Fun Is Enriching, Too

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As my 16-year-old daughter placed the last few items into her backpack for her summer adventure, I caught a glimpse of something.

What I saw may have made some parents happy. Not me. I reached in and pulled it out, telling her there was no way she was taking this on her trip.

After all, summertime is for new experiences, trying new things, taking a break from our everyday lives.

So, what did I think was inappropriate for her journey? Next year’s AP Environmental Science textbook.

Of course, I was impressed by her diligence. But did discouraging her from taking it make me a bad mom? I don’t think so. Days after finals, I thought it was too soon to start on next year’s curriculum, especially since she’ll be home for several weeks before school starts.

After 10 months of nonstop classwork and after-school activities, summer should be a time to relax, explore and make new friends. That’s the type of break that will prepare her for junior year—the toughest one before college, sprinkled with driver’s ed and SAT prep on top of the already challenging academics and time-consuming extracurriculars.

This isn’t the first time I faced such a dilemma. A few months ago, my eighth-grade son decided that instead of going to science camp, he wanted to spend the summer taking ninth-grade science so he could skip ahead.

Why did I find that so disturbing? Some parents would have been thrilled by my son’s initiative. I couldn’t figure out why my gut was telling me that there was something so wrong about his plan, until one mom pointed out that no student is meant to absorb an entire school year in several weeks.

When were carefree summer days eclipsed by science Regents and AP textbooks?

I compromised with my daughter. She took along a required reading book and her sketchpad for portfolio art. Secretly, I’m hoping that she has such a good time that the sketchbook returns home blank and her novel comes home unread.

I’m also hopeful that the two of them look back on this summer with smiles on their faces, realizing that having fun will enrich them as much as studying.

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With more than three decades of publishing experience at national magazines, Sheri ArbitalJacoby is the editor of the Great Neck Record. She also writes decorating, travel and green articles for <a href=”http://longislandweekly.com” Long Island Weekly and Anton's special sections.

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