Stop the Summer Slide

By Carolyn Lyon James

Too late! I’ve already slid. I confess. I’ve been staying up way past my bedtime, watching ridiculous things on Netflix. (Let me save you some time here: Do NOT watch the movie, The Ice Road. Ugh. What a painful two hours of my life I wasted on that one.) As a consequence of staying up, I’ve been sleeping late. And when I do finally get up, I spend hours looking at Facebook and playing silly games on my phone.

I can’t believe it’s July already. What happened to June?! It feels like school got out for the summer just last week! I am constantly fighting a battle within myself. One side tells me to sit back and relax and let the days fly by, while the other side tells me to get busy and fill my days with more activities. According to a BBC article I read, both sides are valid. (Not exactly helping either side win the war, but it’s nice to know that my situation isn’t unique.) The article says that filling up your days with new activities may make the summer seem shorter at the time, but the new memories these activities create will make the summer seem longer and fuller when you look back on them in the fall. We all need time to relax, but if we establish TOO much of a routine, the days begin to meld one into another and, before we know it, the summer is gone.

It’s easy enough to break up a routine. Staying up later than during the school year, like I do, is one way to change things up. Another way is to go on adventures. They don’t have to be long, expensive trips. My husband wants to visit all of Iowa’s oddities, such as the world’s largest frying pan, the world’s largest concrete gnome, and the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption. I have other friends who visited all the “foreign lands” of Iowa, such as Paris, Norway, and Delhi. Summer is the perfect time to try a new hobby, or a new exercise, or start reading the books you never quite got around to during the school year.

The good news in all of this is that filling your summer with new adventures and creating new memories are not only good for making the summer seem fuller and longer, the new activities exercise your brain, making it more flexible and active. In other words, your brain is learning. Doing new and fun things is a great way to trick yourself into learning.

So, turn off the television, and go for a walk. Try walking in a different direction. Or even go to a whole new neighborhood. Hop in the car and drive to Decorah to see the gorgeous waterfall at Dunning’s Spring Park. Or pick up that Tana French novel that you got last Christmas and enjoy a murder mystery set in Ireland. (I’ve read one of her novels so far, and I am now completely hooked.) You’ll be creating memories, having fun, and learning all at the same time. What a great way to stop the summer slide!

And, hey, you read this blog. That counts toward your summer reading. Good for you!