by Jessica Frierson, June 2021

Summer offers many opportunities for fun, educational experiences. While everyone may be ready for a break from the textbooks, the learning doesn’t have to go on vacation. In fact, it is a great time to cultivate the idea in your children’s hearts that education is an enjoyable lifelong pursuit. 

Hands-on science is always a win in our house. So to enhance our study of insects, we recently purchased a small mesh butterfly house and six painted lady caterpillars. As we read about the characteristics of Order Lepidoptera, which includes butterflies, moths, and skippers, we observed our new friends doing the work of caterpillars – eating and molting, eating and molting. Their final exoskeleton became their chrysalis, and we are eagerly awaiting their emergence in their beautiful new winged bodies. In the meantime, we are reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and making our own collages using tissue paper painted by Eric Carle himself. 

Several nests built around our home and yard spurred some of my children on to some serious birding sprees. They have made use of an app from the Cornell Lab to identify birds they see and hear each day.  The well-worn pages of our field guides are a constant companion, and their nature sketchbooks are full of their newly discovered winged friends.

Summer is also the season of growing. Whether it be some herbs in a couple of flower pots on a window sill, a small section of your yard set aside for wildflowers, or a plot to grow some vegetables, children of all ages can enjoy the thrill of watching a tiny seed transform into something of beauty or the ingredients of a tasty meal. Nurturing a plant and discovering the conditions it needs to thrive not only gives a young person a chance to acquire a useful skill, it also touches something deep in their souls and reflects many spiritual principles about life.

Summer travel can become an enrichment opportunity as well. Here in North Carolina, we have many parks, mountains, and waterways that are teeming with varied species of both the flora and fauna types. We are also blessed with a rich historical heritage that can be explored at nearly any vacation area we can visit. Out-of-state travel opens even more doors of discovery. Balancing plenty of beach or pool days with side excursions to area forts, museums, lighthouses, or aquariums maximizes the time and money spent on vacation by being able to visit places you might not have during the traditional school year. Rainy days are often salvaged by finding a nearby museum or place of historical significance. Be sure to take along some blank sketchbooks and drawing pencils so everyone can record their favorite discoveries.

Even the weather patterns of the summer months or the constellations above can be the jump-off points for the culture of new interests. Letting your child take the lead while providing the tools they need to explore their ideas and enhance their skills is the key to empowering our children to become scholars wherever they go. Model for them the joy in diving beneath the surface of everyday events and unearthing treasures in ordinary places. The pleasure of relaxed education can be a vacation in itself.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”  — John Lubbock