Thursday, September 24, 2015

Summer Brain

What happens if you put a pretzel in your mouth sideways?

Summer is now officially over, isn't it? I've been waiting for this moment because my middle son learned the phrase "summer brain" this year and it's developed into a source of serious irritation. While all of my kids are bright, they aren't always interested in working hard. (To be fair I'm not always interested in working hard, too, but I know when I need to buckle down and sweat it out.) 

This is the same kid who asked me if we could 'not learn things for once' while on vacation. Sorry, kid. Learning things IS my vacation.

But this is the same kid who is insanely curious and always asking questions and delighted to learn new things. He loves investigating and discovering and discussing and exploring. 

So it's not that he wanted to turn his brain off. He just didn't want to deal with the basic skills that are more challenging for him, specifically spelling and memorizing multiplication tables. And that's why he doesn't like them. There's nothing to discuss. Words are spelled a certain way and multiplication equations have one answer. 

I know these aren't the most interesting skills for a kid, but they are necessary. He just doesn't want to put in the time to master them. Ask him to read a funny book or launch bottle rockets or conduct a scientific investigation or locate countries on a map or invent something futuristic and he's all over that kind of scholarly work. 

I did ask myself: does he need a break? Should I insist he do the simple math worksheets and should we host spelling bees in the car? Or should I invent some crazy way to get him to practice these skills without him knowing he's practicing them? 

As it turns out I didn't go to either of those extremes but I didn't let him turn his school brain off entirely. While the worksheets sat mostly unused we did find ways to practice basic math, mostly through Pokemon battles, board games, allowance income and souvenir shopping expenses, and soccer scores. 

We also practiced spelling through journaling, scientific observation, more Pokemon, map reading and of course soccer. 

So while I really dislike the phrase 'summer brain' I felt it wasn't worth trying to use an argument to convince my son that learning is fun. I just went ahead and proved it empirically, which is after all, his favorite way to learn.