The other day, whilst reading an article about the merits of study in the school holidays, I found myself reflecting on what I used to do in the school holidays. It has been a few years (ok, decades) since I was at school, but did my holiday activities reflect what kids do now? I remember one notable holiday which seemed consumed entirely by horse riding and trampolining, and many more that featured trips away with various choirs. I have absolutely no memory of doing any school work, but my mum (a teacher) assures me that I did do work and I was none too impressed about it. It's funny how the memory blocks out the less positive bits from our childhood, isn't it?
One thing I vividly remember, however, was the annual scrap book. Every year, in the summer, we would go away somewhere. It would usually be to Europe, in the car. My sister and I would each be given a scrap book and tasks to complete in it. It was my job, one year, to record the number of miles driven each day, the amount of petrol used, how long we drove for, etc. I then had to work out various things such as our average speed. We wrote a summary of what we had done each day and collected things like postcards and sweet wrappers to stick in the book. There were also a number of dried flowers, which in the intervening decades have disintegrated somewhat – but I still have the scrap books!
Looking back now, I can see that the whole scrap book exercise was my mum’s way of ensuring we continued to use our brains during the long summer holidays – but I saw it as fun. We also had some carefully constructed ‘pouches’ which hung on the back of the front seats of the car for the long journeys – and these were filled with puzzle books, games and the like – more carefully disguised ‘work’. My mum was crafty!
So, back to today. What does the average family do in the school holidays (not only the long summer break) to keep their kids’ brains active? Does today's mum have time to spend crafting pouches for the back of the car and filling them with carefully selected books, games and puzzles? Or does she have to resort to DVD screens and iPads? Is there anything wrong with that if the content is chosen with care?
One thing I do know for sure, I spend much of my ‘down time’ with my Kindle, or a Sudoku book. If my husband fails to buy me a jigsaw every Christmas then I sulk for weeks. Whatever I did as a child seems to have had a lasting effect. I love ‘leisure learning’ and keeping my brain active – thanks mum!
By Sarah Marsh