Let the kids get in some summer loafing

Marketplace Staff Jul 24, 2006

TESS VIGELAND: Y’know what sounds good on hot days like these? Nothin’. A whole lotta nothin’. Except maybe a dip in the pool every few minutes. Kids are supposed to loaf anyway in the summertime. But a recent poll by the nonprofit group KidsHealth says kids are more stressed than relaxed. Why? The music lessons, the sports activities, the homework . . . even summer isn’t an excuse for a break anymore. In this edition of the Loh Down, commentator Sandra Tsing Loh says all the fuss is much ado about nothing.

SANDRA TSING LOH: It’s summer, the long, hot days of . . . extracurricular academic frenzy. Families are flying to Europe so their 10th graders can study Italian and rococo architecture.

At home, the latest trend I’ve heard, for 5-year-olds? Kindergarten preparation class. And some of those 5-year-olds are six. For that competitive edge. Is there doping? Who knows!

Fellow parents? I’m all for exhausting children in a whirlwind of meaningless activity. The other day, while I lay napping, my two small daughters were busy with a project I call “Washing Mother’s Change.” My girls love to bathe things. My change is dirty. It was a no-brainer. Which is not a politically correct word nowadays.

It’s like UN-gifted. God forbid our children aren’t talented or accelerated, particularly in July, when merely average kids climb trees and swing in hammocks. Even in summer, we worry our children aren’t keeping up academically with their peers. But why?

Research shows numbers of AP classes have no effect on college performance. A 20-year study indicates a degree from a prestige school isn’t worth more earning-wise than any other. One on-line tutoring service boasts college applicants can have their essay critiqued by a Harvard-educated editor. . . . Gee, is that where Harvard leads, to part-time work in online essay critiquing?

The Ivy League . . . it’s a giant Ponzi scheme! Maybe I’m cynical because I myself started as an overachiever. In high school, I earned an 800 Math SAT and an AP calculus 5 and then I lost it. Entering college, I had that first heady beer and actually regressed, becoming more stupid than a regular person.

It wasn’t until age 34 that I realized there’s a little latch on the gas pump that, when you click it, it fills the tank. . . ?

So I screwed up my Chinese dad’s best-laid plan for me: To become, all the rage, a military weapons engineer in the Southern California aerospace industry. Which almost immediately tanked when I graduated.

It’s good I kept with the sad noodling in my diary, ’cause parents don’t always know best. So if my 5-year-old wants to skip summer chess class and start a lemonade stand? Fine.

Particularly since my change is so very, very clean.

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