I laughed out loud when Sylvia Plath’s protagonist, Esther, thought to herself that her physician could write a note to the university Dean to say that she was unfit to take chemistry.

I wish that I had been clever enough to ask that of Dr. Bob when I was in 11th grade. It would have saved me a lot of heartache if I never had to meet electron diagrams and Bunsen burners. After all, everything I ever needed to know about chemistry I learned in third grade science. That is, if you mix baking soda with vinegar it creates a reaction.

Instead, this character in the classic novel, “The Bell Jar,” squirms her way out of taking chemistry for a grade on the promise that she’ll audit the chemistry class and take Shakespeare for a grade. Because she was an “A” student, the Dean obliged.

Esther had a rather valid point for auditing chemistry, because she would still learn the material despite not being tested on it. The energy that she would have put forth in preparing for exams was used on Shakespeare – a good fit since she was an English major. In the end, that is what we want from education – to learn.

Whether or not your children wish to acknowledge it, amidst summer’s sandlot baseball games, sleeping until noon, chasing down the ice cream man, television re-runs and video games, there is time to learn. Oxford Learning reports that students lose an average of two months of reading skills over the summer. That means that half of the fall semester in the classroom is trying to recoup what students once had.

In addition to the reading loss, the physical activity can also be lost during the dog days of summer. Flipping through the television remote or moving the thumbs to text are not ideal forms of exercise. Actually, they’re not any form of exercise.

Parents and caregivers can be the inspiration to get children exercising their brain cells and their arms and legs. You’ll want to get them boosting their activity level now since school has just ended, so that the lazy habits of summer don’t have time to take root.

We’re fortunate to have beautifully remodeled libraries in La Porte County. Take a trip to a local library and check out some books as you check out the library. If you’re like me and easily overwhelmed by the selection, ask the librarian for some suggestions.

You can also go on the web to www.readingrockets.org/books/summer/2017, which offers reading recommendations for children from infants to middle schoolers. For high school and adult reading, www.goodreads.com offers recommendations based on genre and covers everything from the classics to modern fiction.

If you encourage reading at the start of the day, perhaps right after breakfast, you may find that your child reads for a longer period of time because he or she hasn’t searched out other distractions. Reading doesn’t have to be reserved for a desk or sofa; encourage your child to take a book outside. An added benefit of reading outside is that sunshine helps our bodies produce Vitamin D (but avoid over-exposure).

I’ve gotten lost in many Betty J. Smith books at Millennium Plaza. The mist from the fountain cools you down on a sultry day, and you can’t beat the view of Trail Creek. It’s also a great place to have a picnic with your child. Millennium Plaza is just one of countless beautiful parks to explore as you exercise.

La Porte County is blessed with not only a beautiful and expansive shoreline on Lake Michigan, but with beautiful parks like Striebel Pond, Luhr Park, Red Mill and Creek Ridge. As you walk on the trails of any of these parks, you’re bound to see furry and feathered critters that most of us don’t get to see in our backyards.

On the rainy or repressive heat days, check out a local museum or gallery. History and art come alive in places like the La Porte County Historical Society Museum, the Michigan City Old Lighthouse Museum, Lubeznik Center for the Arts and the Sculpture Gardens at Purdue University Northwest. Michigan City Zoo and Friendship Gardens are also gems in our own backyard where beauty, fun and learning collide.

I probably could’ve been a more confident chemistry student if Khan Academy had been around in those days. There are various online tutors, but Khan Academy is the one with which I’m most familiar.

I first came to know Khan Academy when my daughter came to me with questions about substantial numbers. Even me, who repels chemistry, was able to learn and help my daughter. And, it’s good to know that if I ever need to know about differential equations and multivariable calculus, I can go to Khan Academy online at any time of day or night.

Even if your child is a math or chemistry whiz, this website offers test preparation assistance. For juniors who are preparing to sit for the SAT, Khan Academy is a great resource. For the student who is going on to earn a master’s degree, Khan Academy also has test prep for the GMAT.

A chance to foster learning is in every household chore and every special activity. Our children are learning in every mundane task or fun event. Don’t tell your child that he’ll never use Algebra again. Most people use algebra every day of their lives – they just don’t realize it’s algebra. Baking uses math; rollercoasters use physics; riding a bike uses bilateral coordination; the Grand Prix boats use engineering.

Who would think that all of these things we love have science and learning behind them?

Pamela Henderson is the director of development and communications at Dunebrook. To learn more about parenting and support programs at Dunebrook, call (800) 897-0007. Email Pam with parenting questions and comments at pam@dunebrook.org.

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