Posted by: SDN Pondok Bambu 10 Pagi | August 7, 2009

How to make school vacations worthwhile

by Ratna Yuniati, Jakarta

Have you found yourself in a situation where you want to go on vacation but find yourself putting it off because you couldn’t leave your work?

The school vacations are here. Every student, including my sons, is excited, but suddenly I had a headache. You know why? For a very simple reason: my husband and I have to work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m, five days a week.

So we can’t accompany our sons on their vacation. But from now on, I can arrange my work schedule and spend time with my sons as well. Probably you’d like to know how I can manage it? Let’s see.

In the school’s annual calendar, there are three vacation periods. The first, a vacation between the first and second semester falls at the end of the year.

Some families welcome this shorter school vacation, because it usually coincides with Christmas and New Year.

If we want to have longer vacations, we can take a couple of days off from work. During this vacation my family will decide to visit a few places out of town — even out of the country (if we can afford it) for recreation.

Beaches and mountains are the most favored destinations, or we can use the opportunity to visit relatives.

Second is a vacation on the Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadhan, the fasting month. We usually spend the day simply having fun and enjoying ourselves. Most families have private parties and visit relatives.

Generally, we have a good time with family and friends. Thus, the way we spend the holiday almost exactly the same way every year.

Here we go! The third vacation is the longest, after students finish their studies at one level and proceed to the next.

It takes about two to three weeks in the middle of the year (June-July). Many parents — including me — shudder at the thought of having their children at home for three weeks!

We will feel guilty if we let this happen, even though we do not have holidays the same as theirs. But we have to think harder to make these holidays unforgettable moments for them.

They have already worked hard during semester. The children have the right to enjoy themselves. So we can aim for days off by balancing between this and the end-of-year holiday.

Cooking, and learning by doing

What am I going to do with my children? First we decide the place and kind of activities we will do during two or three weeks of their vacation.

On weekdays when my schedule is tight, I will use my spare time after work to accompany my children swimming, shopping or buying schoolbooks. By doing this they feel happy.

On the weekend, we usually travel together and experience a culinary journey as seen on recent TV programs.

The more “”unusual”” the cuisine the more curious we are, and want to try it.

Watching the latest movies at the cinema: That is another favorite activity for us. During the holiday season, many new movies are launched such as Shrek 3, Fantastic Four and Harry Potter.

I choose movies that are suitable for my sons, who are 14 and seven years old.

If an appropriate film is not available at the cinema, I buy a DVD and we watch it at home and make the atmosphere like the real thing — home theater accompanied by Coke and popcorn.

Besides that, my eldest son sometimes comes up with the idea to pick a day of the week as “”sports day””. We start off by riding a bicycle around the neighborhood or playing badminton or basketball in the backyard.

One thing I’m grateful for is that we have our own backyard. There, the whole family can share the joy of gardening: My mom taught me so when I was a kid.

So I asked myself, “”Why don’t I try it with my own children?”” We started by thinking about what to grow — chilis, tomatoes, peanuts, and leaf vegetables such as spinach.

I ask my children to plant their seeds, then cover them up with soil and compost, watering them well. Amazingly, they enjoyed it.

For me, is not just about planting. It’s about taking advantage of “”gardening moments”” with my kids … it might just turn out to be one of the highlights of their vacation.

Meanwhile, our family loves food, so I always have a lot of it in my kitchen. In the holiday season I have to provide extra food.

Usually I ask them to list what kind of food they want most. If there is food that I can cook by myself, I will allow my sons to help me prepare it.

I choose easy recipes like doughnuts, meatball, somay (dumplings), fruit punch. Doughnuts are a favorite for both children and adults.

What fun it is if we could cook our favorite food ourselves! It’s not that difficult.

Last year, we identified some major targets. By the end of the vacation, my eldest son was able to drive the car, the younger ride his bicycle.

In less than three days my son was able to ride his bicycle properly and our challenge to our eldest son to drive a car in two weeks was met.

At the end of the vacation we went shopping for school items such as books, stationery, school uniforms, bags and shoes. I also involved them in this activity.

We hope the above-mentioned activities were time well spent. They didn’t just waste time watching TV or using their Play Station.

Best of all, I can entertain my children with a range of educational activities so they feel confident enough to attempt other things in the future and can concentrate much better on their studies when back at school.


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