When I was in grade school, I regularly sat down with educational workbooks that Mom had picked up at the store and filled out pages and pages of worksheets. I even played teacher, assigning worksheets to my younger sisters and brother and then grading them.
I’m pretty sure that I’m the exception though. Most kids will not voluntarily spend summer vacation playing school. In fact, the families you talk with may tell you that it’s hard to find a way to sneak in summer learning without their children and teens staging a revolt.
How can you make summer learning so fun and painless that kids won’t even notice? Encourage families to tie educational projects to the things they’re already doing and the events they’re already talking about. Playing school probably isn’t going to work for most families, but reading texts and doing some research about the things kids and teens are already interested in will.
The Calendar on the ReadWriteThink site has dozens of activities that you can urge parents to try as part of their regular fun during the summer. If the family is planning any of these events, for instance, there are related calendar activities:
- Visiting a zoo or museum
- Enjoying some ice cream on a warm afternoon
- Spending a day at the pool
- Going to a baseball game
- Taking a road trip
Remind families that the dates don’t matter as much as their connection to what they are already doing together. Ice cream was first sold commercially on June 8th for example, but families can check out the books and websites from that calendar entry whenever they take their trip.
Current events are also a great lead for educational discussions. As hurricane season gears up, for example, families can visit the entry on Hurricane Katrina for resources to explore together.
For more resources, you can also point families to the New York Times Learning Network. This free site is a great option for more information on a current or historical event, and often provides educational materials on breaking news topics. Be sure to point out the Student Challenge The Times as Your Summer Reading, a contest for students ages 13–25.
Whatever families do this summer, remind them to keep the summer learning fun and painless. The more educational activities are connected to the summer fun families already have planned, the more effective and engaging it will be. After all, students don’t have to realize they’re doing something educational for summer learning to happen!