Forget the summer brain drain. Let them chase fireflies instead.

We are staring at the end of summer vacation. The academic year starts in about two weeks for my two children, and some local schools go back as early as Monday.

Already? It seems like it was just June, and like many other moms, I had so many plans for the summer. We were going to read every day. We would do a few minutes of math or writing in the evenings, to stave off the dreaded brain drain. I wanted my son to become more proficient at keyboarding so he could better keep up with his school work (writing is a challenge for him because of fine motor difficulties).

I was also going to launch a massive organizing/decluttering project to finally get my house in order. Because that would surely help with school-year chaos, right?

Here we are in mid-August, and I haven’t crossed much off of my list. We did pretty well with the reading. But math? Writing? Organization? Teaching my son keyboarding? Let’s just say we started a lot of projects, and most remain unfinished.

My daughter researched cheetahs, but has yet to write the paper her teacher suggested as an enrichment project. Seeing her unfinished summer homework packet on the kitchen table makes me feel like a slacker. My son started a keyboarding program, but he got so frustrated that I let it slide. We have taken the contents out of multiple rooms or closets to try to organize them, but we have yet to put things back and establish order.

I am programmed to feel guilty about this, but I’m fighting that. Thinking back on my childhood summer vacations, I never touched a math work sheet or wrote a paper. There was no structure, and there were no demands. That was what I loved about summer.

We stayed out until the street lights came on, playing hide-and-seek or tag. We chased the ice cream truck, then let our red white and blue popsicles dribble down our chins and stain our shirts. We waded in creeks, catching tadpoles and building dams.

And we were fine.

I’m not sure when all of that changed, or why there’s so much pressure to do and be more at ever younger ages. But for this year, I’m letting my children off the hook. I’m not measuring my kids’ summer by the number of academic skills they’ve retained.

Instead, I’m counting how many fireflies they’ve caught. Or tracking how many miles my daughter has logged on her bike since shedding her training wheels. Or cheering the number of somersaults my son turned in the pool. And shaking my head at the amount of sunscreen we’ve plowed through, slathering them up before we send them outside.

By those metrics, I’d say it’s been a productive few months.

It might make for a rougher September, with the shock of returning to the rigid schedule of school. But it’s a chance worth taking for a summer well spent.

Have you spent much time on academics this summer, or had a more unstructured vacation? Tell us what you did this summer in the comments.

Mari-Jane Williams edits community news for Local Living.
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