5 Summer Ideas to Help Your Child Be Successful Next School Year
When I taught school in Florida I always said “no thank you” when offered the chance to teach summer school. With small children at home, summer was perfect for full-time dad stuff. In those days we were off eleven full weeks, and during that time I did my best to forget everything about school. The problem was, so did the kids in my class. So when I got back to my job, I typically had to invest the first month getting the students back up to speed. Their families needed some summer ideas to help keep them on track.
Now I’m all for reinvention during the summer, but there also happen to be some highly effective strategies we can employ that will make sure our children not only have fun over the summer months but also keep their skills sharp so they don’t waste learning time when they get back into school. Besides, learning is some of the best fun your family can enjoy.
No need to assign homework every time you go to work, dad, but you might want to try the following five ideas to make sure this summer helps Junior succeed next school year.
1. Family Reading Challenges:
This is old school, but make a chart, write the titles of five great books, then run names – including mom and dad – down the side. Everyone reads, then devote one dinner a week to talking about what you have read. If there’s a movie, watch it together after the discussion. Include an afternoon at the library once a week. Make sure these are books that are readily readable in just a few days. We know one family where all seven Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis) books made the rounds one summer. At any given time, everyone is likely reading a different book, so that means Junior’s take on the story one week, Dad’s another, Mom’s the next. In my family, certain books always emerged as consensus favorites. Selections are going to vary depending on the kids’ ages (see “5 Books for Middle School Kids” for a few ideas).
2. Research Roundup:
Assign topics for research. Everyone gathers information then presents a short paper to the family. Topics could cover fun stuff such as, “Top grossing movies of 1938”, “The Olympic Games of 1972” – or more serious topics like, “How the Wright Brothers learned to fly.” Research could alternate between Internet resources and library only.
3. Document the House:
Make detailed drawings of the family home, making floor plans on graph paper, taking inventory, take photographs of the house from different angles, create art projects, and use models and watercolors. The possibilities are endless, and the scope should be dictated by age, ability, or available time. It could be a huge project and have practical value.
4. (Historical) “Bio-pic” of the Week:
Family movie night, focusing on biographical films of famous people. Prep could involve research and reports prior to the movie, and consequent critique of the historicity of the movie being viewed.
5. Re-writing news stories in their own words:
Assign news stories from major sources (New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Time Magazine, etc), then have the children re-write the articles from either their own point of view, or simply paraphrasing the content. The key is to keep all the key information, while re-voicing. For example, “The Yankees were swept in the three-game series” could become, “The Rays stomped on the pinstripe boys and I loved every minute of it!” The idea is to demonstrate comprehension and develop clear writing.