10 Free Learning Ideas for Summer
Summer is officially here! I love having my daughter in a virtual school, but I also take delight in seeing her turn in her final assignment for the year. I am also aware that summer is a time when kids experience learning losses if they don’t engage in learning activities, so for some ideas, I checked in with Connections Academy Vice President for Curriculum Dr. Patricia Hoge. She reminded me how simple it is to create opportunities for summer learning.
Dr. Hoge says that “When it comes to summer learning, a little goes a long way. Investing an hour or even 30 minutes each day in educational activities will give your child a big advantage come September. Educational opportunities are all around, but sometimes you just need to know where to look or how to look at the things around you.”
Knowing where to look is a great start, so here are 10 creative free learning ideas for summer to kick-start a season of learning fun!
- Play Ball!
Let America’s favorite pastime give your kids a mental workout this summer. The Science of Baseball is a free Web site that offers fun and interactive games (Fastball Reaction Time and Scientific Slugger: See What Makes a Home Run) as well as some great historical information (The Girls of Summer). An entertaining alternative when the game is rained out!
- Drive Home Math and Spelling Skills
Yes, a 15-minute car trip is just enough time to get your NPR fix, but … it is also a great time to review math problems and spelling words. Play a game with your student and spell as many summer-related words as you can. Or challenge your child by asking how many addition or subtraction problems he or she can solve in the time it takes to drive to the grocery store. Create a routine and keep track of how much you spend with this activity—you’ll be amazed at how much practice time you’ll rack up.
- Visit a Museum… Online
More and more of the world’s great museums are offering exciting online experiences. From art and science to natural history, the Web has made a “visit” possible when a trip to the big city is not. The Smithsonian offers a Library and Archival Exhibitions on the Web searchable database to help you find all sorts of interesting exhibits. For example, explore the collection at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC or check out CT scans of a 2,500 year-old mummy at the Museum of Science in Boston. And learn everything you want to know about baseball from the Library of Congress.
- Show Me the Money!
Commence Operation Piggy Bank. Money is a tangible and fun way for students to explore math. Challenge your younger student to count the money in your wallet or ask him or her to point out the items that he or she could buy with $5 at a local shop. If your child does not have a piggy bank, encourage him or her to make and decorate one and keep track of his or her finances over the summer.
- Take a Virtual Vacation
No plane ticket? No problem! Sometimes half the fun of a vacation is planning the trip itself. With your child, decide upon a fabulous destination, then research the location at the library and online. Consider things like the best time to visit, the local currency, and how much money is needed for your fantasy trip. Read up on the history and cuisine. Finish the project with a “destination evening”—cook a regional dish and present the details of the trip to friends and family. Visit the travel Web site www.lonelyplanet.com to get started!
- Read Every Day
No list of summer learning activities would be complete without reading. Reading with a child is one of the most educational and enjoyable pastimes around. Your local library is a valuable resource and often will host special events throughout the summer. Make sure that you and your child have a library card and explore the shelves together. Take turns reading to each other and, if it is not already part of your bedtime routine, set aside 30 minutes each night to get into a good book with your child. And don’t forget to sign up your young reader for free motivational programs like www.BookAdventure.com that reward him or her with prizes for his or her reading accomplishments.
- Listen to a Story— Even on your iPod or iPhone
You probably know that your whole family can listen to great literature together, thanks to the many recorded books you can check out for free from your local public library. These are great choices for long family road trips or vacations. But did you know that your iPod- toting teen or tween can also listen to great literature on-the-go, wherever he or she is? Lots of free literature podcasts are available for everything from Aesop’s fables to Zola. Visit the podcast directory http://www.openculture.com/freeaudiobooks to pick the perfect literature podcasts for your child this summer.
- Family Game Night
Set aside one night a week for family game night. Chess supports youngsters’ analytical and problem-solving skills, and Scrabble helps boost spelling and vocabulary skills. You can play the board game, or even play free online versions, if your “plugged-in” students prefer. And every day, you can add magnetic letters to your fridge.
- Hit the Park
Take a family field trip to a local park or historic site. Kids love animals and nature, and can learn lots about science while having a ball. Don’t forget to ask park officials if they have any free student guides or activities for your kids. Many historic sites stage reenactments of battles or representations of living in a time gone by—school, home life—that really bring history to life for youngsters. Your family can also visit some of our nation’s most popular national parks, like Yosemite, without even leaving home, thanks to free sites like www.yosemite.org.
- Blast Off! to Outer Space
Visit your local science museum or observatory to learn about astronomy with your kids. Then visit www.NASA.gov, a treasure trove of free science activities, information and videos for kids. There’s even a game area, indexed by grade level.
The little things you do this summer will be a down payment for a great new school year. Hope you enjoy the links, and be sure to leave a comment telling us how you’re warming up for a great summer!