This is the week of “closings.”  That may seem like a funny word, but it is actually the right one; we are closing down the school year! While there will be people and activities (camps) here at school all summer long, the active engagement between students and faculty in their grades levels and in their regular classes, will come to an end.  This is a true milestone in the school year as students reach this moment when we all collectively gather to reflect on the year, to thank students, faculty, and parents alike, and to celebrate the learning accomplishments that have been earned in all aspects of the program throughout the school year.  Then we head off for the summer.

Summer vacation provides a unique opportunity for all of us. Whether it is attending camps, sleeping in later, warm days, and/or family trips and gatherings, all of it comes at a time when we can enjoy a very different flow in our activity level.  Many of us need that break to rejuvenate and get our energy back.  We need to “refill our bucket of energy.”  I always have this image in my head of starting the school year with a metal bucket filled with energy.  As the year goes on, we use a ladle to slowly dip in and bring out some of that energy.  At moments of crisis it takes a little bit more.  The hope is that as we reach the end of the school year, we have just enough left to made it all go well.  We don’t want to hear the sound of metal as the ladle hits the bottom of the bucket too soon.  We always need that little bit to get to that final day.

I have vivid memories myself of my summer breaks growing up.  Just sleeping in when I was younger and being at home was fun.  At some point, I really don’t remember exactly at what young age, my parents would send us to my uncle’s farm out in the countryside in Maryland for nearly a month each summer.  My brother and I would help him on his horse farm and we learned to ride at a very early age.  It became a passion that I kept well into my early adult years.  As I reached my teen years, however, I had summer jobs that would occupy my time.  Whether it was working at a Lab at Johns Hopkins University one summer, cutting lawns, or eventually working in Ocean City, Maryland, I was always busy.  Our own boys’ summer breaks were often filled with day camp experiences, and in particular, sports camps.  It was an opportunity to get outside, run hard, and learn through that process of teamwork and team play.  And then, there was always the struggle with “summer reading” and the nagging that would come with our boys who were reluctant readers.  If they had a choice in summer reading books, they would always pick their books with a ruler, so they could get the thinnest book possible.  Regardless of the book selected early in the summer, the reading would become a battle in August to get all of that completed. I hope, none of you have to experience that, but I know each of our families will have their own unique ways of dealing with all the opportunities ahead in the summer months.

As we go into this time of the year, I do ask us all to think about making certain that while we have closed down one school year, we have not closed down our learning, our growing, and our developing as families and as learners.  I challenge all of us to focus on the following three things:

  1.  Explore.  Whether it is simply going to another part of town, visiting a museum, going on a trip, being pushed out of our comfort zone, or simply going back to old haunts that bring us comfort or joy, please make certain that we learn from them.  Explore the world around us with fresh minds and eyes.Our older boys, would race through museums.  We would have to constantly pull them back, because their idea of visiting a museum was to scan everything and get out of the building as quickly as possible.  Our third son, however, was the one who would read every plaque and every inscription.  We never got far in a museum before time was up and they were getting ready to close!  Each child will be different…and each will help create “new experiences.”
  2. Read.  As much as my family struggled with reading, reading is a wonderful thing to do in the summer.  Whether it is on the back patio, on the sofa, sitting by a pool, on a kindle or a paper book, there are lots of places to read and lots of books to consume. We provide a list of summer reading books, but there are plenty of titles out there that you and your children could enjoy reading.I eventually got our reluctant readers to read the books that movies were based on before we would take them to see the movies.  There were lots of adventure movies that came up while they were growing up and they had to read the book first.  I have a vivid memory of the movie “Patriot Games” and how much my oldest son wanted to see it.  I urged him, “Read the book and I will take you to the movie.”  I had read it and knew it was an exciting story.  I asked him questions at dinner, along the way, to make certain he was really reading.  He eventually finished it.  We saw the movie, which was a great action-packed movie with Harrison Ford.  And I loved the fact, that as we left the theater to get ice cream, I asked him how he liked it.  And his response was exactly what we would all like to hear, “It was great.  But to be honest with you, Dad, the book was actually better.”  Bingo!!! That was exactly what we would all want to hear!
  3. Talk.  So often we are in a race during the school year.  Please take time in the summer to get out of our routines.  Have meals together, grill in the backyard with your children by your side, take a long walk, just sit by each other on the patio or in the living room, but wherever we are, find time to talk.  Get to know them, get to know their views at whatever age.  Their personal views on different aspects of everyday life will be enlightening to you.  Ask them lots of questions and listen to their answers.  Realize that they may share frustrations that come along in everyone’s life that can be upsetting.  They need you to “hear them.”  It is like the potholes we are all facing on the roads after this difficult winter.  Help fill those “potholes” with new knowledge about each other and with thoughts and ideas that will help them develop the resiliency we all want them to have as they grow up.

Finally, here are two basic rules that I hold dear.  The first one was the motto of our school in San Antonio, “Take delight in simple things.” I love it, because it is so direct and simple.  It clearly implies that we all have to relax sometimes and take delight in the simple things around us.

The second one has to do with helping at home.  These are some basic house rules.  Who wrote them or where they come from, I don’t know.  But please don’t hesitate to share them with your children.

House Rules

If you open it,
Close it.
If you turn it on,
Turn it off.
If you unlock it,
Lock it.

If you break it,
Fix it.
If you can’t fix it,
Report it.
If you borrow it,
Return it.

If you make a mess,
Clean it up.
If it doesn’t concern you,
Don’t mess with it.
If you don’t know,

The beauty of school years is that there is always a restart just down the road.  While we close this school year, we all get a reset next year, plus the excitement of being in new grades, with new teachers, and new opportunities.  And speaking of looking ahead already to next year, the 2014-2015 Parents Association Board was officially voted in on May 22.  Thank you to all those who served on the 2013-2014 Parent Association Board.  We have had a great year, and I am forever grateful for the time and the service of this dedicated group.  We look forward to continued success next year.

A special thank you goes to Lisa Benn, the Parents Association 2013-2014 President for her leadership.  When you see her, please join me in congratulating her and this past year’s parent leaders for a job well done.  I look forward now to working with Liza Renner, our 2014-2015 Parents Association President and her new Parent Association Board (LINK).  Join me in wishing them an exciting summer ahead and a tremendous start to our new school year in August!!

So enjoy the summer and get plenty of rest and relaxation.  Let’s push ourselves out of our comfort zones, and I can’t wait for our paths to cross again soon.

See you soon and best wishes to you!