OUTLOOK — By Bader Al Kiyumi — Come summer vacation, it’s time for unlimited fun and no-study pressure for children while it is a big challenge for parents keeping their wards engaged. Call it summer recess or summer break, children spend much of the day joyfully playing, having fun and releasing energy in physical movement despite the scorching heat.
In Oman, school vacation for primary students will start at the end of this month and for others it will be from next month. Often parents are baffled as to what kind of entertainment or programmes can be offered to keep them busy during these 150 days of leave. Many parents make a strong case for their children to take summer classes or give them chances to pursue their choice of interest or hobby. This is possible because they have options available to them in summer.
Parents also prefer coaching classes for kids to help them with a subject which is troubling them. In this case, they are sent to their own teachers or to formal summer school. A summer class can be anything from a formal branch of study in a particular school topic to less formal studies in art, music, dance, athletics or individual interests like computer programming.
At the same time some parents want their children to have a relaxing summer. So they plan visits to places of interest that have learning value such as museums of all types, national points of interest, or travel to any new place. They want a total break from studies to help the child recover from a stressful school year.
A number of families strike a middle road offering their children a class or two during the summer, but also offering them with learning opportunities at home and some unstructured time too.
In some countries, authorities and charities organise many activities including campaigns, charity work and suitable courses.
I decided to pen this piece after visiting Mohammed, one of my friends in the Wilayat of Haima in Al Wusta Governorate. He says: “Our students still do not receive good care and attention during the summer vacation particularly in this governorate which is located outside the Governorate of Muscat”. “Unfortunately, our kids spend their holidays playing, watching TV and spending their worthy time in nothing. We do not have vacation centres, where our children can go and engage in some fruitful activities”, he laments
Many parents in the interior join Mohammed to air the same view and share the grievance as they have no options available to them to “do something” interesting, or to pursue an interest or hobby.
“Most of the parents send their children to the mosques for learning the Quran Tajwid — recitation — but still children are not very happy because it has become an annual ritual for them”, quips another parent from the same village.
Even if they want their children to be sent for learning drawing or painting, these centres are far from the place of their stay.
During vacation most of the Omani families in the city send their kith and kin back to their native places. “Transporting is the biggest problem we face. Most of the recreation centres are far away from our place of stay”, adds Mohammed.
Teachers always advise parents to benefit from the summer break. They say the vacation should be a time when parents rediscover or reaffirm their love for their children. As John Lennon sang in the quintessential summer of 1967. All you need is love.
As one teacher quips: “Parents: that’s enough; the summer holidays are great time to calm down and relax. No matter how poor or rich you are, leave the teaching to the teachers.”
Last week, when we finished Al Asr prayer, we were discussing with my neighbour the summer programmes and how we can design a good schedule for our children. However, one of my neighbour was upset for the long school vacation. I told him that the kids holiday is a good time for you to sit with them, discuss and eat together and you can go for a picnic.
If mum is cooking a meal, why can’t the child learn to make a salad, cook eggs, boil water or wash dishes? Here they learn to become self dependent.
Also families can plan visits to places of interest that have learning value such as museums of all types, national points of interest, or travel to any new place.
Some parents are opposed to their kids engaging in games. This is mainly due to the modern education system that has separated learning from play so that they have become opposed, but insofar as games and learning are human activities that are created by one brain, there is clearly a deep relationship between them.
Whatever it is, my advice is ‘Let your children enjoy lots of free time and play during summer vacation. Physical activity in play does not just build up the body, but it also develops intellect and reason, so from a long-term perspective, it is important for both the mind and body.’