Bridging the Gap between One School Year and the Next
Maintain, Enhance and Extend Precious Educational Benefits and Give Them a Head Start on Learning in the Fall
Studies have shown that over the summer, children are at risk of losing some of their school year learning … unless they are engaged in educational activities.
Just think of all of that hard work your child put in this school year, all the hours you put in seeing to it that he or she did all that homework and completed the various projects. It would be a shame to see any of that precious learning just fade off into the summer sunset.
So how do you bridge the gap between the end of one school and the beginning of the next while still enjoying the glory of summer? How do you incorporate learning activities into the much-anticipated break from school and get your child on board with yet more school work?
First of all, incorporating learning activities into everyday summer life is pretty easy. With minimal planning, you can incorporate most of it into your everyday summer activities. Getting your child to buy in to it is all about how you present it (for starters, you may want to not call it anything to do with work, school, or learning).
Children are naturally curious. They may not realize it, but they really do like to learn. Kids are famously inquisitive (i.e. “why?”). They are sponges eager to soak up knowledge and new experiences.
Here are some ideas for incorporating educational activities into your summer:
Read a book together every day. Then discuss the book. Have your child tell you what the story was about, what happened in the story, who the characters were, and so on. For older children, you might discuss the theme, the plot, the beginning, middle and end. You might discuss vocabulary words. You might also make the book an inspiration for other activities (art projects, cooking, a place to visit, etc.).
Some of the many benefits of reading every day include the following: spark/enhance an interest in literature; improve vocabulary, comprehension, and overall language skills; and, an added bonus, quality/bonding time together.
Some additional reading related ideas: create a reading chart and let your child track his/her reading progress over the summer; set a goal and provide some sort of reward for reading a certain number of books; visit a book store and allow your child to purchase a new book as a reward for reading a certain number of books.
Homework. Do a little homework – maybe 15 minutes every day. Ok, this is probably going to be your child’s least favorite summer learning activity, but the educational benefit he/she will gain from it will really add up, especially if there is a particular area he/she needs practice doing (reading, math, writing, etc.).
Homework can include doing flash cards, reading books out loud, doing phonics activities, practicing writing letters and words, working out math problems, etc. You can download worksheets and make your own flash cards; or you can buy some from a learning store (and let your child help select them).
Provide some kind of incentive or reward for completing a week’s worth of homework (whether it’s a sticker on a chart, a token that can later be exchanged for a prize, or a trip to the frozen yogurt shop).
Journal. Have your child keep a summer journal/scrapbook in which he/she can record summer activities. Depending on age, grade level, developmental level and so on, your child can write and/or draw pictures, take and print out photos, make collages from magazines and other materials and add mementos from outings, trips and adventures. Encourage creativity. This is not only a great learning activity, but also a great keepsake.
Educational Outings. Visit education-specific places together, such as the library, book store, museums, art galleries, zoo, mission, historical monument, and nature reserves. Research and discuss the location ahead of time. Gather informational materials (if available) while you’re there. Discuss and reflect together afterward.
Everywhere You Go. Make every vacation and outing a learning experience. No matter where you go, there’s something there (and getting there) for your child to learn. Every vacation destination is a possible lesson in language, social studies, geography, art, literature and more. To enhance the learning experience, try new things together, learn about the history of the place, go on tours, and discuss everything.
Great Outdoors. There’s nothing like getting outside and into nature to enhance brain power! So get out into the fresh air and explore – the beach, lake, mountains, desert, park, and so on. Go hiking, camping, fishing, or bike riding. Play sports or go horseback riding. Run together, walk together, learn together.
Games. Playing games together – card games, board games, athletic games, etc. – is fun, educational, and bonding. Some possibilities: have a family game night, play charades, Scrabble, Pictionary, any number of board games, or be creative and come up with your own game.
Creativity. Let your child engage in creative activities. Encourage him/her to make and build things. Provide whatever materials and inspiration that will allow for creative expression.
Play. Let’s not forget that children learn through play. So, give them plenty of opportunities to do just that: set up play dates with other kids, give time to play on their own, and, very importantly, take the time to play with them. Some summer playtime ideas: playing on the park playground; building sandcastles at the beach; bubbles; sidewalk chalk; favorite toys; imaginative play; hide-and-seek; Duck-Duck-Goose; and so on and so on.
The educational possibilities of summer are endless. All it takes is a little conscious effort, time, and imagination. By fall, your child will be ready to go back to school and pick up where he/she left off in June.
Also, by providing your child with summer learning activities, you’ll be amazed by all the things you’ll learn too.