It’s summer! The fun has begun, but beyond the joy of picnics at the park, trips to the beach and endless popsicle parties by the pool, parents are looking for some structure. That’s why Florida 1st grade teacher, Betsy Eggart, was not surprised when she was asked by several parents for a “Summer Homework Packet.” But for Mrs. Eggart, stapling a bunch of worksheets wasn’t her style, so her unique “homework” assignment quickly morphed into a viral Facebook summer list.
“I can’t put life on a worksheet. I want to say [to parents] be present with your child, talk about table manners, let them problem solve.”
Eggart has a masters in reading education, is a board certified teacher at Lipscomb Elementary School in Pensacola, Florida, but more importantly, is a mother of two, with an eight-year-old son and one-year-old daughter. She says her “Summer Packet” reflects her teaching side, but has probably inspired a viral effect on Facebook because of her experience as a parent.
“It’s more challenging [to do this list]; it’s much easier to do a worksheet. What kids need is genuine face time with their parents, and not just FaceTime on the phone,” says Eggart.
Put the devices down
And that’s where Eggart focuses several of her action items for families: putting the devices down and engaging in more quality time.
“We must look up from our screens and look at our children. They are growing so incredibly fast. We could spend this summer scrolling through strangers’ vacation pictures, wishing we had their reality, or we could be chasing our reality through the sprinkler in our own backyard,” she writes in her Facebook post.
“I’m guilty of that too,” said Eggart in her interview with WebSafety. “There has been times that I’ve been looking at my phone and my son has to say, ‘Mom! Mom!’ He really has to get my attention. So I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to put it aside for a couple of hours in the afternoon, so I can focus on [my kids].”
She says not only is it parents that need to put down the screens, it’s the kids too. Eggart says there has been a dramatic change in her students since smartphones came out and became a household staple.
“We’ve seen a huge rise in children lacking attention, being able to focus on the task, struggle with something, struggle through it and then complete it,” Eggart says. “There’s been a rise in more dramatic behaviors, attention seeking behavior.”
Eggart says there is no quick fix to solving some of these behaviors, but a few simple habits over the summer can help prepare you and your child for success the following school year.
Read to your kids
It doesn’t matter the age or the reading level, sitting any child in your lap or next to you on the couch and opening a good book with them, will open up their imagination and their ability to connect with you. Eggart says reading to children is the first recommendation she gives to parents who are hoping to solve behavior and distraction problems with their children.
“As normal human beings, we want a quick fix, something to make it right, right away, which I don’t have. I tell them often, I don’t have a worksheet or I don’t have a website, that’s going to fix this for you, but if you will put your child in your lap and read with them every night, it’s going to get a little bit better.”
She has even found in her own classroom that sitting and reading with her students, has become one of the most coveted times of the day, especially as more high-tech options have really infiltrated the classroom.
Let your child be bored
“I don’t think that my mom felt the way I do sometimes, you know, back in the 80’s, that she had to be my great entertainer,” says Eggart.
She realizes it is a struggle for all parents: the need to entertain their children at all times, so they don’t say “I’m bored!” But it is in those moments of boredom that kids will really start to thrive and their creativity will shine. It also forces kids to take a break, relax and recharge.
“Sometimes we just drag our kids along with us because we think this is what they want, they need to do these things,” Eggart says. “But do they need it? Or do we want it to say we’ve done it? To put it on Facebook and put it on Instagram and look at the wonderful summer we’ve had. And meanwhile our kids are completely exhausted and can’t think straight, because they’ve been going 15 different directions.”
Let them be home, let them spend time by themselves, and get rid of the “mom guilt” and just let them be bored.
Give your kid the time to problem solve
Boredom plays right into problem solving. When a child is bored, they must be creative and solve their own problem of finding something to do. Eggart says this natural progression may be frustrating for a kid, but that is exactly what they should feel: frustrated.
“Coming up with your own way to solve a problem, it’s very frustrating, naturally frustrating. But so many times our kids haven’t been given the opportunities to struggle and learn to work through it,” says Eggart. “Don’t rush to the rescue, let them work through something.”
She says summer is the perfect time to let go of the time constraints and give your child the time they need to problem solve. As a working mom, Eggart admits she would bend down and tie her son’s shoe, just to get him out the door on time, but when there is less of a schedule and a rush, try and be patient with your child and yourself to allow them the growth opportunity.
“They need to have those opportunities, where it’s going to be hard, because it translates directly to the classroom,” says Eggart. “If they don’t have those coping skills and know how to face a problem, go over or around it, it becomes really difficult in the classroom… it fuels a lot of behavior problems. It’s likely that someone has always been right there to swoop in to the rescue.”
Just ‘be’ with your children
In the end, the “Summer Packet” is less about the child and more about the parent, putting the responsibility in our hands to continue to shape and prepare kids for their upcoming year. And although a lot of the items are easier said than done, Eggart emphasizes the need to prioritize what matters most.
“This summer, parents, just take the time, now that you have that extra space with your kiddos, to really be with them and to be present.”