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Apodaca: Kids and parents need balance in summer activities

April 06, 2012|By Patrice Apodaca

Oh, the joys of spring! Flowers are in bloom, tax returns are due, and parents are stressing out over what the heck to do with their kids this summer.

When I was young, back in the Mesozoic Era, the lazy days of summer were all about playing outside until Mom called us in, reading comic books, and piling into Dad's beat-up station wagon for our annual road trip. Thoughts of school were stored away along with my Pee Chee folders and wool sweaters.

Not so for my kids. Summer for them has been a time to expand their portfolios, burnish their academic, social and athletic skills, and rack up community service hours.

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Most of us want our kids to partake of summer activities that they truly enjoy. But somewhere along the line, summertime transformed — at least for the middle- to-upper classes in America — from a real break into a calculated exercise in enrichment building.

And right about now is when we parents find ourselves in the midst of planning summer schedules, with a mind toward achieving a desired level of industriousness. All too often, we put inordinate pressure on ourselves, and our children, in our earnest but possibly somewhat misguided attempts to leave not a day wasted.

I'm thinking about this as I help my younger son complete applications for various summer programs we have agreed upon. We've gone through this every year since he was just a wee thing.

Now that he is a junior in high school he recognizes clearly that a total escape from the high expectations of the regular school term isn't the way it's played these days. This summer presents his last opportunity to show the colleges he'll be applying to in the fall just what a well-rounded, enterprising young man he is.

How did we get here?

Once upon a time, there was no summer vacation. In the early days of our nation, before education was compulsory, the formal schooling that did exist was unregulated and vastly diverse. Rural schools were scheduled around spring planting and fall harvest seasons, while urban students who attended school had only short breaks.

About the middle of the 19th century, educational reform activists began promoting the idea that both students and teachers would benefit from time off during the hottest months — a concept that conformed to the summer holidays preferred by the wealthy.

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