- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2000

I recently spoke at a conference for law students near Fraser, Colo. Just outside the back door of the main lodge was a small trout pond that yelled my name whenever I had a free moment. The salmon eggs I got from the store didn't work too well as bait, but when I turned over a good-size rock, I found a few small worms that produced a few nibbles from the elusive trout.

Just being in that region of the Rocky Mountains and fishing was extremely nostalgic for me (despite the general view that nostalgia isn't quite what it used to be). My family spent several summer weeks in that part of Colorado during my childhood. I did a lot of fishing with a willow branch, a bit of fishing line, a hook and a couple of sinkers.

It seems to me that our children don't know about some of the old-fashioned pleasures of childhood summers. So I propose to my fellow home-schoolers and parents in general that we adopt a summer curriculum for our children to teach them some things that used to be the sine qua non of summers and childhood.

Here are a few of my suggested courses for parent-taught summer school.

1. Teach your children to fish. Learning how to bait a hook may help develop the skills that could produce a future surgeon. Figuring out how to untangle a snarled line is the equivalent of a three-credit course in law school.

2. Go out to the back yard at night, sit down in the grass and teach your children to identify and name some of the basic constellations.

3. Get a pocket knife and teach your children how to whittle. Some can make small figures of animals; my specialty as a child was the basic pointed stick.

4. Teach your children how to play hopscotch. You need some chalk, a small object for a marker and pretty good knees to absorb all the jumping.

5. For heaven's sake, teach your children to swim. This is not only fun, it is basic safety.

6. If you don't know how to play "steal the flag," ask around your office until you find someone who does. Go outside at night and play it with your children and the children in the neighborhood. If your running skills aren't what they used to be, be the jail guard.

7. Plant a garden with your children. The world has a major zucchini shortage, and you can help solve this crisis.

8. Find a farm that allows you to pick your own strawberries. If you have a choice between taking your child to the top of the Eiffel Tower or to a field of strawberries I think your better choice is to get a few quarts of sweet, ripe fruit off the vine.

9. Teach your children to play jacks. I know it supposedly was a girl's game when I was a boy, but my older sister was trying to be a state jacks champion, and she taught me the game to get some practice. If it hadn't been for blatant gender discrimination, I coulda been a contendah. I hereby challenge any member of the national staff of the National Organization for Women to a game of jacks. Name the stakes, and I will smoke you.

10. OK, marbles also. I wasn't nearly as good at this one.

11. Go for a hike. Teach your children the names of trees and flowers as you go along. Also, teach them the fine art of selecting an appropriate hiking stick.

12. Perhaps best of all, teach them how to read a book by flashlight while snuggled down inside a sleeping bag.

Have a great summer.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and president of the Home School Legal Defense Association.

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