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Challenge: Summer Fun

Don't fear the 'summer slide,' embrace it!

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This time of year, educators and experts flood my inbox with dire warnings.

They want to know what I plan to do as TODAY Parents editor to protect my readers from the dreaded "summer slide" or "summer brain drain," in which children lose academic proficiency over the summer.

What do I plan to do? Not a darn thing. I say, let 'em slide.

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Kids these days have enough structure in their lives. They start high-stakes testing in third grade and their recess and playtime have been steadily whittled away. They're over-scheduled and under-exercised.

Summer is the time to leave all that behind and run wild. Let them eat popsicles for dinner and stay up past their bedtimes. Let them run through sprinklers and spin until they get dizzy and fall down in the grass. Let them count fireflies, not decimal points. Let them flip on trampolines, not flip over flashcards.

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Let them get (gasp!) bored. Let them fill their time with silly games and even (double gasp!) mindless TV.

Let's give them a break -- and give ourselves a break, as parents. We don't need to fill EVERY moment with educational, enriching, stimulating, authentic growth experiences for our children. Let's give ourselves permission to let some things slide this summer.

Yes, in September the kids might be a little rusty on their multiplication tables. They certainly will waste some instruction time re-learning how to sit quietly, to line up neatly and to color within the lines. That's a trade-off I'm willing to make.

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Maybe I'll be singing a different summer tune when my kids are older.When we're dealing with the pressures of SATs and looming college applications, perhaps my attitude will change. One thing I've learned as a parent is that you never say never (says the woman who NEVER was going to let her children use the iPad to keep them quiet at restaurants, hahaha oh former childless me, you were such a hoot).

But whatever happens, I hope that summer always stays a little wild for us. I'll never be able to give my sons the unstructured, carefree summers I grew up enjoying, blissfully roaming my suburban subdivision until dinnertime. I'm a working mom in Manhattan, and setting your children loose to run through the streets unsupervised is somewhat frowned upon here. So there will be camp, schedules and structure. But there will be no flashcards or workbooks, I can promise you that.

If that sounds good to you, then join me... and let them slide!

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