In the summer I like to challenge (torture) our son with extra edumacation. He goes to camp at his school for eight weeks and gets to swim and run around like a rabid squirrel and he gets an allotment of TV & video-game time, but in the empty hours, especially in August when he’s home with nothing to do, I feel it’s good to broaden his horizons and give us a focused way to connect, even if he’s not 100% on board with the whole Excessive Dad Plan.
The summer before kindergarten, he learned how to read. The goal was to read 100 books by summer’s end. My wife and I helped him along, and the books were mostly those super-short Level 1 “I Can Read”-type deals, but it was still a major task for a kid that age and so the reward was a giant Lego set. He needed an extra few weeks but did in fact complete the 100 books and learn how to read. He mostly enjoyed himself along the way and felt proud at the end, especially when he got his big Power Miners set.
Last year we played it looser. He and I compiled a list of short activities, from paper-airplane making and wrestling to reading and math practice. We wrote each activity on a small slip of paper, folded them up, and placed into a hat called The Tricorn of Excitement. Whenever we needed something to do, out came the hat, and if he happened to pick something boring like “learn about Athens”, he was OK with that because the subsequent pick was liable to be something like “gun battle”.
This year he’s 8 and going into 3rd grade and I’m upping the ante with a refrigerator list. When he completes the entire list, he gets another big Lego set. I’m also going to make accomplishment pins, like merit badges, for his backpack.
I admit that certain portions of the list appear to be eyeroll-inducing Pretentious Parent stuff. Like what kind of dorkus father makes his 8-year-old son read Shakespeare over the summer? But I’m not devising the list for college-grooming or elitist super-child enhancement. I truly believe this is great stuff that any kid would love, provided it’s presented in a palatable manner.
So here’s the list and the reasoning behind each section.
We’re learning to tie three useful knots, because the older I get, the more I find myself in situations where knowing the right knot would really be super. My son will no doubt find himself in similar knot-need situations. We’ll be ready.
He came up with this one and I heartily approve. I don’t believe that palm reading works but think it’s cool, like phrenology.
JAPANESE SHIRT FOLDING
All the explanation you need:
Not the usual purse-your-lips melodic whistle, but the fingers-into-mouth crowd-parting whistle that I wish I knew how to do at least four times a year. Now that someone’s shown me the basic technique, we’re excited to master it.
JUGGLE THREE BALLS
I learned how to juggle three balls in college. Tennis balls, eggs: it never gets old. My son will need to reach three markers: 5 seconds, 10 seconds, and 15 seconds. But 15 seconds takes a lot of practice when you’re just starting out, so (secret) he’ll get full credit if he can hit the 5-second mark.
He actually likes this because duh, chess RULES, and his father isn’t so good as to totally destroy him every time. I sometimes give him tips but never let him win. It’s healthy for kids to lose, and when he takes my queen because I made a stupid mistake, the credit–and confidence–is rightfully his. We need to play a total of 15 games.
State quarters (we need 5 more to complete the set), bottlecaps (20), and rocks (also 20). He came up with the rock collecting. We’re not necessarily looking for different varieties of rock; it’s more like “cool pointy one” and “rock that totally looks like a small meteorite”.
Twenty different birds, spotted and identified. This is very easy in our neighborhood. Our backyard alone gets 10 or more different birds on a daily basis, and I like the idea of our son discovering the often unnoticed variety of nature all around him, every day. Plus birds are awesome.