As the final school bell rings, marking the end of the academic year, a wave of elation washes over students who have eagerly awaited their summer vacation. This coveted break epitomizes childhood bliss—a time when mornings are unhurried and the pressing weight of homework and exams is lifted.
Though summer vacations provide three months of ceaseless possibility for kids, the prospect fills parents with apprehension. They know that they must find ways to occupy excited minds and restless bodies for hours on end to prevent sheer boredom from setting in.
For working parents, the challenge of ensuring their children remain engaged, safe, and well cared for while juggling jobs themselves can seem daunting. But with creativity and commitment, the “How?” becomes an opportunity in itself this summer.
To ease this challenge, parents seek out summer activities and programs for their children. Fortunately, options have expanded in recent years, from summer school to swimming, music, and art classes tailored to the interests of kids. These summer programs have become a lifeline for working parents struggling with the challenge.
However, all of these activities come at a price and unless it is a family who makes a decent income, they might be a bit too expensive to even consider. In cases where the parents can afford to pay for the summer activities, they must also consider the benefit of the programs they are putting them into because at the end of the day, they want to make sure they can grow and benefit from their experiences and activities.
Birhan Zewde, a 52-year-old mother of three, has always found different activities for her children for their summer break. When her two oldest children were young between ages 8 and 15, Birhan happily signed them up for different classes and activities each year.
“My children had different interests and back then, I was happy to indulge them,” Birhan explains. “My son who wanted to take Taekwondo lessons took classes that were given in a facility nearby and my daughter who wanted to learn how to play the guitar took guitar classes as well.”
Now, Birhan’s youngest son – with a ten-year age gap – has turned nine. Her older kids are out of high school, so she no longer needs to worry about their summers. However, giving her youngest child the same opportunities has become more difficult. The expenses are higher, and Birhan’s budget remains tight.
Still, Birhan tries her best to find activities for her son because she wants to provide him the same chances she gave his siblings. She is hopeful she can do so without stressing over how to balance cost with finding the perfect program to foster her son’s growth and development.
Much like the west, this is the juncture at which communities can step in. Neighborhood collectives, where families band together to create makeshift summer programs, could alleviate financial burdens while fostering stronger community bonds.
Parents can take turns hosting and imparting skills they possess, whether it’s baking, storytelling, gardening, or basic science experiments.
“Growing up my summer vacation was something I looked forward to, because it was a time where we get to play, learn, and read amongst my neighborhood kids,” said Christina Ayalew. “Every other day we would go to the designated houses for a day full of activities, and we did that for free.”
She recalls how the different fun activities she shared with friends taught her the value of community, though she admits it may be harder today to foster that level of trust between neighbors.
Neighborhoods today are not as close-knit as they used to be. It is common to see next-door neighbors who are not acquainted at all. As a result, their kids do not spend summers enjoying activities together.
It is crucial that society recognizes the dual role of summer breaks.They offer not just a respite from school but a crucial time for holistic development. Through collective efforts, the joy and growth that define summer vacations can be made accessible to all children, regardless of their family’s financial situation.
Ultimately, the vitality of the next generation depends not only on classrooms but also on the endless possibilities that summer fun brings.