Tips And Tricks To Keep Your Kids Learning This Summer! How To Avoid Summer Brain Drain.
Summ-Summ-Summertime! When the living is easy and children are free and wild. For all of us summertime evokes memories of drinking from hoses, swimming, playing outside with friends until the street lights come on and falling into a sunburned dreamless sleep. As a parent, I think I look forward to summertime as much as my children do. The freedom from my job, time to make memories with my kids and just an overall slower pace, yet there is a hidden cost for this freedom. That is the onset of summer brain-drain. It is estimated that the average child loses roughly 2-3 months of knowledge over the standard summer vacation. More if your child has a learning disability or is a special needs child.
As a mom and a teacher, I have seen the effects of this on children upon the beginning of the new school year. However, even though this is a real problem, I still am a firm believer that kids need to be kids and summer vacation is a right of passage that needs to be experienced. The children of today are often treated like mini adults and often forget the joy of just being a child during the school year. The stress of being a mini adult can often be as detrimental, if not more so, than the summer brain-drain.
So as a parent, what can you do to stop this leaking of knowledge? We all know that getting your and your child/children to stick to a set schedule in the summer is nearly impossible. Getting them open a book to read and write is next to impossible. And forget about even suggesting that they even do a math problem. The answer is simple: Trick them Into Learning. Learning opportunities abound everywhere .You can make the simplest outing into a educational event without anyone but you being the wiser. Most of the time these "adventures" cost little to nothing and provide valuable educational time.
One of my favorite tricks is to simply go for a walk. When you simply go for a walk you are opening your children up to the world of Science. Look at the clouds and discuss what type of clouds they are and what type of weather that might mean. Bring a field manual and try to identify new plants and what type of animals like them. Or a bird watching manual, see how many types of new birds you can find in a half hour walk. When you get home, follow up this impromptu lesson by confirming your findings.
Another, great place to walk is to go to a cemetery and see if you can find the oldest person in the graveyard. This involves math because they have to figure out how old they would be if they were still alive today. Not to mention, you can try to research the person or the time period and get a good social studies/history lesson in. If you aren't into graveyard stomps, try walking around the old part of community and look at the old buildings and then research their history such as who owned them, what happened to the original owners, find pictures of the way they used to look.
Gardening and picking your own fruits and veggies is another great way to sneak in few good math and science lessons. By gardening or by visiting Pick your Own Farms you expose your children to the plant life cycle, water cycle, and the many different ways of farming. Not to mention, it opens up a good format for discussing the advantages of green living. As, for the math have your kids try and figure out how many quarts, pints or gallons of fruit or veggies you will need to make 100 pints of jam.
Baking or teaching your child to cook is another great way to get in a few more lessons. When you are in the kitchen you have to read, and measure. Also, you can involve a good science lesson through small experiments like mixing vinegar and baking soda together and watch it fizz and bubble. Make your own bubble blowing solution or make noise putty with glue and cornstarch. These all involve reading, math and science. Not to mention on the days when they can't go this can provide hours of non-game fun.
Do puzzles or crafts. In the summer there is always a jigsaw puzzle started somewhere in my house. Puzzles help keep the mind sharp and help to build problem solving skills in children. Another, great activity is to learn how to do a new craft such as rug braiding, knitting, origami, model building or pottery. These types of activities keep children's (particularly younger children), minds in a learning mode.
Check your local library. Often, during the summer months, most libraries have summer reading programs for children of all ages. The library in Maine, where we live in the summer has a great reading program. The programs are all age appropriate and accommodate all levels of reading. For the older children they can join a summer book club where they all read the same books and get together once or twice a week and discuss the book and hang out. For the younger children, for every 2 books or hours they read they will receive a stamp and their name on the library wall. When they reach 5 books or hours they get a small prize. When they reach their reading goal of 10 books or 10 hours they get to attend an end of summer reading party where they receive Subway Coupons, a free book, a T-Shirt. Not to mention that they have crafts and activities that they can attend all through the summer that are educational.
Find a local chapter of the Society of Creative Anachronism. Most groups have an annual summer event where they stage a weekend long War. War simply put is where members of the society turn a campground into a medieval town. They have a historically accurate Merchants Row where, you can buy or watch them make armor, jewelry, clothing, yarn, and food. They also have classes where you can learn to make your own bow and arrow, medieval weapon history, medicine, the rolls of women in children in these societies and the list continues. Everyone, is required to come dressed in period costumes and use courtly manners. Costumes you can either make yourself, buy online or borrow. You don't have to be a member to participate. But there will be some cost for this in the form of admission and costuming. This is a great learning experience for kids of all ages.
If your children find that they will just go crazy if they don't play a computer game try using websites like Hooda Math, Hooda Brain, or Hooda Word. These games are a lot of fun and provide a lot of educational value. Funbrain is another great educational, but fun gaming website that your kids can use. This website offers math, reading, spelling, grammar, science and history games.
Finally, the ultimate trick for summer learning is to keep it fun. We need to remember that summertime is their time and they need the break from the hustle and bustle of the school year as much as we do. Maybe, even more than we realize. Let them play, drink from water hoses, get dirty and sunburned. But, remember you can still sneak in a good lesson here and there and they will never know because it is just Fun!