By: Magda Elkadi Saleh
Dear Parents: Assalamu alaikum.
The school year is quickly coming to an end, and, if your children's school is anything like my school, things are going to be very busy the next few weeks. Then, just a few days after the last day of school, Ramadan will begin.
Subhan'Allah, when my kids were young, and I tried to keep them actively engaged in the summer, they would whine, "But, Mama, it's summer vacation!" "Yes," I would reply, "it is Summer Vacation. It is a vacation from school, not from life."
It is very important to me, as a Muslim and as an educator, that children and teenagers stay active and engaged throughout the summer. The two and a half months should not be spent sleeping until noon, then lounging around and then staying up late at night. Their minds and bodies need to stay engaged throughout the summer, so that when Fall rolls around, they are not totally unprepared for school. Again, Summer Vacation is a vacation from school and not from life. Remember, Allah SWT will hold us accountable for all of our days and for all of the hours in each day; He does not stop keeping track of us during the summer.
If you are not sure what to do with your kids over the summer and/or how to keep them actively engaged, there are so many web-sites with information for you. The easiest two things to Google are: (1) Kids Summer Activities in Tampa; and (2) Kids Ramadan Activities. For the first search, not all of the activities will be appropriate for Muslim children, so you, as a parent, will need to go through them and see what would be interesting to them and acceptable Islamically. Subhan'Allah, I did a very quick search and found many places/activities that I was not even aware of in the Tampa Bay area. For the second search, you will find a wealth of Ramadan activities for all age groups that both boys and girls will enjoy and benefit from.
If you have teenagers, you may want to direct them to volunteer service at any one of many non-profit organizations in Tampa. Most of them can earn valuable Community Service Hours towards National Honor Society/National Jr. Honor Society and graduation requirements, while gaining fulfilling experience serving their community.
For all of the activities, you can choose to enjoy them as a family, or you can enjoy them in groups. Remember, most places offer discounts for groups of 15 or more.
Of course, throughout the entire summer and with everything else you plan, you must include the Masjid in your plans. In Ramadan, that will be easy, as many of you will take your children with you to Iftar, Taraweeh and Fajr. Try to keep the daily connection with the Masjid even after Ramadan and try to commit to praying at least one prayer there per day with your children.
In addition, you have to include READING in your summer programs. If your children do not have Library cards, this is a good time to get them one. Your local library will have many summer activities for kids. Also, Barnes & Noble has a Reading Marathon that starts June 4for students in grades 1 - 6. Google it for more information. If you are not sure about what books your children should be reading, ask their teachers for Summer Reading Lists. [Have you seen the new book: It's Ramadan, Curious George?] If your children are in the public school, please make sure to read the recommended books before directing your children to them; they may not all be appropriate for Muslim children and teens. You can also go to https://www.commonsensemedia.org/ to find out if a book is appropriate for your child to be reading.
If you will be traveling over the summer, engage your children in the history of where you are going and in the current events that surround that place. Every hour of every day can be a learning experience.
My final words of advice: ENJOY your children over the summer. They are so precious, and they grow up so quickly. Make use of the extra hours that you can spend with them each day and cherish them will all your heart.