More Mom Guilt: An Aversion to Summer Learning

Boy tired of playing his portable game console.
Picture from GraphicStock

It’s the middle of July, and in the Turner household we have reached new heights in the aversion to anything that might possibly be related to learning or school.

Seriously, I took my kids to the library once this summer, and they sat around playing in the toddler area until I was finished finding my own books. How embarrassing was that? I thought I would find them sitting on the floor in the young adult section engrossed in some fascinating story. Instead, they were competing to build the tallest tower with Legos, just laughing away like it was recess, while the normally serene children’s librarian was sending eyeball death rays to the back of their heads. I had to do the whisper-scream to get their attention and shuffle them out. I am pretty sure their faces are plastered on the Fort Bend Library site warning librarians all over the county to been the look out for these toddler-like tweens. Now you know why I only took them once.

The other day my teen, who sleeps like 15 hours, had an Oscar-winning meltdown when I was explaining something that involved percentages. It was nothing complicated, I promise.  We were talking about those who rank in the top 10 percent of their class.  “I hate percents!” she screamed. I think she had an automatic visceral reaction to math. The irony is she is a stellar math student.

I blame technology. My kids are all woefully addicted to anything with a screen. In fact, last night I picked up my middle child from two weeks of Girl Scout camp (no technology allowed—heck, no air conditioning in Texas), and the very first thing she said after the welcoming bear hug was, “Where’s my phone?” Where’s my phone? Not one word about earning her certification in canoeing; not one story about how she was introduced to riflry or how many bull’s eyes she made in archery. Nothing about the intense friendships she formed over two weeks with some pretty neat girls from all over world. Nope. It was, “Where is my phone?” I wanted to say, “Hum, I last saw it at the bottom of the pool.”

My son is even worse. He passed into full-blown technology addiction four years ago, and he’s only 10. I fear that he will end up like one of those twenty-somethings sitting in an adult diaper so he can play endless rounds of some shoot-‘em-up computer game. I fear someone will find him in his dorm room (if he even makes it to college) passed up from dehydration with the game controller in his hands.

It may sound as if we have no rules or limits. No, we do, but I have to admit I have been a little loosey-goosey about them myself. Texas in the summer is like Minnesota in the winter. Most days the heat index is around 108 degrees, and so we are housebound until about 5 when we head to the neighborhood pool. We have no TV in our house, and so the kids do spend a lot of time playing video games and watching YouTube. And, as an older mom, my energy for policing devices and the fights that ensue from them is zapped by noon. Sometimes, I just shut off the Internet and send them into the streets to “play like we did in the 70s.”

Of course, the mom guilt meter is registering EXTREME: SEEK MENTAL HELP. This is especially true when I hear the following from some of my friends:

  • Susan has read almost 50 books this summer. She just loves reading.
  • I signed my kids up for an on-line class on government studies just for fun.
  • My kids spend an hour a day on mental math exercises. Last week we were working on pre-calculus.
  • My kids are always begging me to take them to the science museum.
  • Janie has completed an entire portfolio of paintings and sketches.

Arggghhh! My kids do fairly well in school, but they are not that kid practicing for the geography or spelling bee all summer. None of them has touched an instrument once. They pretend they are playing an educational game on-line, but I’ve discovered it is just Minecraft. Their favorite thing is to go on YouTube and watch other people play video games. They just laugh and laugh over the most inane commentaries.

I guess what I am trying to say is that they are not self-starters in the educational realm, and as a non-helicopter mom, I have failed to motivate them or push them or threaten them into any formal learning this summer. Thus, the guilt. So, I get depressed wondering if my kids will end up like Chris Farley use to say on SNL, “living in a van down by the river.” Yeah, my mind works in extremes like that.

But, today I have pushed aside the guilt and have psyched myself into believing it is not too late to salvage some summer learnin’. So, now am I venturing to the local parent-teacher store wearing my Super Mom cape in search of workbooks and flashcards. I am the Mom of Steel. I have already compiled my responses to the inevitable whines and pushbacks. There will be no turning back. Wish me luck.  I’m going to need it.

Let me know what your kids are doing to preserve their brains this summer.


5 thoughts on “More Mom Guilt: An Aversion to Summer Learning

  1. We did a three week academic enrichment camp in June, then an acting camp for a week., a bike riding camp for a week. That’s about it for the summer. Lots of iPad time these days, but they take breaks on their own (when their eyes start crossing), but it’s like two hours on, thirty minutes off…😕. I’m not doing much better.


  2. I FORCED my kids to go to summer camp, but it wasn’t academic. I LOVED the teacher supply store we had not far from our house. When our oldest was getting into Multiplication, I got a tape (pre-CD) called “Multiplication Rap”. I would have that thing in the car going all the time. I bought into subliminal learning. They heard it. and heard it. The youngest – who, at the time was probably 5 – knew the multiplication. Until she had to do it in school. It was just rote, not translated to visual until then. But then we discovered late in school that she had a processing learning disability. You never understand the saying “You can lead a horse to water…..” until you have kids!


  3. Judith

    I purchased the summer workbooks that the school suggests. I’m pretty sure the kids have done less than 10 pages. Both kids have begun their summer reading. And that’s about it over here. This was my thought for summer: my kids enjoy being home and I love that. I want them to feel like home is their sanctuary so I’ve let them have a relaxing summer. I’ve let Nicholas sleep as much as he wants (which is quite a bit). And he knows I’m jealous! 🙂 but I’m just enjoying having my kids home. You’re a great mom, Cara! Don’t ever doubt it. 😘


  4. Jeana

    Connor went to a STEAM Camp for a week this summer. But that’s about it. Although, some days I make them earn their electronics. They get a screen time equal to the time they spent reading a book.


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