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Jun 17, 2013

Summertime- Learning Time!

Faith Berens

Whatever happened to the good old days of summer vacation? When I remember the "hazy and lazy days" of summer, I think of hide-and-seek until dark, bike riding, climbing trees, reading books, swimming, roller skating, going fishing, camping trips, and making mud pies! My summers also often consisted of helping my mom and grandparents in the garden by picking vegetables and strawberries, as well as watching and lending a hand in the process of canning. I did not know it, but I was learning! Reflecting back on my fondest childhood summer memories, these are the experiences I want for my son and daughter.

But today, as parents we are faced with scary terms such as summer reading and learning loss. Indeed many children, especially struggling readers, forget some of what they've learned or simply slip out of practice over the summer. Ron Fairchild, executive director of the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland states, "One hundred years of research confirms that all young people are at risk of losing ground academically over the summer months." This Center also reports that, on average, children lose 2.6 months of math skills during the summer. Research also shows that reading just six books during the summer may keep a struggling reader from regressing. When choosing the six books, make sure that they are just right--not too hard and not too easy!

So how can we keep our children learning all summer long, yet balance it with relaxation and the gift of allowing our children to just be kids? I think with a little creativity and planning, parents can help their children combat the summer learning loss and still enjoy an awesome, fun summer!  Here are some new (and some classic) ideas:

  • To keep your kids' math skills fresh, have them play online games, math skills games, and play board games as a family. Also, be sure to include them in meal planning, shopping, and cooking, or they can help price items, make change, and count money at your summer yard sale! Don't forget the classic kids' lemonade stand! I particularly like these game websites: Kidzone , Game Aquarium, Fun Brain
  • Learn to love your local library and check into the Summer Reading Program that most libraries offer! Obtain summer reading lists from either the librarian or check out the top 11 2013 summer reading lists for kids and teens. As always, be sure to preview books for content.
  • Books on tape/audio obtained from the library are great to listen to in the car, at home, outside sitting under a tree, etc.
  • Local summer camps, vacation Bible schools, as well as your local performing arts center classes, workshops, and day camps provide great activities.
  • Have your child keep a summer journal and/or scrapbook, or write letters, postcards, or email friends and relatives to keep writing going over the summer.
  • Create engaging learning activities by tapping into local resources for short trips and field trips. I love the state parks, museums, zoos, aquariums, farms, botanical gardens, etc. Check out Swimming Holes to find local, natural places to swim and explore nature!
  • Go on a virtual or actual city scavenger hunt in your town or a city close by!
  • Grab a blanket and telescope and go stargazing! Particularly, in August, you can see the Perseid meteor showers, with predawn hours being the best time to watch. Pack a picnic breakfast--this is one family learning experience your child will never forget!
  • The following web-based resources are packed full of fun activity suggestions and information for parents: Kaboose, Reading Rockets, Family Education

So take heart!  With some creative thinking and planning, as well as goal setting with your child, you can ensure he has a fun, learning-filled summer (and you won't be too stressed out!)

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