Of course regular outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, swimming and so on, have been a consistent part of our summer regimen ever since the kids could walk. Last summer, however, I thought it might be nice for the kids to have an additional activity they could engage in during times when the weather might not be as pleasant, and maybe something that might keep them very loosely in the flow of their studies for the two months they are out of school.
I asked each of my kids to choose a creature they were interested in and create a slide show they could present to us when they were finished. That was basically it. Everything else was more or less up to them. The number of slides, the deadline, and how and when they researched everything was left in their hands.
Had I pushed my children to do this or pressured them to complete the project I'm sure I would have been defeating the purpose. I wanted them to own this project and to take pride in it. Although my daughter, being in grade 5, had some classroom-related experience in this, creating a slide presentation was a brand new experience for my second-grade son. I made it clear that I would be there for guidance, but only if they required it.
There were points I had my doubts these projects would be completed at all if I were not following up consistently with my two kids—that it would easily get buried among the high energy chaos of summer. However, as it turned out, every few days the kids would ask me if they could borrow my computer and work on their projects. This was a good sign. Also, instead of trying to push them in any way about the projects, I simply made a point of expressing a genuine interest in what they were doing. After all, who wouldn't be interested in seeing their child engaging in a self-driven venture that would help them grow? Ironically, when I asked to see any part of the projects, my interest was met with "Sorry Dad, you'll have to wait until it's finished!" --Well I'm glad I did.
By summer’s end both my kids had a completed project, ready to show. We got out the popcorn and my son presented his slideshow on wasps, followed by my daughter who proudly showed her presentation on squids.
Here are some points I think helped to keep my kids motivated in this project:
Ted Bahr is the founder of Prairie Sage Permaculture. MORE