Learning How to Summer

Learning How to Summer

By Shelley Brown P ’P ’32 ’33, head of early childhood; Holly Fidler P ’28, head of lower school; Lissa Wade, co-head of middle school; Cristen Geary P ’35, co-head of middle school; Rishi Raghunathan P ’27 ’30, head of upper school

“I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.” - Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of the Island 

June is, indeed, a highly anticipated month for adults and children alike who yearn for the halcyon days of summer. June brings fireflies, swimming pools, sleeping in, lemonade stands, and time for the mind to wonder and wander. We put so much stock into the summer months when routines shift, school deadlines disappear, daylight is abundant, and everyday tasks become, we hope, a bit simpler. Yet, how many of us will set unrealistic goals for ourselves or our children of what to accomplish from June through August? And when we fall short of those goals, how do we manage feelings of inadequacy or regret? Do we worry that we don’t have enough on the calendar to keep our young ones physically and intellectually occupied? Or, the opposite: have we overscheduled our children and ourselves, and not allowed enough time to recharge our batteries and enjoy a slower pace? The nagging debate of summer brain drain vs. summer brain gain plants seeds of doubt about the plans we make for our children. No matter the plans, learning does not suddenly stop in the summer. In addition to sleepaway camps, Wellington’s Summer Program, and other scheduled learning opportunities, consider the ways you can keep your children engaged with everyday, routine activities. 

We must remember that in every season, children are always watching adults. We are constantly modeling behaviors and sending signals about our values in the way that we allocate our time. One habit we want all children to adopt and cultivate throughout their lives is reading. As the middle school language arts department wrote in their summer letter to families, “Reading should be an enjoyable, enriching experience. We love it and we want you to love it, too.” We know that reading promotes academic gains, critical thinking skills, creativity, a broader vocabulary – the list goes on. This summer, be sure your children see you reading and hear you talk about what you’re reading – articles, novels, newspapers. Read to and with young readers. Invite independent readers to tell you what they are reading. Offer to read the same book and schedule a date with your child for a book talk. Make it extra special by having your child choose a location that connects with the central idea or character of the book. Bonus points if you can incorporate food for a multi-sensory experience! Be sure to patronize your local library for books and special programs, and support independent bookstores whenever possible. Make reading an intentional part of learning how to summer. 

Math is everywhere! From vacation countdowns and budgets, hours of travel, exercise routines, estimated time to do household chores, to doubling or halving a recipe – you can weave meaningful math into plenty of daily conversations. This is also a great time to reinforce memorization of basic math facts for younger students. Addition and multiplication tables can serve as discovery and review tools along with fun flashcard quizzes in odd slivers of time between main summer activities or long stretches of time traveling, watching, or waiting. The concepts of measurement, perimeter, and area have clear real-world connections as you engage in gardening, home organization, room makeovers, walking local trails, and playing sports with specific boundaries. They may not know it’s math, but the more they can make the connections the deeper their problem-solving skills will grow!

Help your child (re)discover the art of letter writing. For younger children, postcards are a more manageable option. Visit the Columbus Museum of Art (free on Sundays) and have your child pick out a card to send to a loved one. An unexpected, handwritten note from your child will make someone’s day and kick off waves of positive emotions, for the sender and the recipient. Children love receiving notes, too. A surprise note left on a bathroom mirror or at the breakfast table might just make your child’s day. Why not kick off a new routine by setting out stacks of sticky notes and brightly colored pens and starting a written back-and-forth? You pose a question and wait for a response. Be sure the question is low stakes and lighthearted–the sillier the better! Here are a few ideas to get the conversation started.  

Young people have a strong sense of social responsibility and justice. What issue – local or global – does your child care or want to know more about? How can you be a vehicle for your child to learn more about their burgeoning passion? Even if it’s not your particular interest, you can build a bridge to your child by learning more about what fuels them. Learn more about how to volunteer right here in Columbus. 

At Wellington, we know that learning need not be confined within classroom walls. Travel is a wonderful teacher, but there’s no need to venture far away during the summer. In central Ohio, we are fortunate to have numerous destinations within a short drive. During the summer of 2020, Latin teacher Emelie Inderhees made it her family’s mission to visit every Columbus and Franklin County Metro Park. See her for recommendations on how to build your own adventure, park by park! Take advantage of summer festivals, concerts, farmers’ markets, and outdoor movies. Make your “we never have time to go there” destination list. You and your child will appreciate a novel experience and the opportunity to learn more about our capital city.

In her 2020 article, “My Kids Have Nothing to Do This Summer. Now What?,” sociologist Dr. Christine Carter identified five “buckets” of daily activities to support children’s well-being: physical, emotional, social, cognitive, and spiritual or humanitarian. We believe this recipe works for adults, as well. In the spirit of modeling habits and behaviors, we’d like to share with you what’s on our summer playlist, of sorts. 


  • Yoga and walking the dog - Mrs. Wade
  • Riding bikes with my three boys and husband (often ending at our favorite local ice cream shop!) - Mrs. Brown
  • Swim lessons at the pool - Mrs. Geary
  • Exercising daily before my family wakes up - Mr. Raghunathan


  • Spending time outside - morning coffee, watching the sunset, working in the garden - Mrs. Wade
  • Although my boys have outgrown their naps, we still have a quiet time each afternoon and that quiet time is equally as important to me as it is to my young children - Mrs. Brown
  • Going for a drive - it's a great place to have conversations with kids in a low-stakes way
  • Making time for my spouse and I to explore Columbus and to reconnect with each other - Mr. Raghunathan


  • Making plans with friends I don’t see during the school year - Mrs. Wade
  • Recharging with my friends on each other’s back patios in the summer evenings - Mrs. Brown 
  • Storytelling/listening to the stories of elders – living history! - Ms. Fidler
  • Spending time with my neighbors and the people in my community - Mr. Raghunathan


  • Fourteen Talks by Age Fourteen, Michelle Icard 
  • The Daughters of Erietown, Connie Schultz
  • The Science of Parenting, Margo Sunderland 
  • The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America’s Education System and How to Fix It, Natalie Wexler
  • Giannis: The Improbable Rise of an NBA MVP, Mirin Fader
  • Joining the summer reading program at our local library - it meets my children’s love of reading and the competitive nature of my family 


  • Mission work in Franklinton with my son and our church youth group - Mrs. Wade
  • Participating in Seeds of Caring volunteer events with my family
  • Volunteer at Community Development for All People Free Store and Fresh Market on Parsons Ave - Ms. Fidler
  • Find a local green space to pick up trash and clear invasive species
  • Write thank you notes to people who have impacted me and my family - Mr. Raghunathan

However you choose to spend your days with your children this summer, remember that learning never stops, and it is always more enduring and effective when you share it with someone. Our summer wish for you is that you carry the joy of June with you–through August and beyond!