Two words can help you prevent learning loss this summer: enrichment and involvement. Academic delay that occurs over the summer is one of the greatest problems confronting teachers each fall. In fact, when your children return to school, they may have experienced such learning loss during the summer, that they will need to spend several weeks catching up to where they once were academically.
Parents who stay involved and vigilant for those teachable moments over summer vacation can bond with their children, get to know them better,and have a lot of fun learning together.
When my children were young, I was a schoolteacher, so I used the old lesson plan approach to summer activities. We took trips to the art museum, history museum, science museum, NASA and took every opportunity to practice and rehearse math skills, science skills, history, geography and all matters of curriculum in the most relaxed and painless way.
Challenge yourself this summer by deciding to enrich your children so that they can return to school in the fall without having lost any academic ground. Here are a few tips that worked for me:
1. Visit your local library. A family trip to the library is a wonderful source for many activities. This includes taking turns reading to one another, sharing interests and opportunities for you and your child to write and discuss your choices of reading material. You can also record stories that you and your children create for one another, to be played back at bedtime or by a babysitter when you have a date night.
2. Go on field trips. Field trips to art museums, science museums and history museums open up all kinds of activities that are related to history, math, science, geography and social studies. Not only do your children benefit from mutual discussions about your field trips, but also from reading, drawing pictures and writing stories about what interested them about their excursions. You can link a trip to a particular museum to the library, to find books that relate to the museum exhibitions. Then there are trips to ice cream factories, cheese factories, bakeries, farmer's markets, arboretums, zoos, historical sites -- all of which provide learning opportunities. Discuss with your children the measurements needed for baking and making ice cream and cheese, topics of history sites visited, and so on.
3. Travel the world without leaving home. Geography was a big hit at our house. My family spent many hours looking at an atlas that we checked out at the library. The atlas is a great source of maps, color photos and explanations of resources found at particular locations. You can also hang a map in your children's room and using colored tacks, track the course of a friend's, family member's or famous person's trip across the globe. My family even planned dinner around a particular country, using the atlas to tell us what products could be found in that country and cookbooks to help us find native recipes. This is not only a lot of fun, but also a great learning tool, as the mind remembers what is accompanied by the senses, especially sight, smell, touch, taste and the joy of creating.
4. Encourage your children to connect with other children. Having a pen pal or a book club over the summer is a free and fabulous way of engaging reading and writing, English and literature.
5. Cook with your children. Cooking is a great way to teach about measurements and how to use fractions. Theme nights for dinner not only teach cooking skills, but math, as you teach your child how to measure and convert weights, volumes and numbers. Using an historical cookbook for a taste of history can help you and your family re-enact events important to our past. History will be remembered when linked to a delicious meal, including an historical dessert.
6. Play school with your children. Let your child take turns being the teacher, with other children or with yourself. Include the creation of lesson plans, colorful pencils and workbooks.
7. Get into the act with the whole family. Putting on family plays, writing scripts, rehearsing and memorizing parts can help your child not only learn about writing and organization, but also about performing. Try musicals, which can tap into your child's musical talents and skills, while all along building self-esteem.
8. Spell F-U-N with family game nights. Family game night including Scrabble, Taboo or crossword puzzles, is a great way for your child to polish up on spelling. And simply enlarging your summertime vocabulary daily will increase your child's.
9. Teach about money, stocks and bonds. Use the newspaper as a teaching tool. This is an interesting and fun way to engage your children in math. Your kids will love it, because they will feel grown up, imitating you.
10. Send your kids -- and yourself! -- to camp. If your child is lucky enough to be able to go to camp over the summer, they may enjoy a camp that focuses on their interests. For example, science camps and writing camps are interest-based. If you can't afford a camp, you still have access to free and available day camp activities in your town or city. For example, performing arts centers, parks and recreation departments, various museums and outdoor theaters often offer free day programs in the arts, nature, and sports.
11. Take family vacations -- real or virtual. Family trips to historic places like Williamsburg, Valley Forge or The Liberty Bell are fun vacations that include the re-enactments of important moments in history, and are so exciting. If you can't afford family trips, you can plan for a future trip, and supervise the use of the Internet to create a virtual vacation. Remember, you don't have to travel far or spend a lot of money: every town has its own historical sites that you can take advantage of, right there at home.
12. Establish chores with a purpose. Small chores around the house can give your children the opportunity to save money, to count money and to plan for something special that they need their math skills to accomplish. Supervised math, science, geography, history and spelling games on the Internet can be saved as a reward for a job well done. Chores can provide so many lessons: responsibility, obligation, commitment, as well as curriculum.
Summer fun can be filled with the enriching learning experiences that children need to prepare them for school in the fall. And, summertime is an ideal relaxed environment that gives your child a chance for independent learning. There are so many more things you can find to do with your children; this list is just a start. Be creative, be engaged and most importantly, have family fun in the sun!