Most teachers like to help their students prevent summer brain drain with assigned readings and required math packets. But one teacher in Pensacola, FL, came up with a "summer packet" that encourages students to build skills in a different category: life. Now her message, posted on Facebook, is going viral.
First-grade teacher and working mom Betsy Eggart was inspired to pen a post, she says, after a parent asked her, “Are you sending home a packet of work for the summer?” At first she felt guilty because her answer was "No," but then she had a realization: She wants her students to study, but she'd like the lessons to focus on important life skills, positive behaviors and enriching activities with family. Her focus is clear: cultivate engagement, encourage learning and have a bit of fun, too.
“Teach your child to tie their shoes,” writes Betsy. “Find a fun trick! Watch a video! Give an incentive! Be persistent! Just make sure your child isn’t the one dragging their laces through the bathroom and cafeteria then asking the teacher to tie it.”
Her approach also champions interaction, warmth and friendliness.
“Choose a few family members and friends to write a letter to this summer,” suggests Betsy. “Ask your child to write in full sentences, ask questions and give details. Writing with a purpose makes it relevant and real for your child. Maybe someone will write them back! Include an envelope with return address and stamp to encourage that!”
Most markedly, she advocates for parents to allow their children the opportunity to problem solve.
“Don’t rush to the rescue. Hear me out. Our children need us. But they need us to let them learn to problem solve,” says Betsy. “If your child is in a situation that is frustrating, but not harmful (example: can’t put together a new toy, can’t open a lunchable, can’t decide which color shirt to wear) let them work it out! It saves time and our nerves to just do it! But in the long run, it’s crippling our children of the basic and necessary skill to problem solve and think through an issue … for themselves. Hang back … just a bit.”
Mother to Jackson, 8, and Emma, 1, she also suggests parents scale back on screen time—their kids' and their own. “We must look up from our screens and look at our children,” Betsy notes. “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 also points out that the constant noise we surround ourselves with can be distracting from the rest we need. “Society, media, Facebook all have us believing we must seize the day and do it all,” Betsy writes. “ Our children have worked hard and they need to rest.”
Other friendly advice includes eating together as a family, keeping a bedtime routine and encouraging kindness.
Her message was met with overwhelming positivity. The post has been shared more than 200,000 times and liked by more than 143,000 people. Many clearly believe Betsy nailed the meaning and purpose of summer break.
"Kudus to you! This is the first really quality rational (and refreshing) approach to elementary education I have heard in a long, long time," writes one commenter.
We couldn't agree more. Let’s take a page from Betsy, and take it back to the basics this summer: family picnics in the park and day trips to the beach. Let’s bring back letter writing and bedtime stories. The school year offers academic structure. But the summer offers opportunity for children to grow in other critical ways. And that's so important.