Summer is a time of fun. The weather is nice and warm, it’s beautiful outside, and kids have fewer obligations to manage during the day. It’s no wonder that everyone tends to indulge a bit more during this time and get much needed R&R. Sometimes, though, this comes at the cost of forgetting crucial knowledge from the previous school year.
What if you could have fun and be productive? It’s no secret that most students start the next school year behind. According to Eduweek, most teachers spend at least a month at the beginning of each year reviewing material from the previous one to get students up to speed. The National Summer Learning Association says that kids lose two months of grade level equivalency during the summer. Thankfully, there is a lot you can do to make sure you child stays productive and learns during this time. You can:
There are many opportunities for learning outside. Many places such as The High Museum, The Atlanta Botanical Gardens, The Georgia Aquarium, or The Fernbank Museum have educational and family programs. Atlanta is home to many museums, zoos, and more, so there’s no shortage of things to do outside. Learning doesn’t have to cost money, though.
Many of Georgia’s state parks present an opportunity for learning as they often have snippets about our state’s history, the plant life, or wildlife posted in various areas. Local libraries often have events going on (especially reading events). If you want to create a more unique experience for your child, browse the history section (or some other relevant section) of your library and try to tie the material in the book to the world around them. Your local librarian can likely recommend great books or at least set you on the right path. Even just allowing your kids to play outside without structure presents opportunities for them to hone their creative skills.
Start a Book Club
Most schools have some sort of summer reading program, but not all kids read consistently and complete the work. Keep your child accountable by creating a book club, either between you and them, or get together with other parents to create a book club for your kids. Set a reading goal each week, and get together to discuss what you read on a day you and your child choose.
Don’t only rely on your school’s reading list. Take a trip to the bookstore or your local library and have your child pick out books of their interest. Librarians are extremely helpful in finding great, somewhat challenging books for kids. Don’t limit choices to only novels. Comic books, picture books, history books, and encyclopedias can have just as much value. What matters most is that your child is able to understand the meaning of the content and the relationships between any characters that appear.
Talk not only about what happens in the book(s), but try to have a discussion about why it happens. Talk about what the characters’ motivations may be, how the characters feel after each event, and what the author is trying to convey throughout the story. All of these things build critical reading comprehension skills.
If you want your child to improve in specific areas, you should consider enrolling them in a summer program or getting a tutor. Summer learning programs provide structure and help kids understand and refine basic concepts. Many programs focus on reading or math, but you can find programs that will incorporate STEM topics as well. Summer programs are usually a week or longer and can last anywhere from a few hours per day to a full-fledged summer camp.
If your child is trying to improve in a specific area or has challenges you want to address, a tutor would be best. Private tutors can work with students one-on-one to identify areas for improvement, address specific questions, and work with your child to achieve your goals. A tutor can review concepts from the previous school year, start teaching new concepts for the upcoming year or work with your child in a more personalized, directed study.
Involve the kids in planning
Are you planning a trip sometime during the summer? This is a great chance to teach your child how to budget, prioritize, organize, and think critically. Have your child sit next to you as you are making decisions about where to go, how you will get there, and how much it will cost.
Deciding on how long the trip will be? Show your child your calendar next to their calendar of activities and have them figure out how much time the family will have to spend at the destination, excluding travel times. While you are traveling, have them calculate how long it will take you to reach your destination based on the speed of your vehicle and the distance to your next stop. This is a basic rate problem, which many students don’t fully understand.
Booking a flight? A hotel? Arranging transportation? Give your child the budget and have them crunch the numbers for extra math practice. If your child is older, try setting out a few goals and hand them the task of researching everything for the family vacation. You can still plan yourself, but it will give your child practice in managing their time well, researching material on the internet and other sources, planning and organizing their presentation, budgeting, and essential math skills, and prioritizing elements of a project to meet a stated goal. Who knows, they may find a source that you didn’t know about and save you some money, too.
Making things offers an opportunity for your child to express their creative side and have the satisfaction of producing something. It doesn’t have to be complex, either. Perhaps you plan to do some cooking or baking. It’s a great practical skill to teach your child, plus you can talk about the measurements and how to convert them.
Same thing goes for building something new. Review common conversions like feet to inches or meters to centimeters to make sure your child understands the relationship between these measurements. Basic conversions often come up in math, especially Algebra, and it’s practical, too. If making something by hand is not of interest to your child, you can:
Computers play an important role in many jobs today, and they’re having an effect on the jobs that don’t utilize them every day too. Learning how to use a computer and the most essential programs like Microsoft Office are vital. You can help foster your child’s learning and knowledge of practical skills even more by introducing them to graphic design software like GIMP, having them learn to code with a site like Codecademy, or learning the basics of how to create a website with WordPress. Have your child create a powerpoint presentation or website on a topic of their choice using some of these tools. All of them are free, by the way.
You can also use apps to enrich learning. There are apps of all kinds for any topic. Your child can learn geometry by battling monsters with Dragonbox or learn to identify plants with Garden Answers. Whatever concepts you are trying to teach, technology offers you the chance to incorporate short lessons anywhere you go.
Talk about music/tv/movies
Just like reading books, discussing music, tv, and movies could help improve reading comprehension skills. Music is a type of poetry, which many students have trouble interpreting because of the looser structure and complex meanings. Find some music you can both agree upon, and take a look at the lyrics. Talk about what the musician is trying to convey in the song as well as the tone, story, word choice, sentence structure, and more. With music, you can also discuss the added layers of the rhythm, beats, and instrument choice that the musician uses to bring their message to life.
Depending on the TV show or movie, there can be a lot to gain from discussing its content. Producers, videographers, editors, and so on all make choices about how things appear in the movie. In addition to the usual questions about tone and so on, you could also debate the lighting choices, clothes choices, symbolism, transitions, and more. All of these things can help give your child a deeper perspective about literature and writing.
Learn a new language
Foreign language skills are becoming increasingly important. Spanish is a great language to teach kids. It has some similarities with English, and the number of Spanish speakers in the US is increasing, presenting more opportunities to practice the language in addition to increased demand.
Other great choices include languages like French, German, or Chinese. Apps like Duolingo make learning languages fun and easy. If you want your child to have a more immersive experience with the language, try searching on streaming sites like Youtube or Netflix for shows in your target language.
Summer job/volunteer work
A summer job or volunteer work can help keep your child mentally engaged. In many jobs, they will come into contact with money, meaning more opportunities to hone those math skills. They will also have more responsibility and goals so they will have to organize well and prioritize what they do as a result.
Younger children can gain these benefits too. They can start their own business, like the classic lemonade stand. Other great fits include lawn care, light cleaning, babysitting, pet sitting, and dog walker, but the possibilities are endless.
Learning doesn’t only happen behind a desk; it can happen anywhere! The two most important things to keep in mind this summer are to create a plan for learning and to get creative. Anything around you can be turned into an impromptu lesson, and there are many ways to learn and have fun at the same time. Give them a project or teach them a new skill, but you can also help your kid(s) learn simply by involving them more in the things you already plan to do!
Ralston Medouze is the owner of Strive Academics, an Atlanta-based private tutoring company for students of all ages. Ralston began tutoring as a foreign language tutor for Emory University and began privately tutoring shortly after. Since 2011, Ralston has helped hundreds of students achieve their academic goals. He began Strive Academics as a way to provide students with tutoring that caters to their unique strengths and challenges. Tutors at his company help students with over 50 core subjects, foreign languages, and test prep.