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The Summer Conundrum: How to Keep the Learning Going

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Every year as we turn the corner into summer, I am bombarded with questions from my parents about education and how to keep the brain momentum throughout the summer. Here are my top 10 most asked questions.

Have another question? Email me at educon@earthlink.net. I will answer your individual educational questions about your children with tips for making your summer better.

1. How do I keep up the learning for the summer?

Children forget almost everything in the summer. When home, be sure to include schoolwork in some shape and form depending upon the age of your child at least three times a week. From kindergarten on, you can build the school corner. Be sure to make a special workspace for the summer filled with workbooks, art project supplies, and a journal for writing. Before 5, you should be reading daily to your child and have art project days. Middle schoolers need to spend time reading, writing and building vocabulary. Once in high school, the focus should continue to be on reading for content and enjoyment.

2. Summer is so short. What activities do you suggest?

Every age is important especially once children are reading on their own, so review workbooks in math and reading comprehension are mandatory. Also, use your public library; they plan a host of reading activities monthly. Make it a goal to read a new book at least every two weeks and ask questions about the book. Be sure your child writes in a journal or draws pictures of creative places or things they have seen or done. (A sample journal page is included at the end for your review). As the children get older (5th grade and above), a vocabulary book or web teaching tool is advised to build a rich vocabulary.

3. Do my children need tutoring?

Tutoring is overused and overemphasized. It is needed only if your teacher suggests it or for enrichment and remedial work. Tutoring companies are in the business to make money so interview who is going to work with your child. There are good camp programs available that stress enriched reading skills and/or empowering children to think and abstract. Check your local schools for interesting programs.

4. What should my child be reading?

There are book lists posted online, in libraries, at your school and often in a summer packet. The bookstores also have good book tables for kids. Go with your child to pick out books and give them variety: a biography, nonfiction, adventure, mystery, science fiction or fantasy. Children take their cues from you. Have a specific reading time where everyone in the family is reading daily.

5. What areas of education are really important?

The most important areas are math, reading and writing. However, getting your children to write may be difficult so get creative. For example, your child may be an artist. Let them draw and do an art project and then write about the drawing. Perhaps your child may be an athlete. Focus on a sport and have them write about it or make up math problems surrounding stats of a certain team. If you take a trip, when you get home have your child write about the trip or draw a picture. Writing on a computer is also acceptable so let them build PowerPoints, write books, do research and then formulate a project with specific questions.

6. What kinds of other summer programs are out there that I should look at?

There are many programs sponsored by different schools that have not filled up yet. From art camps to drama, to circus camps to even science skills, there are a myriad of places to research. Go to the newspaper, online directories of camps, to your friends and ask what have their children have done that they like to recommend. You can find museums, theaters, botanical gardens, religious institutions, athletic departments, colleges, and even malls that are sponsoring activities for kids. The costs vary but the neighborhood areas often sponsor free camps, movie camps, culinary chef camps, reading and math camps and/or a chess camp; pick a camp that your child may enjoy from cheerleading, to soccer, to lacrosse, to sleep away. A camp program provides stimulation, interaction, teamwork, fun and a little free time for you.

7. How much TV do I let my child watch?

In the summer, we often have more down time and children have a tendency to become couch potatoes. During the summer, limit TV to an hour a day. At the start of the week, create a TV plan. For elementary school kids, pick out the shows with your child. For middle schoolers, talk about the kinds of shows they like to watch and why and how 'reality' shows are not real life. Finally, by high school your children are now working or taking summer school or extra classes, and therefore are busy and TV is not a priority.

8. What constitutes Internet use and how much?

This is an ever-changing area to monitor. There are wonderful games, Internet sites and learning opportunities online but the computer can become an overused and addictive device. Treat the computer like TV and develop a plan of what your children are spending time doing. There are many websites that your children should not be using, so spend the time scrolling their browser history. To find good educational websites, ask the targeted questions. Email your school to send a list home of approved learning sites, ask the librarians at public libraries, or survey your mom groups and blogs. Use educational sites like Scholastic and Education.com, as they are comprehensive resources and provide wonderful games that are challenging and reinforce skills.

9. What are critical thinking skills and what age should start working on those?

These special thinking skills can be started as young as 3 years. Ask questions that have substance such as: "Why do our plants need water? Why are pools dangerous to all people? Why are swimming lessons important?" As the children get older, they need to learn to analyze and synthesize material. After a child has read a book, ask questions that are thoughtful in nature: "Why did the main character give away all his belongings?" or "What does it mean to be a miser in the Midas Touch?" Stretching the brain is one of the keys to building future thinkers.

10. If you were me, what three things should you remember about summer?

The three R's: Review, Relax, Recharge.

Sample Journal Pages: Parent writes a topic and then the child responds.

Serious Questions: Why do squirrels collect nuts?
Fun Questions: Why did the worm get lost in the mud?
Facts: Research three questions about the Orioles (baseball or even birds)
History: Why is Eleanor Roosevelt so important?
Game Page: Make your own game with dice and draw it out and write up the rules

Just be fun and creative!