Give Me a Break! School Work Over the Summer?

As summer quickly approaches, many parents start to debate the merits of having their children continue to do some amount of academic work over the summer.  Certainly, parents don’t want their children to lose any academic gains that were made over the school year.  Yet, many parents want their children to “just be kids” over the summer.  Believe it or not, you actually can have it both ways. You just need to reframe the term “academic.”  Instead of using traditional academic workbooks, consider the following fun ideas:

1. Reading: Going on a trip this summer? Have your children pick out activities to do while you’re there from reading an online website or tourist brochure.  Then, have your children read the billboards, street signs, and the name of restaurants as they go whizzing by.  Let them pick out a book, magazine or comic from the library to take with them in the car.  When you eat at a restaurant, have them read the menu out loud and guess what mom and dad might order.  If you visit a museum or zoo, have your children tell you about it by reading the information placards.  If you aren’t traveling, you can still use these ideas.  Other ideas might include hosting a children’s book club at your home, arranging a scavenger hunt, or simply having your child read a recipe or grocery list back to you.  Be creative.

2. Writing: What child doesn’t love telling his parents exactly what he wants for his birthday? Instead of simply listening and nodding, ask your child to make a list of desired items for you. Going to the grocery store? Have your child help you write the list, maybe even including something special they might like. Other ideas to encourage writing include sending postcards to their friends, writing letters to grandma, and writing invitations and thank-you notes.  For really creative kids, they may actually enjoy writing a story or a play to share with family and friends as their audience.  My own daughter loves the privilege of using my computer to type her stories.  It makes her feel grown-up and allows her the opportunity to practice her writing and spelling.

3. Math: Like reading, the world we live in gives us many opportunities to practice our math skills. Recipes reinforce fractions and whole numbers, so enjoy some time cooking with your children this summer.  Does your child love to build? Get some scraps of wood and help him build a birdhouse or treasure box so that he can learn about units of measurement and basic geometry. Will your child be making money from a small job, small business (e.g., lemonade stand), or getting an allowance? Summer is a great time to teach kids about spending and saving, while reinforcing the principles of math.  Test your child’s skill at making change.

4. History: Most towns have historical districts or historical homes.  If you can, visit them and talk about what was going on in the town, nation and world when that home or area was built.  Some towns even have great history museums that offer a wealth of information about the history of art, music, transportation, civil war, westward expansion, and the industrial revolution, just to name a few.  Find out what is available in your area and make a day of it.

5. Science: Go online to find some great hands-on experiments to try at home. If you’re not that brave, allow your child to grow some flowers, herbs or vegetables.  Catch some insects or collect some leaves and then have your children try to identify them.  All of these are fun ways to encourage science over the summer.

6. Social Studies: Will you experience different cultures or religions when you travel this summer? Take the opportunity to teach your children how other children live, including the similarities and differences to their own situations and belief systems.  Give your children the opportunity to try foods and listen to music from different cultures.  Even if you’re not traveling, sometimes it’s fun to have a special culturally-themed night.  For example, teach your child a few Italian phrases, look at pictures of Italy, pick out some beautiful Italian music and plan an Italian dinner.  Then, pick another country or culture for another evening.  I can assure you, the kids will love it!

7. Geography: Summer is a great time to teach kids how to read and interpret maps.  In addition to what you might consider a traditional map of states, cities and roadways, maps can be found at the zoo, in museums, in libraries and on nature trails.  Children love to look at the map legends to try to figure out where they might like to go.  Another fun car game is to have your children read license plates as you travel and then try to guess the state capital or name something that is associated with that state.  Children also love to make and read “treasure maps,” so hide an object, make a map and enjoy the laughter that follows!

At the end of summer, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how much your child has learned over the summer without suffering through flashcards or workbooks.  Even more, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how much he or she enjoyed learning and how little you had to harp on him or her to do their “homework”.  It’s a win-win all the way around!