As the school year winds down, most kids (and parents) want nothing more than the freedom to dump their battered book bags in the closet and not think about school or teachers or tests for the next 75 beautiful summer days. In many ways, I am definitely that parent, cheering just as loudly as my kids when they come running off the bus for the very last time. But, in other ways, I see summer as my opportunity to expose my children to what I really believe learning is all about – self-directed exploration, quiet time to read a variety of books, and lots of hands-on adventures.
To avoid summer slide, we follow a few simple strategies for our summer vacation time...
- Free play – outside. During the school year, due to public school budget issues, my kids get on a bus by 8am and get off the bus sometime after 5pm. They are left with very little time to play outside. During the summer, my kids try to make up for that by staying outside for most of the day. Butterfly catching, sand castle building, tennis with friends, crabbing, skipping rocks, climbing rocks … all fair game. Inside just isn’t an option. Inside there are chores and laundry and dishes… Getting my kids outside and in touch with nature is one of the most basic ways kids learn. They also learn to be self-reliant, keep themselves entertained, or even just enjoy chilling out and doing nothing.
- Public Library. Sometimes we just need to cool off from all that outdoor adventuring so we hit the library and stay for a long while. Our local libraries have summer schedules of fun activities so we always keep those in mind as a fun, inexpensive way to beat the heat and learn or experience something new. Even if nothing is going on, my kids could easily hang out at the library for an hour or more. After gathering their stack of books for the week, some of my children might look for an activity to do or a picture to color while others just find a quiet spot to get started on a new book. Even mom participates in quiet reading at the library and picking out some new material.
- Write – every day. Every day my kids will write something. Sometimes it is a journal entry in their summer journal and sometimes it is just a haiku. At the start of the summer, I let the kids pick out their journal of choice. For the younger kids, I have found great journals that have space at the top for drawing pictures or even a writing pad with stickers at the back that can be used as prompts. I also let postcard writing to count for writing time. Who doesn’t love getting a postcard? I collect addresses from friends before the end of the school year so I have them at the ready all summer long. Postcards to grandparents and aunts and great aunts also go a long way on the brownie-point scale. Don’t forget those! My older son prefers for me to give him a prompt so I often google “4th grade writing prompts” and just toss him anything I find. I really don’t care what they write as long as they write.
- Explore something new. This year, my three older children have been exploring the Hour of Code (www.hourofcode.org) and the additional lessons and games available for students to teach themselves coding. They don’t do it every day, and they are all moving at their own pace, but exploring computer science isn’t something that any of them would have the opportunity to do during the school year (unfortunately!). My older son recently heard he can learn to program mods in Minecraft. I don’t even know what he means but I think I will be looking into that for him soon…
- Have adventures. At the beginning of every summer, we all talk about what we might like to do this summer or specific places we want to see. Visit the zoo? Ride the train? Eat dinner in the city? Our adventures don’t have to be costly or time-consuming – some of them are full day trips but others are just a visit to a new ice cream place we might want to try in a new town. Any day with an adventure is also an easy day to write about in your summer journal – bonus.
It doesn’t take much to keep kids engaged and learning all summer long. Invite some friends over, make it fun. If you need a jump start, find a few simple activities on Pinterest to get the ball rolling or break up a long day. Grow crystals, make mushroom spore prints, try to sew something, make tie-dye shirts! Whatever you do, don’t give up. Summer slide stops with you. What are your tricks for avoiding summer slide during these beautiful summer months?
Cooking up local, delicious and gluten-free food with her kids at www.erinbrighton.com
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