… I’ve been a long time advocate for year long schooling. None of this three months off for the summer nonsense. Three months for kids to get all soft and intellectually lazy and used to sleeping in every day so that when school finally starts back up again in the fall you’re forced to use herculean efforts to rouse them in the morning so they won’t miss the bus. It’s the lull in learning I find to be the most troubling.
So please, if you’ll allow me … a post on how to sneak learning into your summer fun. I’m not talking about making your kids do summer homework, that’s too obvious and you risk a mutiny. No, get them out of the house and sneak it in that way.
Every weekend plan an outing. It doesn’t have to be a full weekend thing. If you work outside the home that will get exhausting quick. No, just designate one day or even a half a day like a Saturday morning to your family outing. Keep it simple and reasonable. To keep realistic goals make these outings local.
Visit your city and state parks and rec website and pick a park or historical site to visit. Have your kids pick the place and do the research during the week so they remain at least quasi interested. Websites like Trails.com are great for finding local listings. Also visit the National Park Services directory.
In preparation, here are some the things they can do [your kids, not you]:
Create an “I Spy” list of local birds and plants
Keep a log of how many miles hiked.
Create a checklist of area hiking trails and see how many you can check off before school starts again.
Have the kids decide the picnic menu.
For visiting historical sites and landmarks have the kids use the computer to do research; look up photos or visit the library and find a book about the site or the history surrounding it. In North Carolina and Virginia we have a lot of battlefields that host reenactments. Check out this by state list of Historical Landmarks for ideas.
Utilize the library – go at least every weekend and let them pick out whatever they want. It all counts as reading, at least for the summer. Let them read graphic novels, comic books, Captain Underpants, magazines… whatever. Don’t get hung up on forcing them to read literature. My rule has always been, if you are insistent your kids read a particular work of classic literature then you have to read it together as a family. Families used to read together, remember?
Have the kids to some gardening. Depending on their age and ability this could be anything from raising a seedling and keeping a potted plant to advanced raised beds and homemade compost bins made from large paint buckets.
Have them fix dinner one night a week and let them be responsible for the menu, making the grocery list, clipping the coupons and using math to calculate their savings. Give each kid in the family a particular task they’re responsible for.
Spend the summer visiting free and air-conditioned museums. Get together with other families and pool your resources to take a weekend camping trip or rent an RV for a week or extended weekend. The idea is to get the kids to be involved as much as possible with the research and planning. Little things like showing them how to figure the costs of gas and mileage keeps their inexhaustible brains working to resist the vegetative state of summer.
Opportunities for learning exist everywhere, not just within the confines of a school room. With a little ingenuity and help from your kids, you’ll find plenty to do to keep them mentally engaged without going broke. I hope this post will help with the wails of “I’m bored”. If you have any other ideas you’d like to share or think would be particularly helpful I welcome them in the comments.