Summer break is here! As parents and caregivers, many of us are excited about trips we have planned and spending a little time relaxing, just as the kids are. While summer is definitely a time for fun and family, take a moment and ask yourself: how can you make it a time for learning, too?
Studies show that it is very common for children to lose months of reading and math skills over the summer break. So how can parents keep kids engaged while still allowing for some summer fun? While it may take some creativity, there are many options both in the community and on the go, to help keep your kids from suffering from too much learning lag.
Ready, Set, Read
Instilling a love of reading can be a tall order, but a visit to the local library in the summer may give kids a jump start. Sign up for your local library’s summer reading program, which offers fun incentives for goals met, which encourages reading without pressure.
As far as what kids should be reading, feel free to loosen those reins a little during the summer. Let them explore something new, or even read the occasional magazine. The mind is a muscle, and as long as they’re working it, don’t worry about details. Just encourage a little reading time every day.
If your child does best with the structure offered by a schedule, go ahead and schedule reading time into his or her day—and yours as well! After all, children whose parents are frequent readers tend to be better readers themselves. If you need ideas for great reads, your local librarian can offer up fun and age-appropriate reading suggestions for the whole family, or visit www.metrofamilymagazine.com/summer-reads.
Many teachers will send home information or suggested activities for summer break at the end of the school year. Edmond elementary teacher Kim Mula puts together a packet for each of her students based on their learning level. “The package consists of math and literacy activities, and book suggestions that are on their reading level. I also send home sight words to build on reading fluency and a list of websites that can reinforce concepts that were learned in the school year. These websites usually are related to school textbook adoptions and district curriculum.”
If your child’s teacher hasn’t sent home specific information, you can always ask for suggestions. Teachers want their students to be successful, and the more time students spend on summer learning activities, the less time spent reviewing information in the fall.
Older students, particularly those in Advanced Placement classes, may have summer reading lists or other activities to complete. Look through any information your child brings home, and check the school website for additional information which may not have made it home.
Surf the Web
While it’s smart to limit computer and internet time during the school year to prevent homework distractions, consider easing up on those time restrictions during the summer months. There are many safe and educational websites that have fun learning games your child can play. “There are many great websites that provide literacy and learning activities for kids,” says Mula, or you can always ask your child’s teacher for suggestions.
Whether it’s at home or away, camp can provide a great opportunity for learning in a fun atmosphere. Overnight camps can be specialized for learning opportunities, especially for niche fields such as computers, sports, science, music and even math. Other activities are typically interspersed to maintain an active experience for everyone.
Not ready for overnight camp? Day camps allow students to focus on certain areas of interest, such as acting, writing, or music. Camps often last a week at a time, and your child may be able to enroll in more than one during the summer.
[Editor’s note: find a list of great camp opportunities in the online directory at www.metrofamilymagazine.com/summer-camp-guide.]
Remember, travel is a form of learning all on its own. Let your kids in on the planning and research part of taking a vacation. Have them research the area or map out a route. Encourage kids to read or play games while you travel (alphabet game, anyone?) for on-the-go learning that’s fun and entertaining. If you are pressed for time or money, don’t worry. There are plenty of summer learning opportunities locally, such as the museums, zoo, aquarium, concerts and parks that they don’t usually get to attend during the school year. Consider having them keep a journal of their activities as a way to sneak in a little writing practice.
Keeping young minds engaged in learning will help to stave off boredom and summer learning lag. Whatever you do this summer, remember to enjoy your family and have fun!
[Editor’s Note: Find all our great summer resources here!]
Shannon Fields is a freelance writer and single mom to two girls. An Edmond resident, she graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma and is an HR manager in the medical field.