by Barbara Gruener, Monthly Columnist
The Summer My Father Was Ten by Pat Brisson is one of my favorite summer sizzlers because it crosses cultures and generations to tell the story of foolishness, forgiveness, and friendship.
As a father and his daughter plant their annual garden, he flashes back to a mistake he made when he was ten years old and shares with his daughter exactly what happened, how he felt, and what it took to make amends.
The author uses a garden metaphor to illustrate what can grow in the fertile soil of forgiveness.
Ask your children to share a time they did something they regret and how they resolved the issue. Use this tale to inspire your little gardeners to plant a garden of their own. Have them research what grows well in their climate and soil. Troubleshoot the challenges they will face like drought or disease, bugs or birds. Using the five senses, discuss the differences between store-bought vegetables and the home-grown variety. Find out with whom they’d like to share their produce or how they plan to use their bounty. Maybe you could even build a small road-side stand!
Activities for Summer Fun
In addition to tending their garden, try one or more of these activities to engage your learners during summer:
- Make an individual time line of your life so far including highs and lows.
- Design a family crest and script a family motto.
- Look at the stars and learn about astronomy. Find cultures that have lived by different calendar systems. Create a new holiday. Decide when it is and how it should be celebrated.
- Host a BYOB (Bring Your Own Bike) party and head out on a biking trail. Have the cyclists look for specific things along the way. Or find an empty parking lot and set up a challenge course!
- Listen to a different kind of music and learn the history behind it. Who are some of its famous composers or performers? What influences in their lives brought them to this music?
- Compute the amount of time you spend each week sleeping, attending school, watching television, playing, etc. Chart the results and make percentage comparisons of time spent.
- Create a time capsule for your family. Include items that describe the way you live in 2012.
- Learn a new hobby, like latch hooking or knitting.
- Choose a favorite outdoor game like Red Rover, Tag, or Hide and Seek and change the rules. Gather a group of friends to test-drive it.
- Set up an arts & crafts center in your house; stock it with things like fuse beads and friendship bracelet kits. After you create, think about people with whom you could share your finished products.
- Get on Pinterest and find a new recipe. Write a shopping list, clip coupons, shop for the ingredients and whip up what might become a new family favorite.
- Using Google Earth, blindly pick a new location to explore. What language is spoken there? What are its cultural differences and similarities to us? To the rest of the world? What is the climate like? How about the living conditions? The economy? What is the monetary unit and how does it compare to the dollar? Research special customs and traditions as well as recipes unique to the culture.
- Prepare and send out care packages to someone you love (grandma or grandpa!) or to a soldier who’s serving overseas.
About the Author
A bilingual educator who was raised on her family’s farm in Wisconsin, Barbara Gruener has been the counselor and character coach at Westwood-Bales Elementary School in Friendswood, Texas for the past ten years. She’s also a motivational speaker and loves to influence and impact workshop participants in her signature Sing, Dance, Laugh and Build Character sessions. When she’s not at school, Barbara likes to write, read, knit, bake, and spend time with family and friends. Check out Barbara’s uplifting blog, Corner on Character, to read her inspirational stories about positive people and elevating experiences.