As summer quickly comes to an end, I commonly hear parents and students grumbling about the first day of school. Occasionally, I even catch myself joining in on the conversation. Who doesn’t love the freedom and flexibility that summer brings? There are no schedules, no homework and plenty of time for vacation. Plus, I love to spend time with my family. This year, just like the last one, I have three children in three different schools on the island: Marco Island Academy, Marco Island Charter Middle School and Tommie Barfield Elementary. All three kids have busy schedules and our family juggles multiple extracurricular activities. So why do I look forward to this time of year? There are actually a couple of very good reasons.
For starters, I love when children are learning. Unfortunately, during summer, less learning takes place at our house. At the beginning of the summer, I eagerly envision all the wonderful, engaging activities we will do. Each year, I buy journals for the kids to encourage them to write. At night, I planned to have the kids read for at least 30 minutes before bed. In an effort to share my love of science, I wanted to conduct a minimum of one experiment each week with my kids. My new idea for this summer was to research healthy recipes so we could bake together. I always picture how it will be in my mind. Of course, everything is absolutely perfect. Although I do not enjoy cooking or grocery shopping, I never focus on seemingly insignificant details. There was no stopping what we could accomplish together this summer.
Now I have to be honest. My intentions are good, but the reality of my life does not always match my intentions. Ultimately, most of my educational plans for my family were not fully implemented. In fact, some were not implemented at all. The days quickly became weeks that rushed past in what now seems like a blur. The beginning of the summer was spent helping with the Ambassadors of the Environment Summer Camp. Assoon as the camp ended, I followed up on the school’s expansion project to make sure the two new science modulars on campus were ready for the first day of school. At the same time, I reviewed and gathered documents that were needed for the school’s annual audit. With a blink of an eye, the entire month of June was gone.
The first week of July, my family packed for vacation. We spent the month with family and friends. We celebrated the fourth of July on Sanibel, finished the month at a soccer tournament in Orlando, and rounded the summer off with a trip to Ohio and Indiana to visit family. We had an enormous amount of fun during our vacation. My favorite moments are when our family spends time together. Who wants to go to bed early to read? No one in my family wanted to go to bed, including me. We talked, laughed, swam in the pool, and played games until we were too exhausted to keep our eyes open.
While we were away, I pushed meetings and conference calls back, even though I was beginning to feel the stress mounting. As soon as we returned, I was inundated with work. Between phone calls, emails, meetings and preparation for the upcoming school board meeting, I didn’t have any time to spend on science or baking. When I glanced at the calendar, I realized that it was the week before school started, and I had not implemented any of the educational ideas I had for the kids. To make up for the shortfall, I quickly reminded everyone to read before bedtime, and practiced math flash cards with my third grader every day for a week. How is it possible that the summer was almost over? I didn’t even have time to look up a recipe. None of the kids wrote in their journals. I am not even sure if we took them out of the bag. And we only did one science experiment where we broke open geodes.
Thank goodness I do not home school my kids, becausethey would be so far behind other children their ages. For obvious reasons, I am incredibly thankful for the teachers who work with my children every day. Now that school is back in session, I know they are in good hands. They are consistently reading, writing, doing math homework, and playing musical instruments.
While I enjoy watching the learning that takes place during the school year, it is not the only reason I look forward to the start of school. One of the biggest reasons I embrace the school year is the culture of community it creates. The first day of school brings everyone together. Families return from vacation, teachers return to campus, and new families move to the community. Even though we have had different experiences during the summer, and new plans for the upcoming school year, we all share a common bond. We have children who attend school. We find out which classes and teachers our students have. Then we have an opportunity to meet new friends and reconnect with old friends. The students are not the only ones who have this opportunity. Parents do too.
The people we meet through our children’s schools enrich our lives as much as we enrich theirs. I encourage every parent to get involved at his or her child’s school. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer. When you spend time helping at school, you will meet teachers, parents, and board members. Plus, your child sees that you care about his or her education. Since the year has just begun, there is plenty of time to make a difference for your child’s school. A new school year brings an opportunity to start fresh. Join me in celebrating the start of school and let’s make this school year the best one yet!
Jane Watt is a mother of three children in the public school system. She is also the Founder and Chairperson for Marco Island Academy, a public charter high school. Recently she wrote the book, “Fighting For Kids: Battles To Create a Charter School.” Her mission is to help improve educational opportunities for children.