In a little over a week, my kids will all be out of school for the summer. I've begun a little planning for summer family fun but a lot of planning for family learning. Am I a nerd or what? But if I don't make specific learning goals for the family this summer, the time will just get away from us. Summer learning can be masked as fun, but it provides an opportunity for lots of information gathering on which to 'hang' all their school learning. A wise principal once said to me that children come to school with a brain kind of like a closet. The more experiences they've had, the more 'hangers' in their closet on which to hang more knowledge. Kids who have experienced a lot of different things are better able to learn and visualize related topics at school. For a completely lame example, think of when kids study naval exploration. America was settled by colonists who arrived by water, traveling over seas for months at a time to arrive at their destination. A kid who's been in a boat even one time can better visualize the whole 'Land Ho' scenario, misery of sea travel in a storm, and the concept of compromising on a destination. (Hello, India?) So let me share a few categories of preparation for summer learning fun.
1. Make a list of fun educational day trips--museums, concerts, plays, enactments, festivals, etc. Cheap is good, but free is better. I guarantee your state has lots of great free experiences as cultural as the Hollering Contest in North Carolina or as simple as driving up to a lighthouse at night, lying on the ground, and letting the light wash over you every twelve 'mississippis'.
2. Add a new twist to existing fun spots. Maybe your family has a favorite hiking spot. Expand an afternoon hike into cooking dinner outdoors. You don't have to spend the night in a tent to learn something about camping. Or challenge the kids to a healthy lunch contest when packing for the pool. Or google some new games to play in the water at your favorite swimming spot.
3. Stock up on art supplies. Summer is ideal for big messy projects that involve things like modeling clay, paint, and canvases. Tip: Pick up cheap, ugly pics on canvas at your local thrift store (sometimes they're happy to give them away). Bring them home, and paint a surface color over them. When they're dry, let the kids at 'em. For some reason, the bigger the better. Then, you have art for their room. It's also a fun time to think about art projects for Christmas gifts. When we were kids, we used to paint sand dollars in the summer, put a hook through them, and give them to our teachers for Christmas as ornaments.
4. Choose good read alouds for summer family reading. One of my kids refers to summers as "the summer we read Hatchet" or "the summer we read Because of Winn Dixie" or "The summer of Miss Piggle Wiggle". No matter the age (or whether they're spend the night friends or relatives), it's great to snuggle up at night or read over breakfast. I could go on and on about the benefits of reading aloud as a family, but I'll save that for another day.
5. Make the most of your fridge. Clear away all those school papers, and make a plan for the fridge. I'm kind of a Latin nut, so I plan regular Latin phrase lessons on the fridge or one year it was french words or maybe just vocabulary. And one year it was multiplication tables. At any rate, the fridge is a great place or effortless learning as a family, but keep it simple, so it doesn't feel like school. I've also learned that the kids would WAY rather see Latin phrases on the fridge than a huge chore list.
SO as I prepare for summer, maybe you are doing the same. Get your ducks in a row now, and you'll feel great in August. Don't forget to hit the library together!
On another note, it's time to think about carpools for next year. Today I'm feeling particularly grateful for mine. A good carpool can make all the difference in the school year, so if you need to snag a partner, now's the time!
Now I'm dying to talk politics here, but I'll save it. I may have to digress to such postings as we approach November. All I can say is things are getting interesting. You know what, I'm going to add a poll. I haven't done that in a while, so make sure you vote! djk
My Mission Statement
I write to serve, to unite, to educate. I write to share literature and flesh out ideas that may be of interest to others. I write to document an emotion, experience, or a blip in time. My mission is to write in such a way that the reader is reminded that we can find humor in all situations. It's one of the great blessings of life.