If you’ve been enjoying the lazy days of summer as much as my girls and I have, there’s only one way to respond to the back-to-school hype that’s looming. No, it doesn’t involve earplugs or hiding under bedcovers. If the pace of summer seems to fit your family’s needs for health and happiness best, try simplifying to make your school year life a bit more like summer—summer-ify school!
Now I’m not suggesting that children with academic demands at school slough off and focus only on recreation. But as compellingly portrayed in the 2009 documentary film Race to Nowhere, too many of America’s youth are burning out as the long-term neuro-toxic effects of adrenaline and other corticosteroidal stress hormones wreak their havoc on the growth-versus-protection orientation of a child’s being: they suffer debilitating stress, anxiety disorders, and depression.
As Allison Abramson, Simplicity Parenting (SP) coach, blogs on the SP website, “If we carve out plenty of time for uninterrupted, unstructured play for our kids, we will be ensuring that they get all the benefits of carefree summer days to balance out the stress of going, going, going.” She then asks if you can look at the time you have and decline a commitment or activity, invitation or new obligation and “choose one weekend each month, or one day each week to say “No, thank you” … and replace it with a relaxing day for your own family?”
An ideal curriculum includes a nourishing daily rhythm as well as an overall balance of academics, creativity, physical activity, and play. But if your child’s life cannot include all of these due to the high demands of one or another of these elements (usually academic), consider sheering the number of her commitments so that her life is simplified.
She may resist you on this; our current culture of overachievement has a certain allure. Many kids today, particularly in high school, load up with involvements and responsibilities, partly in response to the intense pressures they feel from the highly competitive college application process, but also partly because their culture has taught them to find a kind of high from all that achieving and producing.
But the health and happiness of a child has to be in place for any of those other achievements to manifest. Indeed, our kids too have to deploy their . So when you find the school-year getting away from you and summer slipping through your fingers like, yes, grains of sand. Try stopping, taking a breath, and finding a place to say no. Try bringing a little summer into your school year and see what might decide to bloom.