I clearly remember my first summer as a mother to three young children. As I picked up my boys from preschool, I burst into tears. Perhaps it was because my oldest one would start "big boy" school the next year, and I was saying goodbye to that phase of his life. Perhaps it was because I had given birth to my girl only five days earlier and the postpartum hormones were still running crazily through my body. Perhaps it was because I had no idea how I was going to occupy these kids and keep them out of mischief for three long months.
Now that they're older, my expectations go beyond merely surviving the summer with my insanity intact. I wanted to keep their skills up throughout the school break. I had notions of doing multiplication drills with flash cards. That happened all of twice. The school library summer reading program leaflet stares at me accusingly, devoid of any books listed or minutes logged. My kids are great readers; they're just bad record keepers. Oh, and I never quite got around to giving my 10-year-old "The Talk". You know... the one about the birds and the bees. He'll just have to enter 5th Grade (Year 6) ignorant of how exactly babies are made.
Then, I decide to stop focusing on the unchecked items on the To Do List. Sure, we didn't get everything done, but we accomplished a lot. For one thing, we hopped westward across three continents. We took a gigantic field trip encircling the world. The family explored Paris from the tippy top of the Eiffel Tower to the dank corridors of the subterranean catacombs. The miles ratcheted up on the van's odometer driving around Texas from big cities to small ones, from state parks to Galveston Bay. Touching back down in Penang, Malaysia, we remembered what it was like when we first arrived two years ago, and how much more we now know about this place we currently call home. Certainly, all this travel must count for something.
We saw paintings by Da Vinci, Seurat, Matisse, Picasso and Warhol up close in Paris. The kids clearly had more of an affinity for realistic paintings than modern art.
|The kids attempt to pose like the figures in the Picasso.|
My eldest boy learned how to build a shelter out of yaupon branches, rope and a tarp, then spent the night in it. The next night, he did away with a shelter altogether and slept under the Texas sky.
|Who needs a tent when camping out by the shores of Lake Bastrop?|
The kids got a first hand physics lesson in aerodynamics by experiencing the interaction of body position and airflow when they went indoor skydiving.
|Held aloft by nothing but wind|
We found a new museum to explore science and visited some old favorites. Hands-on is always more fun than reading it in a textbook.
|Austin Children's Museum * Houston Health Museum|
Cite des Enfants in Paris
Mayborn Museum in Waco, Texas * Children's Museum of Houston
My younger son had time to sit and build his LEGO Legends of Chima fighter. Then, he decided to modify it with LEGO Mindstorms to turn it into a controllable robot.
|Building robots out of toys|
The Fourth of July (America's Independence Day) was spent remembering their roots, reconnecting with cousins and watching fireworks. Boy, was I surprised when they spontaneously started singing The Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem.
|The rockets red (or white) glare|
We heard music with our ears and felt the rhythm down to our bones at a performance of Drum Corp International in Houston. I'm hoping it provided some inspiration for my budding percussionist.
|The Boston Crusaders|
So yeah, we didn't get every academic thing on my list done before school started. But I have to remind myself that it's not just the books and flashcards that count. Living life and taking in the world goes a long ways towards expanding young minds, too.
Bye bye summer. Hello school.