Teacher's Tips: Let the children play

    By the time this column appears, the school year will be finished.

    Your children will be enjoying a well-deserved break from school. So will the teachers.

    Summer recess is a time for rest and relaxation — and I intend on doing plenty of both.

    Since this is my last column until September and the third summer hiatus I’ve taken from writing for the Daily Tidings, I decided to establish a tradition of sorts.

    It’s not born out of laziness or desperation. Trust me: I always have new topics I want to write about.

    But it’s the same advice I want to give parents and children at the end of every school year. It’s advice that I’ve given in a previous column, at least in so many words.

    So forgive a repeat of some of what I’ve written before — but some advice is worth repeating.

    Parents, I hope you let your children play this summer.

    That’s a suggestion worth following whether your child is in preschool or about to graduate from high school.

    For many families, summer just signals the seasonal change from one set of scheduled, adult-supervised activities to another.

    “Play” can mean different things for children at different ages. Elementary school children will probably still receive joy from a favorite toy; high school-age students need experiences that allow them to test their independence or face a personal challenge.

    But whatever the age-appropriate activity, let your child experience unscheduled, unsupervised playtime because it is one of the most valuable educational opportunities we give our kids.

    If nothing else, children will experience that mild but exciting form of risk-taking that allows them to mature, learn how to meet goals independently, and strengthen their physical and mental health.

    In age where public education is dominated by state testing and the “bell-to-bell” need to meet a dozen different agendas within the limited time of the instructional day, play sounds like a nice respite.

    Besides, I encounter students who are freshmen and sophomores in high school who have parents already pressuring the kids to consider what college they will attend.

    Mom, Dad: Lay off.

    Your son or daughter will find a worthwhile school to attend and still make you proud if you give them some time to stop and smell the roses.

    Maybe your student wants to spend time hanging out with friends, riding a bicycle, walking downtown, reading a book, or simply discovering that a non-structured leisure activity won’t destroy their chances to attend Stanford.

    So, when your kids ask “What can we do?” don’t forget about Lithia Park. When your teenager proposes a personal adventure of some kind, yes, you must weigh the risks — but also weigh the potential rewards.

    After all, wouldn’t you like to go outside and play, too, if you had a chance?

    — A former reporter who covered politics and government for newspapers in California and Oregon, Paul R. Huard teaches social studies and English courses at Ashland High School. The opinions he expresses are his own.

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