At our school, we foster a culture of “lifelong learning” because we believe that adults who never stop learning tend to be happier, more satisfied, and more successful.
However, this philosophy isn’t the main reason that we encourage our students and parents to keep learning alive over the summer vacation. Primarily, we promote summer learning because students who have enriching life experiences during the break are far more likely to experience gaps in learning the next year and enjoy a successful start in the fall than those who spent the summer in front of a gaming console or glued to their smart phones. Plus, a summer that’s filled with learning adventures is way more fun than a summer of boredom and aimlessness.
Remember, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to provide interesting learning opportunities for your children—you just need some commitment and a little bit of creativity (since your first few attempts may be met with yawns or eye rolls). As we head into summer, here are a few tips that can help inspire your own bright ideas to keep learning alive:
One: Turn the kitchen over to your kids for one week each month. Give your kids a budget and let them research recipes, shop for ingredients, plan menus, and prepare meals. Encourage them to be creative by planning “themed” meals that are accentuated by appropriate background music, snappy chef’s attire, and table décor. Don’t forget: Mistakes are learning opportunities, so resist the urge to jump in and help, even if it means something might come out a little burnt or messy.
Two: Discover the joys of gardening. Nothing beats the sense of accomplishment that comes from a kitchen centerpiece or a summer salad made of living things that you’ve planted, nourished, and grown to maturity. Stake out a back porch, a balcony, or a plot of land near the side of the house; then encourage your kids to grow their own lettuce, herbs, flowers or anything else that can be planted and harvested quickly during the warmer months. Get more gardening tips.
Three: Schedule a family camping trip. Whether you end up somewhere on the Appalachian Trail or you just pop up a tent in your backyard, camping excursions offer the chance for your kids to help shop for provisions, research camp sites, build camp fires, and take a lead role in family conversations under the stars that result in a lifetime of wonderful memories. Get camping tips.
Four: Ask your kids to create summer journals or scrapbooks. Not only can this project be approached individually or as a family (with your kids taking the lead), it can be carried out digitally or in a moretraditional scrapbook format. Include photos, favorite quotes, short “stream of consciousness” essays, souvenirs from summer trips/adventures, and any other details that will be fun to recall when you and your kids pull out the journal/scrapbook in years to come.
Five: Hit the swimming hole. If you live close to a beach (lucky you!) or have access to a pool, be sure and take advantage of the many opportunities for exercise, play, and relaxation that swimming offers. Don’t forget: Swimming isn’t just for recreation, it’s an important life skill. If you have a child who is weak on the fundamentals, check your local Y or community center to find out about affordable swim lessons.
Six: Get to know your neighborhood library. When it comes to free or low-cost learning adventures, there is absolutely nothing that compares to the vast resources of your local library. Books, e-books, magazines, special events, classes, lecture series, games, DVDs, and much more are easily accessible at your neighborhood library—often for free—and in the summer, most libraries offer a slate of programming especially designed for children and teens.
To stay informed, bookmark your library’s website, sign up for any free newsletters or e-blasts they offer, and follow the library on social media. BONUS TIP: If you live in or near a large city like Dallas, Houston, Austin, etc., try to make at least one trip to the city’s university library or the main branch/downtown public library. These locations frequently have archives and special collections that the whole family can enjoy, especially if you’re working on a special project (see Tip Number Nine).
Seven: Host an “Art and Music Week.” Pick up a few supplies from the dollar store, Wal-Mart or Michael’s, then set up an art station and challenge your kids to paint, draw, collage, or sculpt something to “unveil” by the week’s end. Add an extra layer of creativity by having your kids select a complementary music genre (jazz, classical, old-school 80s, etc.) to soundtrack their work on their masterpieces. You can keep up enthusiasm for the project by offering fun facts about your kids’ chosen art medium or musical genre at the breakfast or dinner table each day.
Eight: Volunteer: Volunteering is an opportunity for your kids to open their minds to the needs of the community and discover the unparalleled satisfaction that comes from sacrificing to help others. Your child’s volunteer experience can be as simple as purchasing and collecting “wish list” items for the local homeless shelter to a one-time or regular gig where he or she is expected to show up somewhere and provide a service. Your local government websites, churches, and non-profit resource organizations (like United Way) can provide ideas and inspiration regarding charitable groups that might need your help.
Nine: Complete a special project. Yet another activity that can be pulled off individually or as a family, special projects can last a day, a week, or the entire summer, and cover anything from re-organizing the kitchen pantry to researching a family tree to coming up with great ideas for Grandma and Grandpa’s 50th wedding anniversary.
Ten: Become an explorer in your own city. Research and explore your town’s historical sites, visit an ethnic restaurant that’s new-to-you, investigate new neighborhoods, and go for a nature hike in that park you’ve been meaning to investigate. When you’re finished with your own backyard, hit the road and check out any of the hundreds of interesting destinations right here in Texas.
Lastly: Don’t forget to rest! A student who is happy and healthy is more likely to learn than one who isn’t, so take advantage of the summer vacation to sleep in once in a while, make a late night ice cream run, lay on the couch with a good book, and just chill.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Kaye Rogers received her Ph.D. in Educational Administration with a minor in Statistics from the University of North Texas. She earned her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Tarleton State University. A life-long Texan, she has taught math and science in public schools and also in Spain. She has worked in public education for over 18 years, where she is committed to innovation and choice for families. She has opened three choice schools and is currently the Director of Virtual Learning at Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, where she oversees their state-wide virtual school and blended schools program.
Learn more about iUniversity Prep and see if online learning is right for your child. Check us out at www.iuniversityprep.org or give us a call at 817-305-4895.
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