Let’s face it – summer can get long when your kids are out of school. Sure, you want them to have fun but, you want them to understand that learning is a lifelong, full-time activity. Learning does not stop simply because school is out. The good news is, you don’t have to become a homeschooler or possess a teaching certificate to help your kids learn while they have fun this summer.
1. Keep Your Plans To Yourself
Nothing sucks the fun out of something like Mom announcing “We’re going to learn all about <insert subject> today! Aren’t you excited?” Except for the very youngest children, Mom has just sucked all the life out of a summer’s day once filled with endless potential. Remember, there are lots of ways to learn.
Doing is often the best and most lasting lesson. Get to know your own city with mini-field trips (call them outings or picnics, though). Talk to managers of local businesses and see if you can arrange a tour – television stations, radio stations, restaurants, grocery stores and post offices are surprisingly interesting. On days where you must run errands, put the kids in charge of navigation – without a phone. At the grocery store give each child a mini-list and a budget and send them off to get what’s needed. Anything can be education if you pay attention and draw on your patience reserves to let the kids play an active role.
2. Get Outside
Pick up tiny summer sketchbooks for all of you and a set of decent colored pencils. Spend time just sitting and drawing what you see. You’d be surprised at how different all of your pictures will be. (If you are not an artist, check out the book Keeping a Nature Journal for ideas to get you started.) If you live near a pond or lake, capture some tadpoles and raise them at home. It’s surprisingly fascinating.
3. Learn Something New Together
Nothing helps kids appreciate learning as when they get to learn alongside their parents. Pick something you have never done before and give it a shot. Many martial arts studios have mixed beginner classes. The kids will get a kick, literally, out of seeing mom/dad struggling alongside them. Martial arts are great, not only for fitness, but, for memory, discipline, coordination and general manners. Pick a new cuisine and work together to master a few recipes. Double or halve recipes for a subtle math review.
4. Go Stargazing
Get everyone to take a nap one afternoon with the promise of excellent snacks and your undivided attention for a night of watching the sky. It can be as simple as flopping on lawn chairs in your back yard or can involve a family camping trip. The Stars, by H.A. Rey (Curious George) is an excellent beginners guide. Don’t forget to check out the night time bugs, birds, and animals.
As you plan your summer days, think about ways to get and keep your kids engaged in the world around them. Take time to find answers to their questions – let them help you when you don’t know an answer right away. The more you do this, the more natural it becomes – and the more fun it will be for you and your children!