Long Live Summer Vacation!
Long live summer vacation! After the toil of the school year, the children are delighted: no more school, no more homework, no more discipline, no more... Whoa! “Vacation” means healthy relaxation, but that is no excuse for giving free rein to every whim and caprice. Now comes the moment of truth in which the depth of their education is revealed: released from the strict schedule of the school year, what becomes of the good habits that were the object of so many efforts? Have they been sufficiently assimilated to hold up in a different setting?
Let’s start by saying that the good God does not take vacations. In August as in December, He is always our Creator, our Lord, our loving Father who takes care of us. Daily prayer during vacation, therefore, does not stop being a duty. On the contrary, one can take advantage of the time to pray a little more, recite the Rosary together as a family, go to Mass during the week, visit a church to pray, read a Life of a saint together, complete the unfinished lessons of Catechism by Correspondence. The children’s commitments like the treasure sheet for the Eucharistic Crusade or working on badges for the Scouts also continue during vacation.
By definition, there’s no need to rise early to get to school on time during vacation. It is legitimate to take advantage of the fact to get a little more rest. But it is no reason to laze away the morning in bed until ten o’clock! Laziness is still one of the capital sins, even during vacation. In the Smith family, the breakfast table is cleared by 8:30 or 9 at the latest, and the children who would dare to come later will have to do without. Schedules can be a little more flexible during vacation, for example because of a late return home from an outing or a late family gathering or a late-afternoon snack that takes the place of supper. However, it is up to the parents to see to it that the regularity of daily life (meal times and bed time) are not upset or chaotic, this order being a key factor of psychological balance.
Vacation means long days of freedom. How should they be spent? It is to be feared that, left to themselves, the children, marked as they all are by the effects of original sin, will spend their time, if not in getting into trouble, then in fruitless endeavors. The educator’s task continues during vacation, in which children ought to be provided with activities that develop their minds and their will.
The first thing to teach them is the joy of being helpful. Freed from their homework, the children have time to get involved in jobs around the house, and this can be done in a relaxing way since it is vacation. With the older boys, Mr. Smith tackled the job of stripping and repainting the garden fence, offering a treat to be earned upon completion of each picket. Meanwhile, with mother the girls prepared a surprise meal: a Mexican dinner with typical dishes, table decorations, music—nothing is lacking that serves to develop various talents. At the Joneses, vacation is the perfect time to remodel the bedrooms. The children camp outside in a tent at the back of the garden, each one has a wall to paint, they sing as they work, and the work week concludes with a barbecue.
It would be a pity to leave the minds of the children in idleness for a couple of months. For summertime homework, if any has been assigned, to be fully beneficial, its completion ought to be spread out over the summer and not crammed into the last couple of weeks. To motivate the children, an appealing reward can be proposed: a special outing, a stay at Grandmother’s... It is highly recommended to set aside a time for reading every day, for example, during the little ones’ nap time or during the warmest part of the afternoon. Summer is also a good time for cultural tours, visiting monuments or historical sites, preparing the trip with guides and books. After the visit, a notebook with drawings and photos can be prepared to share with cousins who live far away.
And let us not forget the physical activities: walks, bike rides, skating...
What can be done on the inevitable rainy days? Activities at home as a family: big jigsaw puzzles that everyone can work on, board games, baking cookies for an afternoon treat, building a kite to try out as soon as the weather is nice...
For vacation to be fruitful, parents must not hesitate to give of their time and devotion in order to plan and organize. Their efforts are surely worth it, for vacation is the blessed time in which family unity is forged by shared moments that will leave indelible memories. So, a splendid vacation to you!