Fireworks have illuminated the skies, barbecues are winding down, and 62 hot dogs later, Matt Stonie has become the new Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest winner! It’s the Fourth of July, and contrary to popular belief, today is not America’s birthday. It is, as its name suggests, the day the initial 13 colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. No, you have not stumbled upon a history about the great U.S. of A., although a summer lesson can’t hurt, especially for America’s youth… (my segue has finally arrived). According to the National Summer Learning Association, “More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college.”
As a future educator, a semi-helicopter parent, and a self-proclaimed nerd, learning doesn’t stop just because the final school bell has rung; it is year-round for me. Just ask Kamryn. Besides frequent trips to the library and completing the required summer packet her school gives to rising students at the end of each term, I always ensure Kamryn has a leg up for the upcoming school year.
As June was drawing to a close, my newest project (that actually fits right in with today’s holiday…I swear I didn’t plan it) for Kamryn was having her learn all of the U.S. state capitals and be able to locate each state on a map. I had her write out each state, capital, and abbreviation and recite them to me, to ensure she got the pronunciations just right. I then printed out a map of the U.S. and I am having her study that as well. I remember having to learn the state capitals and an instructor (was it Mrs. Butow in 5th grade or was it Ms. Boyke in the 4th?) who told us we would be tested on them. I can’t recall who it was, but I do recall the amount of time I put into studying. Every waking, free second was dedicated to committing all of the capitals to memory. And do you know we weren’t even tested on them?! So am I living vicariously through Kamryn with this project, you ask? Hmm…not even close. I just want her to be ready, should someone happen to ask her what the capital of say…Nebraska is. Anyone know, anyone? Give up? Lincoln! What always trips me up is that Lincoln’s capital is Nebraska, but he was born in Kentucky. I have always gotten the two capitals mixed up. A way I try and remember Kentucky’s capital (Frankfort) is by thinking about hot dogs, something I’m sure everyone has had at least one of today.
To be clear, there is by far no hardcore, anxiety-ridden studying taking place in learning these state capitals. We practice at random times: on the bus on her way to her summer camp, during commercial breaks while lounging on the couch, or while we’re walking to the grocery store. The less she gets right, and I win a foot massage! Child labor at its best. Motivation to get them all right? I think so! I have made this a fun activity (minus the foot massage part) with zero pressure. I have allowed her to test me (which she absolutely loves) and she even quizzed her little cousin just yesterday. I realize she has worked super hard all year-round and doesn’t need any extreme demands placed on her. I realize the rejuvenating factor of summer and respect her need to be a kid and luxuriate in the many adventures summer provides. But I also realize the importance of balance.
We’re starting with the U.S. and then I’m aiming internationally! I admittedly need a refresher on the latter, so this will be win-win! By pushing her to be aware of the world around her, I also reiterate to her the importance of traveling and that Brooklyn, New York (although quite cool) is not the only place this universe is made out of.
What are some ways you keep your kiddie’s brains sparking during the lazy days of summer? Or do you allow them to lounge from the last day of school until the night before the first day (No judgement)? I would love to hear!