Free-form or planned – How should kids spend summer?
Today is the first day of summer and I’ve finally gotten my kids’ summers set. Funny, I don’t think my parents worried too much about that. Somehow summers just unfolded: two weeks at a cottage by a lake and, back in the city, hour after hour playing baseball or one of its variations – stick ball, punch ball or slap ball. OK, and lots of TV watching, too.
My 12-year-old will attend a summer camp at a nearby college that offers academic but fun-sounding classes in the morning, and afternoons full of sports. Sounds so good, I’d like to register.
More complicated is my 17-year-old son’s summer. He’s finishing his junior year in high school and will be doing a series of things: a two-week art program at the Parsons School of Design; four weeks of classes preparing him for the college-application process; and finally a basketball program.
I’m happy with the Parsons program for which we’ve just gotten him registered. It’s all-day classes in illustration at Parsons in the Village. I’ve always been impressed by his creativity, especially when it comes to drawing, painting, or, when he was much younger, making toys out of household scraps.
This program also fits my view of how kids should spend the summer, that is, experiencing things they don’t normally get during the school year – be it sports, unusual academic courses or wilderness adventure. And just so I’m clear, I’m not suggesting that their entire summer should be programmed.
I’m less certain about the college-application course, though. It’s at his own high school and is free, but does he really need to spend every morning for four weeks learning how to write a personal essay and filling out college applications. This comes after he just finished taking an SAT-prep class every Saturday morning this past spring semester.
Though these courses are supposed to improve his odds of getting into the college of his choice, they strike me as having less to do with learning, and more to do developing skills that have little usefullness other than getting into college.
He will also be playing basketball in a program that will get him playing with kids from around New York City and the metro area. I think that’s great. I was shocked by his improvement playing basketball this past year. He finshed the year as his high school team’s top scorerer, rebounder and free-throw shooter. Yes, his high school is small, but who knows, perhaps maybe he could get a partial college scholarship from his basketball. And that’s something that clearly interests me.
Considering that a parent’s influence and leverage is clearily on the decline when a son is 17, I guess I’m satisfied with how his summer is shaping up. There may even be time for a cottage by a lake and hours playing baseball.
How do you think high school kids should spend the summer? I got my first job, part-time at a supermarket, the summer before my senior year in high school, leading me to wonder where do summer jobs fit in the picture for today’s kids?