by Pam Barnhill
Autumn is sublime; winter, necessary; spring, enchanting. Summer, on the other hand, is a gift. Summer is fresh watermelon, swimming pools, and sleeping in. Most importantly, summer is slower: slower days that are perfect for exploring the idea of scholé or restful learning.
While our school or homeschool year is often burdened with books to complete and boxes to check, summer offers a different pace—one that offers not only requirement, but also respite.
To help you take advantage of your extra time and your decreased activity, I challenge you to SLOW down this summer to fully enjoy the gift that scholé can be. This acronym contains four verbs, practical actions you can take to bring a little more scholé into your own life and the lives of your children. Let’s take these one by one.
Summer is a wonderful time to savor life and leisure at its fullest. One way to do this is by lingering over an interesting book. While your mind might immediately go to tougher reads (somehow The Abolition of Man has made it onto my reading list the past two summers), you can also enjoy easier fare like The Lonesome Gods or The Awakening of Miss Prim. There is truth—and enjoyment—in both. Host a summer book club with your kids or a poetry tea party with friends. It isn’t difficult, and they will talk of it long after it is over.
Meals are another opportunity to savor. The fresh tastes of summer grilling, the fruity fulfillment of a new sangria recipe, the melty, crispy joy in a s’more. Fill the patio with candles and tiki torches and linger in conversation. Try printing this list of conversation starters, cutting them into strips, and storing them in a jar. Use them to spark thoughtful conversations with the family and stay until the fireflies begin to sparkle in the evening.
Summer is a wonderful time to take that class and explore an interest you have been meaning to study. You can study through one of the many online options, or attend a conference or retreat.
Children can also benefit from added learning opportunities. This summer I purchased a cupcake decorating class for my daughter, and I just found an online ukulele workshop! Both are interests of hers that we really don’t have time to pursue during the school year, but thanks to the gift of summer, she has time to explore them now.
God can create great things out of chaos. Me, not so much. So I contend the way to infuse scholé into your summer is to start from a place of order—in your schedule and in your spaces.
Be intentional with the schedule, making extra time for the reading, the classes, and the dinners. Create a daily rhythm that allows time for long walks, summer crafting, and cooking together as a family. Schedule in extended library and museum visits, and create a calendar to remind you when the activities occur.
Likewise, order your spaces for scholé. Clean out and refresh book baskets with new, seasonal selections. Fashion a reading fort with blankets and pillows. Freshen your morning prayer space with a scented candle or fresh flowers from the garden (or the grocery store). Delight your senses with touches of beauty, and then take the time to enjoy them.
While learning is about the deliberate study of something new, wonder is just about being in a particular place and letting the essence of it wash over you. Go stargazing without studying astronomy. Take a walk in the woods without identifying trees. Read poetry without discussing meter. Experience wonderful things for what they are, without worrying about what they can teach you (or your children).
We can even wonder at words, numbers, and the arts. Do Sudoku or the crossword puzzle. Play a word game or a card game. Attend a play or a concert.
By being intentional, we can take advantage of the gift of summer before the long days slip away into fall. Who knows? By that time maybe scholé will be a habit we can carry over into the school year.
“I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days—three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.” —John Keats