6 Ways Parents Can Encourage Summer Learning
Whether their children attend online school, homeschool, or a bricks-and-mortar school, most parents want to keep their kids’ brains active over the summer so they retain the knowledge and skills gained during the school year. But how is a parent to accomplish this goal? We asked Connections Academy parents to share their top tips for summer learning. Try their ideas, below, to keep summer learning fun and effective for your family!
Many of the responding families try to work educational opportunities into their summer vacation travels. Fortunately, doing this doesn’t need to be expensive or even happen far from home! Said one parent, “One of the things I love to do over the summer, is visit our local farms. We learn about different ways each farm runs, depending on what they grow, and we enjoy cooking healthy meals together afterward.”
Another family shared that they “love to visit national landmarks and learn the history of what makes each area special!” Other families have toured destinations as varied as a coal mine, a sugar factory, a horse farm, caves, and state capitals.
Whether cross-country or nearby, museums were also a popular destination for summer learning, with mentions of the Smithsonian and the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and various art and cultural museums nationwide. One family boasted of having visited 75 different museums! Zoos, aquariums, nature centers, and botanical gardens were also included as suggestions for summer learning trips.
Family Reading Activities
Summer learners love libraries! Connections Academy moms and dads say they spend a lot of time at their local public libraries and take advantage of free summer reading programs every year. In addition, they come up with their own creative ways to encourage kids to read, including:
- Having an electronics-free hour each day when everyone reads
- Encouraging kids to research fun topics they want to learn about
- Taking turns reading pages aloud with a child
- Challenging children to a summer read-a-thon with small rewards or prizes for each book read or for reaching a certain number of books read
- Reminding kids to consider nonfiction books when learning how to do something new such as building a birdhouse, sewing, fixing a car, or caring for animals, among other fun and useful skills
Some families added writing practice to the reading and other learning activities by asking children to write about what they learned each week. One parent asked a young reader to write a short “report” or review of each new book. Another suggested that kids keep a summer journal, either in a notebook or as part of a family blog.
Games to Make Learning Fun
Summer learning is easier and more enjoyable when it becomes a game! Plenty of families use game-based learning and play to take the drudgery out of practicing math facts or spelling during the summer.
- Use Skittles or other small candies as manipulatives while practicing multiplication or division.
- Practice math facts at the pool: kids retrieve two numbered diving sticks and add or multiply their numbers.
- Have kids take turns playing the banker in Monopoly or adding up scores for Uno or other number-based card games.
- Practice spelling and vocabulary by playing Scrabble.
- Entertain younger children on car rides by asking them to read road signs or count all the cows or yellow cars they see.
Some parents make these games a competition with bragging rights as the reward. Other families use small prizes or extra TV or gaming time as motivators.
Connections Academy families seem to recognize the value of including various types of classes in their summer learning. For students who need to boost their skills or those who want to get ahead in earning credits toward graduation, an official summer school program may be a smart choice.
Other families take advantage of summer learning programs offered by camps, community organizations, and parks. One family told us their children would learn map reading, plant identification, and firearm safety at a park, while another looked forward to an art and nature class. Other families had signed their kids up for a wolf tracking expedition, kayaking tours, and space camp. Check out local parks and recreation departments or community colleges, as well as 4-H and scouting organizations, for ideas in your area.
Learning Through Volunteering
Community involvement is a great way to combine summer learning with living your family’s values. One student reported volunteering at a local fire and rescue, while another family read to senior citizens at a retirement community. Community centers, parks and recreation departments, houses of worship, environmental groups, and animal shelters are just a few of the places that could offer meaningful volunteer experiences and opportunities to learn new skills. In addition, volunteering could also help students meet the community service hours required by some school systems.
Farm-to-table seems to be the theme of hands-on summer learning for quite a few families. Students are involved in feeding farm animals, preparing soil, choosing and planting vegetables, and taking care of the growing plants. Several families included recycling, composting, and pest control too. Later, in the kitchen, kids use the harvest in meals. “We incorporate math and science when we make homemade jellies and syrups,” one parent told us. Another family immersed their student in planning meals and doing the grocery shopping.
During warm summer days, parents also get their kids involved in nature and science activities as they camp, hike, kayak, and more. Says one parent, “We love to go on hikes and collect leaves, rocks, and other neat things we find in nature. We have pocket-sized books that show different species of plants and animals native to our area, and my children use those books to identify what we see. We also use a telescope to look at the night sky. I will usually look up videos online to answer any questions they have and expand on what we find.”
Family do-it-yourself projects become summer learning opportunities for children, too.
“We work on the farm mostly with our horses and baling hay. We have hands-on projects that require directions, measurements, and visual problem-solving,” one parent explained. Other families taught kids to use hand or power tools for building, plumbing, or electrical projects.
With all of these ideas for inspiration, you should be well equipped to keep your children happily learning throughout the summer. For even more learning activities plus some downloadable project sheets, check out our resources page.
To learn how you can be more involved in your children’s education during the school year, visit the website for Connections Academy online public school. Or to learn about online private school, visit International Connections Academy’s website.