Let's Talk About Summer
I’m actually concerned about kids this summer. I imagine the idea of doing summer learning isn’t a popular suggestion for parents or kids. You may be thinking, “We did that school at home stuff and we’re done.”
But hear me out. Summer learning isn’t the same as what you’ve been doing. My kids were assigned these long, boring, “kind of thrown together” packets. Summer learning doesn’t have to be that way. It’s not as not much of a time commitment, you can get creative, and you’re already in a routine.
Unlike school at home, summer learning is designed for about 20 minutes a day plus reading time. I recommend starting with some kind of a bridge book. Bridge books are based on learning standards that students are expected to understand for each grade level, so it takes out the guesswork of what they should be practicing.
I prefer the Brain Quest series for a number of reasons. First, each chapter is based on a theme and they mix reading, math, science, and social studies into every lesson. It’s so smart because that’s actually how people learn. Second, it includes indoor and outdoor adventures which my kids love. Lastly, there’s a sticker map so kids can work toward completion. Instead of buying multiple books, Brain Quest covers all subjects and they’re about $10 on Amazon. By the way, I don’t have the readership I’d need to get paid to advertise something, so you know if I’m recommending it, I actually use it and love it. Brain Quest does stop at 6th grade, so older kids will need another option.
For our rising 7th grader, we’re using the Everything You Need to Ace Series. We bought the math and English for middle school. They’re very comprehensive and actually a lot of fun. They’re written like an older student wrote everything down in a notebook for them to know. I love the vibe and the information is great.
Summer learning is what you make of it. Get creative. Start with something your kids love and use that to keep their brains active. Have your kids teach you something. Something we've done in the past is “show me what you know” night. My daughter will make us do difficult ballet moves all the while mercilessly making fun of our inflexibility. Take time to actually listen to your kid about that video game or app or comic series they love. It may require wine, but oh well. Allow your kids to be the expert and give “their thing” a try. They’ll be more willing to do the activities you have planned for them when they feel like they have something to contribute.
Speaking of getting creative, I love the idea of a family book club. Maybe choose a theme for each month of summer and everyone reads books based off the theme. Since this isn’t a great summer to travel, choose books that help you feel like you’re traveling. Have everyone choose a book (or two) that takes place in another country. Then, do it up big. Make international food and have a big celebration where everyone shares what they learned. On July 3rd, Disney+ is airing a stage recording of the original cast of Hamilton. That would be a great kick off (or celebration) of an all things American book club. You could read biographies about the founding fathers or colonial historical fiction. If your kids like biographies, do a book club of biographies. Don’t forget to partner with your local library. Libraries do a great job to encourage summer reading and there are cool prizes for those who use the summer to read. The fun of a book club is that you do it together and you share what you learned. As the parent, you should be reading books that fit the theme too. My kids love books because my husband and I read to them and in front of them regularly.
Don't stress about reading levels in the summer. Think about the books you like to read in the summer -there's a reason they're called beach reads. Use the summer help your kids rekindle their love for reading. If that means reading a graphic novel or something they've already read, encourage them to do that. Reading easier books in the summer may bolster their confidence and make more difficult books feel less overwhelming.
I know you’re counting down the days until summer. We are too. But don’t pack up your classroom space completely. Your kids are already in a routine. They’re used to learning at home. Ride that wave. Keep some space for learning and just do it differently. This is a weird summer because some of the places we like to go like the science center, the zoo, or the historical society may not be open. It’s more important than ever that we creatively engage their minds over the summer. Ask any coach and they’ll tell you it’s obvious on the first day of practice who used the off-season to train. As a teacher, it was obvious to me too. I could look out at my class and see who was ready to hit the ground running and who felt like they had a lot of catching up to do. And it had nothing to do with intelligence. You have the opportunity to set your kids up for success in the fall, so why not try?
I’d love to hear any tips you have for making the most of summer learning. Studies show that kids can lose up to three months of learning over the summer. I don’t mean they just miss out on the roughly three months of learning in the summer, I mean they actually lose the last three months of the school year. That breaks my heart. I don’t want my kids to be in that position. With a little bit of time and creativity, we can make summer learning something that not only keep the kids’ minds active, but also creates memories they’ll look back on with fondness.