Thursday, June 12, 2014

Our Own Summer School

It's amazing the differences between my two boys. One of the greatest is their attitude towards school. Cava cries when school ends for the summer and Benjamin cries when it begins in fall. To make the transition into summer easier this year, I have decided to make it more structured for Cava. We will plan our activities (I am going through the lists of summer movies at our local theater, events at the Schiele, events at our local library, etcetera) and making a calendar so that we know what we will be doing and it gives them incentive to do things like clean their rooms and read as well as get them excited about any upcoming activities.

Paula Jeanne was kind enough to recommend a series that teachers had recommended to her called Summer Bridge Activities.

What I like about this book is that it covers not only reading, spelling, math, but also works on physical fitness and learning how to be flexible both physically, mentally, and in dealing with problems in life. One of the first lessons we had we shared about a situation where something didn't go our way and how we dealt with that and what would be the best way to deal with that situation. At the end of each lesson, he earns a star sticker, which is big for him because he used to get stickers or stamps each day in school if he had a good day.

He also started off by having to write three goals that he wants to reach by the end of the summer and, if he reaches those goals, he gets stickers for those as well as a certificate of achievement. When he saw this, Cava got very excited.

There are opportunities for us to incorporate outdoor learning, science experiments, and social studies lessons, as well as flash cards. 

To go along with this workbook, his teacher suggested that I work with Cava on doing crafts because that was where he often got most frustrated in school. "I can't do it," he would often say in defeat because he's a perfectionist and gives up if what he's doing isn't up to what he thinks it should be. For our first craft, we decided to have him make a fish out of construction paper because I thought it would be a good simple place to start and, over the summer, we could work up to more elaborate crafts depending on how he progressed.

I found instructions online for creating a construction paper fish just to give me a guideline, but Cava kept wanting to run to the computer to look at it so he could make his just like the one online. Part of the lesson was for him to not rely on other people's work but to create his own. I turned the computer off and said, "Cava, there is no right or wrong way to do this craft. I want you to create your own fish, not recreate somebody else's. Today, we will make our fish our own way." At first he was very reluctant but I kept encouraging him to just do it his way. "Cava, your fish will be unique from any others because you made it. And it doesn't have to be perfect because nothing is. In fact, we will celebrate the imperfections of our craft because it's those imperfections that make it like no other." 

After awhile, Cava got into it. He stopped worrying about cutting his scales to look like mine and he even stopped looking at what I was doing when I created my fish. This was a big step for him. 

I gotta' admit, I loved hearing him say the words, "I did it!"  He was so proud of his fish. We even displayed ours on the Blackwell Refrigerator Gallery:

That is the whole point of our summer school: to build Cava's confidence. I want him to be able to say, "I did it" to so many things that challenge him so that come next school year, he will be ready with the skills to help him succeed even more than he did last year. I know he can do it, but I want to instill in him the knowledge that he can do it.  This is not just knowledge of the brain, but also of the heart. Cava is gifted, he just needs to be shown how to unwrap that gift and use it to his full potential. He is an amazing kid and I cannot wait to see him continue to blossom over the summer.

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