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INGALL: Summer is for reading, playing and talking about it all

• Jul 13, 2018 at 4:00 PM

With the recent beautiful — and hot — Fourth of July week, we are well into the summer season. Our lakeshore town offers a bounty of things to do and enjoy, and many of us will also travel around our great state of Michigan and beyond. Students and teachers are resting, relaxing and rejuvenating during this long break from school and will soon begin looking forward to another year of pursuing new and renewed goals.

Parents are always the lead “teacher” for their children, but this is never more true than in the summer months when seven hours of formal teaching and learning are replaced with a more open, relaxed schedule. We can and should take advantage of the multitude of opportunities around us in order to continue the growth and development of our children during the summer.

Often we might not even consider how summer experiences offer ways for students to learn — and that’s perfect. Most of the time it feels like fun and play. The best learning sometimes happens when we don’t even know it.

However, when we create space to pause and reflect from time to time, then have conversations about an experience or event, we can help our children deepen their understanding and cement some new knowledge. Consider finding a few moments each day or just once a week to turn off the distractions in the car or at home, then ask the questions: “What happened today that was unexpected?” ”What are you curious about?” ”Where can we learn more about this?”

Our teachers and principals worry about the “summer slide.” It is the natural and logical loss in achievement status that happens with an 11-week break in classroom learning. Parents and our community can support kids and slow or even stop the summer slide with one simple word: read.

There are many ways this can be accomplished. Stop in the Loutit District Library and check out their summer reading opportunities. Set aside time at home to read for 30 minutes on a regular schedule with your children. Reading together helps provide positive role modeling and also helps our own cognitive growth. Take time after reading to talk about what you are both reading and why it is interesting. If it is not interesting, stop and find something that is.

These two strategies — learning through experiences and reading — seem obvious and simple. In fact, they are, but follow-up and follow-through does take effort. Evermore it is easy to be so busy that we just move on to the next job, task, assignment, duty or event. I am hopeful that we can all find time this summer to not only have time to play, learn, relax and enjoy the glorious summer of West Michigan, but also to reflect on and grow from each and every experience along the way.

Making connections to other experiences is what helps our children grow and develop to their fullest potential. Additionally, the practice of learning and talking about experiences also prepares us for addressing issues that are more difficult and maybe not so positive. But the questions can still be asked: “What have you learned?” ”What should you do next?” ”What support do you need?”

Trust that our staff at Grand Haven Area Public Schools are quietly hard at work ensuring that everything is ready for the 2018-19 school year. You can help stay ready by reading, playing and, most important, talking about it!

— By Andrew Ingall, superintendent of Grand Haven Area Public Schools

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