The First Day of Summer is Almost Here: What New Thing Are You Ready to Learn?
One golden summer I conquered the Lord of the Rings; another I learned to turn a heel in hand knit socks. In our house, summer has always been a season of opportunity.
My sister and I never went to summer school; instead we passed the hot, smoggy Southern California months of July and August painting rocks and weaving pine-needle baskets at scout camp, solving mysteries with Nancy Drew at the public library, and molding clay at the city Parks and Recreation Department kids' program.
If we had a gap between programs, Mom made sure we were learning about salesmanship by marketing lemons and avocados from our backyard trees, or becoming skilled craftsmen by weaving loopy potholders or sewing doll clothes.
Girl Scout Day Camp, Orange County, California, about 1963.
That's me in the back with the bucket hat next to my mom, Suzanne May.
I tried to continue the family summer tradition with my own two sons, with mixed results. One summer, when he was about eight years old, the older son was stuck on stamp collecting. I drove him to a weekly Kids and Stamps Club directed by a local postmaster, and we started ordering First Day Covers and soaking old stamps off envelopes.
The next year, it was baseball cards and player's autographs.
The younger son was infatuated with model-making. He painted tiny model soldiers, and then graduated to building and flying model airplanes.
The "no summer school" policy worked until high school when they wanted to spend the extra weeks with their friends in school programs. We compromised. I insisted that they learn something different, something new, something fun. The first summer they learned to grill a steak. Extremely useful! Next, they became adept at omelets. With dinner and breakfast mastered, they have gone on to be pretty useful in the kitchen.
Summer was always my time to learn something new, as well. As a high school English teacher, I usually needed to read several novels and develop new curriculum materials. It was a great excuse to visit New England when I taught Early American Lit. But, summer wasn't always about school.
I used the break to learn One New Thing Each Summer --
- create tables, outlines, and Tables of Contents in Microsoft Word (useful)
- basic photo editing in Photoshop Elements (fun)
- how to can tomatoes (hot, but rewarding!)
- how to make a reproduction civil war quilt
- how to scan my grandmother's letters
If it looks like each of these "skills" is a project, you'd be right. It seems like there is always some new project waiting for just the time, focus, or extra bit of knowledge needed to make it happen. I was a frustrated daily MS Word user until I bought a guide and worked through enough exercises to learn what I needed to know. Ditto, photo editing with PS Elements.
Of course, some new skills just happen -- the tomato explosion that led to learning how to preserve salsa, tomatoes, and blended tomato sauce. I even won a few blue ribbons at the county fair for those projects!
The last several years I've been working on organizing, sorting, and digitizing different family collections and learned --
- the best scanning resolution for my papers and photos
- how to put together a DIY copy stand
- easy file naming and folder organization for my new digital images
- how to file the original papers so I can find them again
But, my own genealogy research has been set aside long enough. This summer, I have already decided on on One New Thing to Learn This Summer, (plus One Other New Thing just for fun).
I have a copy of Mastering Genealogical Proof in hand; I am enrolled in Dr. Tom Jones course at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh; and I am ready to become immersed in the Genealogical Proof Standard.
All of this is probably enough for one summer learning experience, but I can't resist adding one more thing I really really want to learn this summer -- I am determined to master my step-mother's southern fried chicken. Hot, crispy, juicy. I don't think anyone will complain.
So, what One New Thing are YOU Learning This Summer?