Summer schooled: How a Chicago mom used the break to teach her kids independence

My youngest turned six in July. She finished Montessori school in May and come August Ada geared up to join her big sister at the local elementary school. First grade – Was she ready?

When it came to knowing her ABCs and her 123s, yes, she was well prepared for the “academic rigors” of first grade. And even if she wasn’t, between my hours as a working mom and my SAHD husband’s disinterest in homeschool-style enrichment activities, we probably weren’t going to get her there. Heck, even though we’re a family of voracious readers, we couldn’t manage to track the books we were reading (and worse, the minutes we spent reading them) for the library’s summer reading program.

The readiness I refer is not about drilling flash cards. It’s about mastering important life skills. The kind that let children loosen the apron strings, giving them (and honestly, us parents) a little more freedom.

Two important milestones in a child’s life, which Ada needed to learn, was how to swim and how to ride a bike.

We took care of the former by enrolling her in swimming lessons and by mid-July they’d paid off. She was an independent, competent swimmer, jumping gleefully into the deep end of the pool.

Riding a two-wheeler safely look a little longer. We had to deal with fear, balance, and stopping and starting, before we could teach traffic awareness and the rules of the road (sidewalk). I spent hours going up and down the block, running alongside her as she wobbled and crashed. I took long rides in the street with Ada as my co-pilot, attached to my bike, practicing signals and going fast. Finally, it all clicked for her.

By the time the first day of school rolled around, Ada was more independent, confident and was keeping up with her sister.

She was summer schooled.

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