Summer vacation is supposed to be fun and enjoyable -- a time to relax and take a break from school. However, it is also a time when your children can lose their educational edge, putting them at a disadvantage when they return to school in the 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 that stay involved and proactive in creating teachable moments over summer vacation can bond with their children and have a lot of fun learning together. When my own children were young, I was a schoolteacher, so I used the old lesson plan approach to summer activities. We took trips to many museums, and took every opportunity to practice and rehearse math and science skills, history, and geography in ways that were both enriching -- and fun.
Here are a few tips for preventing summer learning loss that worked for me:
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.
Encourage your children to connect with other children. Having a pen pal or a children's book club over the summer is a free and fabulous way of engaging your children in reading and writing, English, and literature.
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.
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.
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 summer-time vocabulary daily will increase your child's.
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.
Make the most of family vacations. 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 locations that offer plenty of recreational fun for the whole family as well.
Play tourist in your hometown. Remember, you don't have to travel far or spend a lot of money: every town has its own historical sites and interesting museums that you can take advantage of. Break out a map of your hometown and visit places you haven't visited before, or haven't been to in a long time.
Summer can be filled with fun activities that also serve as enriching learning experiences that help children keep their educational edge and prepare for school in the fall. 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, remember that learning during the summer can be fun for the whole family!