Summertime Fun With a Touch of Learning
by Amanda Bennett
Ah, the sights and sounds of summer crickets chirping and slamming screen doors, the sound of bare feet running through the house, the squeals and laughter as the children play in the sprinklers remind us of this season of fun and outdoor play as we homeschool. For many families, the summertime is used for a rest for mom, and a time to let the kids unwind and interact with the neighborhood kids, attend Vacation Bible School, and perhaps go on vacation. Over the years, I have found that by keeping the learning process going, casually, through the summer has some valuable benefits. Summertime learning can help keep their thinking skills honed, reading interests and ability don t go through the throttle up and down that is typical in a structured school calendar, and it helps direct their activities in more beneficial areas of fun AND learning.
First, understand that these suggestions are shared with the intention of lightening your load and enriching your familyâs summertime learning - - NOT to give you more burdens! Take these ideas and custom fit them to your family s schedule for the summer. You will find that the I m bored, Mom! isn' t heard quite as often, and trips to the library are more interesting than ever. So, with these things in mind, here are some ideas to get you started!
Reading can be a custom-made hobby for homeschoolers and summertime. The child can read more using those times when it is too hot to play outside, too rainy, or traveling in the car.
While some children look forward to reading, others drag their feet about it, requiring more motivation to get started. At our house, we have had both kinds of readers. Consider having them participate in a summer reading contest at the local library. If your library does not offer this type of program, how about designing your own family or neighborhood reading contest? Keep the prizes affordable and fun, something that everyone will enjoy. A few ideas include:
Pennies per page for the younger readers, along with weekly trips to the store so that the awarded pennies can be spent. Make up some coupons on the computer or with construction paper, and reward the reader with a coupon for each book completed. At the end of the contest, the coupons can be traded in for some fun treats rides at the amusement park, nights at the pizza parlor, a day at the water park, etc You might also consider having a reward system using items that your child already collects: baseball cards, Matchbox cars, doll clothes, etc.
Reading can be enjoyed as a family during the summer, too. What about all that time spent driving on vacation? I 've heard of several families that use this time to read aloud to each other, making the miles go by while keeping the interest level high. Depending on the family members interests and ages, consider some of the classics like Swiss Family Robinson, Anne of Greene Gables, David Copperfield , etc. The book by Jim Trelease, The Read Aloud Handbook has a wonderful list of books to share during family read-aloud times. For those of you with readers that get car sick while traveling, consider getting some books on tape at the local library for your journeys. Also, one of our favorite traveling stops is at the many Cracker Barrel restaurants along the interstate. These restaurants offer a books-on-tape rental program and you can return the tapes at any Cracker Barrel along the way!
Now, how about math skills? You say that your child forgets everything he/she learns about math over the summer? Then summertime can be a great time to keep the skills honed while having fun. If you are planning a special vacation or trip, consider having your child or children plan the vacation, under your supervision, of course! After you explain the places that you d like to visit and the total amount of money that you can afford to spend, have them get busy planning the project. They can divide the budgeted amount up by day or by event. They will have to map out the route to take, calculate the mileage, estimate gas expenses, hotels, food, etc. Then they can develop a fairly complete vacation budget, and keep track of actual expenses versus planned expensesöwhat a valuable lesson!
For the older children, how about letting them plan the budget for the summer? Have them budget for all of the household expenses water, electricity, mortgage, food, gas, etc. Then, they can help write the checks and balance the budget as the summer progresses. Perhaps they can earn a percentage of any budget savings they identify, too! Not only will they learn about the difficulties involved in managing family expenses, but they will also discover the importance of saving and planning ahead for the unexpected. If they are too young to manage the entire family budget, perhaps they can manage just the family food budget ö smaller amount with plenty of interesting variables like food sales, coupons, and so much more.
For those of you with sports fans in the household, the mathematics of statistics can be explored through the baseball season of summer. The children can track the stats of their favorite teams and team members, posting them in the kitchen and getting the whole family involved in cheering on the team. If the children are involved in sports themselves, they can learn to calculate and track their own statistics! Terms like average and total and other math terms can be understood in a real way!
