I’m sad at the end of summer. No matter how much I’ve crammed into it, there’s always regret for the things I’ve missed. Riding my bike, learning to sail, hiking at the Ledges are on the list this year. Even when I extend the season by starting June 1 and going til the Autumnal Equinox, it’s never long enough.
I spent my best summers on my grandparents’ farm in northeastern Missouri. What made them the best wasn’t their proximity to Hannibal or the Mississippi River. It wasn’t the trip to St. Louis when we got to see “The King and I” at Forest Park. I do remember that as a magical night when my Mom, her sister and my oldest sister actually went out on the town and left us three younger kids at home by ourselves. Something about the Gaslight District. Hmmmmm.
It was the ordinary things we did every day that made those summers so wonderful. Pulling on shorts, tee shirt and sneakers early to go milking with my Grandpa when everyone else was still asleep. Balancing with the whole family on the water wagon. Shoveling corn into the grinder with my cousin Tommy, and the song he made up about my abilities to pitch a bale of hay just like a boy.
Building fantasy neighborhoods under the Silver Maples with Leo and Nancy and sitting through reading lessons with Leo and Mother on the front porch. Dancing in the rain after a long dry spell. Playing “Ghost in the Graveyard;” I only recently learned this name for Hide and Seek in the dark. Such a deliciously scary game.
Starting at Camp Good Health, summer programs for kids affected by the achievement gap has occupied a lot of my adult life. Moving on to career exploration and leadership development on the Mesquakie Settlement, workshops on everything from feminism to drama in the teen program in Cedar Rapids. Then the day camps we did in Des Moines that developed into year-round school at Moulton Extended Learning Center and elsewhere.
Now at the first of September, it’s not too soon to start planning for next summer. This article from the US Department of Education’s EdBlog makes an excellent point for schools and community organizations to work together, not just during the summer but throughout the year. They link to some great examples of summer successes in the South Bronx, Pittsburgh, and Chicago.
Kids who start school behind tend to catch up some during the school year, but then fall behind when their summers lack enrichment opportunities that wealthier kids enjoy. Summer programs keep them thinking and learning all year. Anything we can do to narrow that achievement gap is a good thing!