By Gloria Ellis
Summer is just around the corner, and along with enjoying vacations and camps, many parents hope to keep their children’s academic skills sharp over the summer months. The good news is that parents don’t need to spend a lot of money in order to create a good summer learning program for their children. If summer learning is a goal, what parents need most is to simply commit to a schedule of summer learning and gather some good learning resources!
In order to take advantage of opportunities for summer learning, parents need to have more than just the desire or motivation for their kids to engage in learning activities. Parents often hope, and even vaguely plan, to help their students accomplish academic goals over the summer. However, when a parent does not have this time scheduled before the summer starts, it is almost guaranteed that the end of the summer will come and no learning activities will have been pursued.
Obviously the easiest way to be sure that your child is engaging in summer learning activities is to enroll them in established summer programs. These might be academic programs, overnight camps, day camps, or other scheduled learning activities. If this is in your budget, and you find the right tutors or camps, go for it! Get it on your calendars!
However, even if these programs are not in your budget, there are numerous options for excellent, productive, in-home learning activities that can boost your child’s skills this summer. First and foremost, schedule the time, and then, find the resources!
Your summer learning goals may be specific, or they may be vague. You may wish for your child to simply complete their assigned summer reading before school starts in the fall. Even so, schedule the time. Make sure that two nights a week, summer reading is on the calendar. Or, plan for Saturday afternoons to be reading time with everyone in the family reading their own books, or the whole family doing summer reading together. Either way, put it on the calendar and stick to it!
In my family, there’s never been a “summer break” from academics because summer is just as much a time for learning as any other time of the year. It’s always been easiest to enroll my children in 4 hours a day of morning, academic summer camp for 8 to 10 weeks every summer. This has really accelerated their skills over the years so that the school year is less stressful, and we generally have more time to focus on fun, family activities year round. My children have even gotten far enough ahead academically for us to take large chunks of time throughout the year focusing on applying academic skills during travel and extracurricular activities in lieu of formal academics.
But, last summer, the health crisis necessitated that our annual academic boost take place at home. The same is true this summer, as we plan to travel for a few long-term stays in different locations, without venturing too far from our lodgings at each spot. So, we’ll put last year’s summer learning plan back in place. That means, five days a week, for 10 weeks, my two kids will spend their morning hours engaged in academic work. This schedule leaves us the afternoons and evenings to play and explore!
10:00 to 1:00- academics
1:00- lunch and play the rest of the day!
My oldest daughter is enrolled in an online highschool, so her academic hours will be well structured with World Geography, Earth Science, and Spanish coursework to complete. My youngest daughter is homeschooled, and she will use a mix of pencil and paper and online resources to keep her skills sharp this summer.
10:00 to 11:00- Lighthouse Homeschool Solutions- online science and social studies units of choice
11:00 to 11:45- Spectrum- Enrichment Math workbook
11:45 to 12:00- Handwriting Without Tears- cursive workbook
12:00 to 1:00- independent reading w/written chapter summaries
While there are many good online and hard-copy learning resources available to families, below are what I consider to be some of the best tools and resources to use for summer learning! Additionally, for middle and high-school students, there are a number of online schools that over individual summer courses. Tailor your selection to your family’s needs and goals!
Lighthouse Homeschool Solutions– Science, History, Literature units at multiple levels
Kids Discover Online– Science, Social Studies courses
IXL– Math, Language Art, Social Studies, Science, and/or Spanish practice at all levels
ALEKS Math– Math Courses at all levels
MosaMack– Science Courses
Read Live/Read Naturally– Reading Fluency
Writable– Writing Prompts
Hard Copy Resources
Spectrum– Math Workbooks
Drops in the Bucket– Math Workbooks
Handwriting Without Tears Writing Journals (for chapter summaries and/or creative writing exercises)
Decide on your goals, schedule the time on the calendar, and get the necessary materials. In three steps, you are on your way to a successful summer learning program that will keep your children learning and give them confidence as they enter a new school year this fall!