We remember our summer holidays from when we were children with contentment. They were glorious summers, full of sunshine, adventures, and effervescence. But as parents it can lose this magic. Juggling work and family, planning two whole months for the children, makes it an organisational nightmare. The Technicolor Constable-esque scene has gone, replaced by a work that, when one has a moment to step back from the canvass, vaguely represents something by Munch.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! Parents can spend a significant amount of time fretting that their children are having an exciting holiday, when the children are quite happy having a break. It is easy to forget that this is the reason for holidays. However, like anything, this should be in moderation.
Last summer the Times Educational Supplement published an article that looked at 1,000 primary and secondary head teachers, asking them about the effect of the summer holidays. A resounding 77% of primary school teachers and 60% of secondary school teachers were concerned about ‘learning loss’. Many of these schools implement programmes to limit the damage. St. Peter’s Catholic School in Bournemouth, the article writes, gave Year 11 students a two week project to complete in the holidays to help accelerate their learning from week one of term. Certainly a tutor could help here, as not all schools provide this support.
The academic side is very important, and should be maintained. But what about the ‘glorious summer’?
When writing this blog, an article in the Telegraph stuck in my mind. It spoke to head teachers of many (major) independent schools, asking them the simple question of what they recommend their pupils do in the summer holidays.
Here are some of their answers:
The National Trust’s “50 things to do before you are 11¾” list is great for any age, but I also recommend children read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
Paul James, Cherwell School, Oxford
Visit Shakespeare’s birthplace at Stratford-upon-Avon and watch Henry IV part one or two in the main theatre, or Webster’s The White Devil in the Swan.
Richard Harman, Uppingham School, Rutland
Read Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall, perhaps the funniest thing ever written. The Epic of American Civilisation, the murals by Jose Clemente Orozco in Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, are very much worth a visit if in the US.
Sarah Thomas, Bryanston School, Dorset
Learn to cook a dish from scratch, listen to a piece of music by Thomas Newman and answer a clue from the Telegraph’s cryptic crossword.
John Brett, Old Buckenham Hall, Suffolk
So what do these answers demonstrate? If one reads them all, a distinct correlation can be drawn between the answers. They suggest that children should use the holidays for activities outside the house, engage with topics and new material, and open up wider learning through experiences.
The wonderful thing about these suggestions is that they still embody the ‘glorious summer’ we remember from our childhoods. This is because its based around new experiences and opening our eyes to the world.
So in the spirit of this, Hampstead and Frognal tutors would like to suggest our own summer bucket list for your children.
Visit Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s home for his later years. A national Trust property, it’s been wonderfully conserved. Make sure to walk the grounds, take a look at his paintings, and visit the wall he built himself. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/chartwell/visitor-information/
The BBC Proms is the largest music festival in the world. With three concerts a day it is a fantastic evening out, as well as a brilliant way to open up a new experience for your child. The season runs from July to September.
Paris is incredibly easy to get to with the help of the Eurostar. Within the same time it takes to get to Birmingham from London, you can be eating a croissant by the banks of the Loire. Most importantly though, it’s an easy way to experience a different culture for a weekend, and visit some of the world’s finest art. Our recommendation would be the Musée d’Orsay. Just over the river from the Louvre in an old train station, it holds some of the world’s finest art. Make sure to see Léon Belly’s Pèlerins allant à la Mecque (Pilgrims going to Mecca).
Finally, look out for Hampstead and Frognal Tutors Summer Reading list, published shortly, which includes books for both Children and Parents.
by Jonathan Coates