How to keep learning active during the summer months
by Sinea Pies
For our children to be at their scholarly best, it takes hard work. Time, patience, focus and direction all come into play. Parents, teachers and the very students whom we love most – our kids – put forth major effort in the academic arena from September to June. When students don't participate in learning activities during the summer months, learning-loss always occurs and kids become rusty at scholastic skills. And in September, teachers often invest time re-teaching last year's lessons before they can move on to new material. So, how can parents make summer fun and still keep their kids' minds in the game? Here are some tips for you to come up with a winning combination:
Set a Reading Goal
Decide with your children on a minimum goal of how many books they will read this summer. Let them have a short break from studies altogether those first few days of vacation, then right after the 4th of July start in! Six books minimum is a good number but encourage them to do more.
Be a Good Example
Parents who love to learn will spark an inquisitive nature in their children. Be a great role model and read. Read the newspaper, books, and magazines. Share the interesting things that you've read with your family. Your enthusiasm will be contagious. Let them see that learning is fun!
Visit the Library
Start out the summer with the first of many trips to your local library. Get your kids their own library cards and schedule regular reading times for the whole family. In nice weather, change the reading location, go outside and read under a tree. Then, go somewhere new, like a Wegmans café, with books in hand. Plan to read a bit while munching on a chocolate chip cookie or other treat. Make it a special time out. Picnic at a neighborhood park and do some reading. Mix it up!
Select Books They Will Like
Reading is drudgery if the subject is boring or if the words are way over your head. Help your children to experience a variety of types of books but be sure that they have some that are right up their alley. The primary goal is to read – and read a lot. Your school may have supplied a summer reading list; be sure that your kids read any material that has been identified as mandatory.
Then use the remaining suggestions on the list to help fill Out their summer reading plan with things of interest.
Start a Reading Club
Invite other parents and children to be a part of a summer reading plan. Incorporate a reading club into your children's summer play dates.
Create an incentive plan to reward them for each book that they read. Make the requirements attainable and the books age-appropriate. Encourage your kids to read a lot, even write a brief report on what they read or draw a descriptive picture, and recognize those efforts with stickers, little toys or even an outing.
Go to the Web
Scholastic (www.scholastic.com) has designed the Summer Reading Challenge, an online reading program for kids. Kids can sign up to be part of a fun reading challenge that has virtual prizes and exciting goals.
Teachers can also sign up a whole class to participate.
Visit educational websites like National Geographic Kids to enjoy virtual encounters with wildlife, learn cool facts about science, and play educational games.
Kids can learn computer programming on Scratch by creating their own stories, games music and art.
Just Read EVERYTHING
Yes, reading for reading's sake does have value. Not everything has to be a book!
1. WEATHER REPORT: Hand your child the newspaper and ask them to read the weather report to you. Are sports their thing? Ask them to check the headlines to see who won the game.
2. COOKING: Show them how to go online and find a recipe that you need. Have them read the ingredients while you write it on your grocery list. Better yet, have one child read it and the other write it down!
3. GARDENING: There are great websites with vivid photos that the kids can read with you to learn about plants, soil, and climates. Even seed packets have words on them. Have your kids help by reading those instructions with you.
Move Into Math
Preserve your child's math skills by keeping them alive. When you are cooking, have your kids help you with measuring. When looking at the weather forecast, ask questions like how many degrees the thermometer will have to go up to reach the day's high. Use the clock, too.
Estimating how early you will have to leave the house to get to a destination 30 minutes away is a math skill. Be creative. Are those bulbs to be planted 6 inches underground? Get out the ruler and have your child measure the hole with you.
Science Is All Around You
Pique your child's imagination by observing the world around you. The weather and your natural surroundings can lead to all sorts of scientific exploration. When an "unanswerable" question comes up, look to the many great online sources and library books to help you out. Encourage your children to investigate, find the answer and share it with each other.
There are great workbooks your kids will love that can be purchased for a reasonable price. These workbooks are meant to be fun but they are also designed to keep your child's mind engaged. One online source, www.thinkstretch.com, offers sample PDFs of actual pages so you can see what you are getting before you buy.
So, make summer vacation fun – just weave in a healthy dose of reading, scientific exploration and math along the way!