until I walk out the door and yell up to her that I am leaving for school. Just like them, I need a break. I need to not think about my son’s fluency rate and handwriting skills. I need modicum of time not to think about whether my eldest daughter’s executive function (organizational) skills will ever kick in. And, I need time away from worrying about my other daughter getting overly excited about seeing her friends and acting a bit crazy (like squeezing her friends so intensely they lose their breath).
Yes, I know that helping my kids during the school year is a challenge, but even as I write this I am overwhelmed with oppressive guilt. Wouldn’t a better mom suck it up and push their children a little bit? And, really, I was an educator for over 18 years. I should know better, shouldn’t I? I know the research on how kids lose skills and knowledge over the long summer break.
Now, in my mind I have set August 1 as a kick off of sorts for transitioning back to school. I have not yet worked out the details, but I do know they have to do their summer reading, and maybe access an educational website or two. So, I am not completely hopeless. But, until I figure out exactly how I am going to stimulate their chlorinated, water-logged brains, I will continue to feel GUILT! Someone please absolve me! Please? Tell me my kids won’t end up living in a van down by the river. Please? They will eventually graduate from middle school, right?