The time-honored summertime effort of working to save for a special item should not be overlooked, either. The child can plan to work to earn set amounts of money, saving and calculating how much more he/she will have to do to be able to buy that special bicycle, computer software, or whatever they 've set for their goal. They can mow lawns, babysit, clean houses, etc. to earn money. They can watch the sales, determining the lowest price they will have to pay for the item. The lesson of working to earn what you want or need in life can be a lesson in life as well as one in math!
And now, for the most fun area of all to enjoy in the summer ö SCIENCE! So many moms are so nervous about teaching science to their children, and summer can provide the perfect opportunity to overcome this fear while launching a child into the fun and excitement of discovering the world and all of it s wonders! A simple project like a small vegetable or flower garden can fill your summer with studies of insects, plant science and cook- what-you- grow ! Sometimes you can turn a picky eater into a vegetable enjoyer, and enjoy the summer, as well.
Summertime is also a wonderful time to volunteer to help nature groups counting migrating birds, manatee observation, and much more. The family can volunteer to help out together and you can all learn together. The nature study groups appreciate the help, and your children can learn more about wildlife firsthand.
Summertime can also be a time of camping and nature observation. We 've had some wonderful experiences camping star watching together, observing hawks and mining for rubies. We 've also learned about respecting nature poison ivy, ticks, snakes, and more! <smile> From watching meteor showers to sitting quietly and watching a family of hedgehogs, the lessons don t come from a text book. They come from God above! We 've been slowly investing in a whole collection of field guides at garage sales, and these guides stay somewhere between the car and the family room and the creek. Nature provides some of our very best science lessons!
I hope that this article has given you some ideas and motivation for summertime learning and fun. Explore the forces of gravity on a roller coaster ride and watch the effects of sun and rain on a row of sunflowers. Watch the growth of nature this summer, as well as that of your children! Happy adventuring!
About the author:
Married for over 32 years to the same great guy, with 27+ years as a parent, 18 years of homeschooling experience, and author of more than 90 books for families, Amanda has a wealth of experience and laughter to share. Holding a degree in engineering from the University of Florida, Amanda worked in engineering and professional research before turning home to raise and educate their three children. She is a seasoned and sought-after speaker, having traveled across the country to speak to thousands, offering encouragement, laughter and hope.
As a guest speaker at conferences across the country, Amanda uses both humor and candor to share her message of encouragement as well as practical help for homeschooling parents trying to find a better way to educate their children. Amanda is a CLASS graduate (Christian Leaders, Authors and Speakers Services), and has spoken in front of both church and convention audiences. Check out Amanda's current speaking schedule.
As a home educator, she has been motivated to develop a more effective means of learning for children and a more interesting method of teaching for parents. The results of her efforts, several series of unit studies, have become very popular across the country and around the globe. Her goal in writing is to help children enjoy learning, and develop into self-motivated students that will enjoy a lifetime of learning.
“Over the years, so many moms have emailed, called, and asked me in person about coming up with lapbooks for my studies. So many patiently explained lapbooks to me, brought their children's lapbooks for me to see at conferences across the country, and kept a fire under me about how helpful and fun lapbooks can be for learning with unit studies.
Being an engineer by degree, I tend to be a bit of a geek—all lines, numbers, outlines, and structure. While being able to design a bridge or space rocket, I did not learn much about creating colorful learning elements with our children. However, I have learned so much while home educating our own kids, and I know that hands-on learning is the best kind. Lapbooks were definitely something to add to a unit study!
When the opportunity came to work with the Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett team to create a brand new kind of product where the elements of unit study learning were merged with the hands-on learning and fun of creating lapbooks, I knew that this was the right direction and jumped at the chance.”
Amanda and her husband now have two children through college (one is a veterinarian and one is a business owner) and a third child just entering college. As a home educator, she was motivated to develop a more effective means of learning for children and a more interesting method of teaching for parents, which resulted in the creation of several series of unit studies. Her unit studies and conference presentations have become extremely popular with homeschool families from coast to coast.
Visit her web site: http://www.unitstudy.com
Reprinted by permission.