You’ve read the statistics and you’re freaking out. Your child is likely to lose 2.6 months of math computational skills and 2 months of reading skills this summer while he is “on vacation.” His teachers will spend one month to six weeks reviewing material from last year when he goes back to school in the fall (15 May, 2012 OnlineCollege.org). So, what do you do with your kids during the summer? How can you prevent these statistics from affecting your child’s learning?
The good news is summer learning loss is preventable with as little as 2-3 hours of engaged learning activity each week (2015 OxfordLearning.com). Just 2 to 3 hours! That sounds totally doable, right? But how? You work 10-hour days and when you get home there’s dinner to fix, chores to do, and God forbid you try to find an hour for yourself to workout, meditate, or just chill in front of the TV.
So how can you, a busy parent, work this into your weekly schedule? And how much will it cost? With a little planning and this guide, you can plan a fun, engaging summer of learning for your child on a shoestring budget. Many of the ideas below won’t cost a dime of your hard-earned money, but they will cost a little bit of your time, and they may require you to have some extra bandwidth for learning new things with your child. I encourage you to try one or all 7 of these tried, true, and (often) FREE ways to boost your child’s learning this summer. You may find you learn something new too.
1. Plan a weekly trip to the library!
Your local public library has some amazing offerings for kids of all ages, toddler to senior citizen. You can join a summer reading club, attend storytelling events, or go to themed EXPLORE days where your child can build a skyscraper, learn about the world of the dinosaurs, or participate in an age appropriate craft class. No matter where your child’s interests lie, the public library has something fun and educational for him or her to do. Best of all, it’s FREE!
2. Plan a day at the museum!
Most towns in the United States have a museum, even if it is just an old house on the historic register that is open for tours. These historic places can give children a glimpse into the past. Unfortunately, the way many schools teach history is boring to children (or so they say). These historical homes give children and adults the opportunity to imagine what it was like to live in another era. The docents are wonderful storytellers who bring the past to life. Kids may learn more history in an afternoon touring one of these museums than in an entire semester in a classroom reading a textbook.
What’s that you say? Museums aren’t FREE. It might surprise you to learn that most museums offer certain days of the week, month, or season that are FREE days. Just go online or call the museum you’re interested in attending and ask. Even if the museum in your town is not free you may still be able to go for a nominal fee. Every major city and many small towns have excellent museums, zoos, and botanical gardens to explore. Plan at least one museum day during the summer.
3. Spend some time in nature!
Getting out into nature has many, many benefits for you and your child. Spending time in nature reduces stress, encourages you to interact one-on-one, helps you feel grounded and more present in the moment, reduces blood pressure, and encourages curiosity. One of the most important pre-requisites to learning is curiosity, and spending time in nature exploring encourages the development of a healthy curiosity. Another benefit of spending time in nature is the physical movement it requires. Getting fresh air and exercise releases endorphins in your brain that help you feel more relaxed and happy.
4. Plan a field trip!
Field trips don’t have to cost money. They just require a little research to find out what is available where you live for FREE!
Google search things like “things to do this week for free near me, free things to do in (your city/town name), or summer events calendar in (your city/town name).”
Don’t have time to research. No problem, just plan to spend a morning or afternoon walking around the town where you live with your child to see what is new.
If you do have time to do a little research, look for summer festivals. In every town, where I have ever lived I have stumbled into some amazing festivals in the summer.
“How does this boost learning,” you ask? I cannot say enough about the impact of experiential learning. Exposing your child to unfamiliar cultures, new music, or arts and crafts offers endless possibilities when it comes to learning. One key to helping your child learn is cultivating a deep sense of interest in learning yourself. Even your teenager is learning from you just by absorbing your attitudes towards everything around you.
Do you want to formalize the learning? Depending on the age of your child, you might have a discussion after the experience to find out what your child enjoyed most about the festival, what did s/he observe about the people, the music, or the art that was on display. Did you try any new foods? What did your child think about the food? Older children can write a journal entry about the day. A great way to get your older child to write that journal entry is to do one of your own in his/her presence. Remember s/he is absorbing everything you say and do.
The possibilities for great field trips are endless and right outside your door.
5. Learn a new skill or hobby (i.e. surf, survival, knitting, crochet, juggle)
Look for FREE classes in your area or online.
Check your local community newspaper for offerings.
If you want to learn a hobby involving yarn, you may find classes available at a store that sells yarn.
Check out Craigslist under “Community” for “activities, classes, events, and groups.” You may find a group meeting to learn or practice the skill or hobby you want to learn.
Not a joiner – no problem, check out YouTube in the privacy of your own home. Enter the keyword for the skill you want to learn, and let YouTube find thousands of how to videos for you to choose from.
Just so you know, you may have to do a little digging to find FREE classes. Some of the FREE lessons may require you to buy a certain amount in supplies before you get the FREE lesson. However, if you have the will to learn for FREE opportunities do exist. Just look around and ask other parents you know, or contact me for a free consultation about how I can help you compile a list.
6. Invite your child to help you cook or bake!
You are cooking dinner anyway, aren’t you? Why not use this time to help your child learn about nutrition, measurement, chemistry, healthy eating, and more? Look up recipes together. Don’t have that Cajun spice or buttermilk the recipe calls for? Look up how to make it from scratch or what works as a substitute. Engage your child at whatever level s/he is capable of and interested in. Young children can help measure out the liquids and spices, school aged children can help chop vegetables and do the online searches for recipes and/or substitutions for the items missing from your pantry. Teenagers can be responsible for preparing one to two meals each week for the family all on their own.
7. Plant a garden!
Growing your own food teaches your child so many things. In addition to intangibles, like how to care for and nurture plants, your child learns about the seasons, the right soil conditions for growing certain plants, why some plants like full sun and others prefer some shade, which plants are edible and which are not. This is science camp at its best, right in your own backyard. Planting a garden has other benefits as well for both you and your child. Because you are working together in the earth you reap all the benefits of getting out in nature mentioned previously. Additionally, you save money on your grocery bill by growing some of your own food, and your child gains confidence in his ability to survive in the world. The more practical skills your child develops the better she will be able to survive and thrive on her own.
Everything I suggest in this article I have done with my own children over the years. Now that they are adults, I watch them do some of these same things with my first grandchild. My daughter even thanked me once for making her work in the garden when she was a teenager. She recognized that it got her out of her own head at a time when she needed it most. The lessons you teach your child by doing these 7 tried, true, and FREE things with him/her go far beyond boosting reading, writing, and arithmetic skills; they last a lifetime.
Ok! You've read the list and it sounds good, but you know you just don't have time to put into the planning. I hear you! That's why I am offering a FREE consultation to busy parents, like you. Just click here to schedule a time that's convenient for you.
What activities have you tried with your kids during the summer that boosted their learning success? Share in the comments below!