Sunday, 10 November 2013

Summer learning - let other intelligences flourish

The summer brings the eternal idyll of family life, holidays, the warmth of the land and the gorgeous verdure of the woods. It is a time to explore our natural side - to seek the sea and cool rivers, to walk moors and hills, to discover hidden treasures around or just to lie in a field of long grass and watch clouds drift over.

Why do we have such a long summer holiday? It's a hangover from our agricultural past when all hands were expected to help with the harvests - ask any young lad or lass whose family has a farm and you'll find them heavily employed during the summer months!

But should our children continue to learn something through the summer months?

I think so - but not in school. Remove all formality and all sitting at desks and let the other intelligences have a chance to flourish!

Children need a break from institutionalised learning (just as teachers do!); they need to be allowed to run free and enjoy the outdoors to reset their emotions and grow in other respects.

On the other hand, over the long summer months, many slip in what skills they have learned during the school year - especially if the skills are only temporarily held in their minds as the knowledge or techniques were only thinly held by their minds.

Much learning that we do is shallow - it is taken in during the lesson but barely repeatable the following week. There are many reasons for that: distractions in a classroom environment, lack of thorough understanding - which rarely comes for many things for most children, lack of a connection to the knowledge -i.e., 'what's this got to do with my life?'

Such learning is quietly lost during the long summer months. In some respects it can be regained once class restarts in September, but if the mind is subtly ticked over - greasing the grooves as my personal trainer says - then much learning can be sustained and advanced: confidence can be gained and skill sets deepened. But to best foster such mental development, it's better for a child to enjoy finding his or own freedom in the summer months and learning through play, socialising, and relaxation (so underestimated in our culture!).

So let the children play - find bugs, draw monsters, laze around in the grass...more is gained from being human than being a cog in the educational machine.

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