Our girls came home with their report cards yesterday afternoon.
They got excellent marks, but I was more interested in reading the comments made by the teacher. Sometimes, these seem to be generic notes straight out of a cut-and-paste teacher clipboard.
“Your child works well independently and displays a caring attitude towards classmates.”
“Your child completes and submits class work, homework and assignments according to agreed-upon timelines.”
“Your child has two eyes, two ears and a nose.”
I mean seriously—some of the comments give you absolutely no new insight into your child’s development inside the classroom.
But I was happy to read that many of the comments for our oldest daughter Elissa seemed to be personalized just for her. And in the math section her teacher wrote, “A next step for Elissa is to practice her multiplication facts to 9x9 and division facts to 81/9 over the summer.”
I read that comment out loud and Elissa completely freaked out.
“Arrrgghh… I was hoping you wouldn’t see that comment!” she screamed. “It’s cruel to make a kid do math in the summer.”
Read more: The reason why your kids are bad at math>
Back in the day, my mom would force me to do summer workbooks to prepare for the school year ahead. So after finishing grade four, she would buy me a grade five workbook to get me familiar with the math and English terms I would be dealing with in the fall.
Sometimes it was downright embarrassing when my friends would come by and ask me to come out and play.
“Hey Ian, we’ve set up the Slip and Slide in the backyard. Do you want to come on over?”
“Sorry guys, I’m just doing this worksheet on place value and rounding.”
You want to lose friends in a hurry? Tell them you are doing school work in the summertime. It’s more damaging than a cooties reputation.
But here’s the thing: I ended up getting great marks in school and was often put in accelerated programs. And in hindsight, the summer exercises from my mom were probably a major contributing factor to that success.
Read more: 10 best math apps>
Doing math isn’t like riding a bike. It’s not a skill you develop once and then it stays with you forever. You need constant practice and reinforcement. (Don’t believe me? I’m betting you have no clue how to do a linear or quadratic equation today). So when kids are just learning new concepts for math, taking two or three months off can be detrimental. While they are riding their bikes and playing with their friends, the math concepts from the previous school year slowly melt away like a popsicle left on the porch.
With that in mind, I think I’m going to give our kids some basic math and reading assignments over the summer to keep them sharp. At least nowadays they have cool apps for phone and tablets to do summer work and not everything has to be done with a pencil inside a boring workbook.
My kids will hate me for it now, but hopefully thank me for it later in life. And really, isn’t that what parenting is all about?
Originally published in June 2014.