July 25, 2012

Summer is here and it feels like we wait all year for these long days with no school schedules. Then a commercial for a learning center comes on and you hear that your kids can lose up to 2 reading levels over the summer and 1-3 months of learning.  Without hiring a tutor or sending them to an educational program, how can you help them maintain those skills and even gain more in fun creative ways?

1.  Join the local library summer reading program. This is something we do every year and I am fortunate my kids love it. Our library offers prizes and a free show (this year it’s a juggling  and comedy show) to anyone who participates. I’m certain most libraries offer rewards that motivate kids to read. They also have programs such as book talks, book “challenges” and book readings. Make sure you schedule them and get into as many as possible.

2. Buy several grade appropriate work books. You can easily find ones for math and reading/writing skills.  Offer your kids an incentive if they do a certain amount of pages a week. Make sure they are either doing it with you, or you check the work. What child won’t do this for a trip to an amusement park or even a trip to the ice cream shop?

3. Involve your child. Ask them what skill they’d like to improve over the summer, or which one challenges them the most. When they feel part of the process, they are more likely to want to learn more.

4.  Use suggested grade level reading lists and let the kids choose a few books to read. Even up to middle school age, parents can read out loud  with children taking turns on pages. Reading out loud is a skill that challenges, or even embarrasses children in class, so if they practice a few times a week with their parents, their fluency skills can only improve.

5. Wondering HOW you will find time to read? Don’t just think it has to be at night in bed. Bring a book to a park or beach and read in between the more active fun time. Read a few pages over breakfast. Bring a book on a hike and read at the summit while having a picnic. Take along the book or Kindle to  doctors appointments or time you have to wait.

6. Remember reading is not just books. Anywhere you are, you can give kids the opportunity to read, whether that be a brochure, a menu, even signs for the younger children. It’s the daily use of those skills that will keep them from falling behind.

7. Incorporate math into daily activities. At breakfast I’ll throw a few challenges at my kids. We drove 55 miles yesterday and will drive another 78 to Grandma’s – how many does that total? At a restaurant, let the older kids figure the tip. Give them a few receipts and ask them to tally how much you’ve spent this week!

8. Get app happy.  There are many apps, even free, that offer logic problems, puzzles, math skills and games like Sudoku and Crosswords. With all that fun, kids don’t even realize they are sharpening their skills and their ability to reason and solve challenges.

9. Don’t let them forget how to write. Even with the amount of time I, as a writer, spend on the computer, it’s important to hand-write lists, write greeting cards, write to pen pals, or Grandparents. Especially for the young Kindergarten-age kids who just learned their penmanship skills, this is an important thing to practice.

10. Have fun. Kids can learn in many fun, pressure-free  ways. Have them read recipes and measure ingredients for you. Have them grow a garden, measure plants, and graph the growth on a chart. Have them use a ruler to measure everyone’s heights and graph it. Have them map out a trip for you, or put together a road trip using research online.

11. Take it on the road. Visit Science centers and children’s museums for hands-on fun and engaging activities that incorporate various skills. Let them learn about history at natural history museums, and nature at caverns, beaches and on hikes. Any museum – from sports, to history, to dinosaurs, to air power and antique cars can help broaden a child’s horizons as well as make for a tremendously fun family experience.

Remember, the more they know, the more they grow – as a person and student. Learning in school is important but learning out of school, in my opinion, is just as important and a complimentary way to improve school skills and keep a love of learning strong all year long.