Summer learning tips from a Teacher-Mom

There’s nothing that depresses me more than the arrival of school supplies on July 1. You see, I’m a teacher-mom. And I LOVE my summer. No, it’s not all fun and games; I do my fair share of school work throughout the summer, but I love the time with my kids (most days!), and the laid back, easy pace of summertime. Come the first day of school, I’ll be ready to go back. But not on July 1 when I just want to relish the summer days and nights.

The arrival of “Back to School” season, has, however, made me start thinking ahead to school and perhaps you, like me, don’t want your kids to experience the “summer brain drain” that often occurs. Trust me, I see it every year! So, I thought I’d offer some tips as a teacher-mom for summer learning. And don’t worry, even if you’ve let your kids relax the first half of the summer, there’s plenty of time left for learning. 

Schedule it in 

Unfortunately, like most things, if you do not schedule learning into the summer, it most likely will not happen. In our family, my kids have to complete a checklist of activities that include their “learning work” before any technology can be used each day. And that works for us. Decide what works for you and try to stick with it. It won’t happen every day, but with a plan it’s likely to happen more frequently.  

Reading, writing, math

Reading has always been encouraged in the summer. There are summer reading programs and reading incentives everywhere. This is so important. Yes, read daily! But don’t just read. Students need to spend their time on writing and math as well. I encourage children to start a journal and write in it multiple times a week. Often writing about summer activities gives them a place to start and eliminates the “I have nothing to write about!” whine. For math, find a workbook (hello, Amazon prime!) or a website and have your child spend time on that several times a week, if not daily. A couple of times a week, pull out the old-fashioned flashcards and review math facts. Or better yet, keep a set in the car and pull them out when you have a few minutes here and there. 

Use technology 

Wait — technology is a good thing?? I actually love technology for learning purposes. It’s more engaging and exciting for many kids, so go with that! Or, use it as a reward. You know, something like: if you complete your work for today, you may then have 30 minutes on the iPad. There are many academic apps or websites that you can use to teach/review skills. My son who is in second grade uses splashmath.com to review math skills and my incoming Kindergartener loves to use abcmouse.com. There are so many apps and websites out there, explore and let them go at it! 

Another piece of technology our family loves is Osmo, which is a tool to use with the iPad. There are several educational games available, which focus on word play, spelling, numbers, drawing and coding. Our recent favorite is Osmo Pizza Co. which works with money. Children run a company which makes pizza for customers. My favorite part is when they have to make and give the customers change; often a difficult skill for first, second and third graders, so this is an awesome way to practice! You can even adjust the types of questions to be easier or harder to fit your child’s skill level. 

Individualize it

We all know that no two kids are alike. So, think of your own kids and determine what will work for them. While some ideas will work for the whole family, other activities will work best for one child. Some kids LOVE workbooks and thrive on them. Others need a super engaging website. Different kids might require a motivational chart to get them to complete any work. You know your child best. Think about each one and personalize it. 

Get out there 

Take advantage of any opportunity to make learning active and fun! Visit libraries, museums and park district programs. Museums such as the Dupage Children’s Museum and the Museum of Science & Industry are no brainers and always challenge your kids’ thinking. The Morton Arboretum also has so many opportunities for budding naturalists to learn new things – and I love the idea of the Family Explorers backpacks (available for rent). The tools and guides needed to explore nature as a family are provided. And then your children can write about the experiences afterward! 

Take the kids to the grocery store (for your sanity, make it a short trip!) and have them do the math — use real cash and let the kids do the calculating. Whenever you see a real clock, ask your child what it is and what time it will be in, say … 2 hours and 30 minutes. Take advantage of opportunities when you are out and about to engage in real life learning. 

I’m not guaranteeing any of these tips will make your children WANT to do any learning during the summer. In fact, my own children argue about it all the time. Poor kids, teacher’s kids … But I do guarantee that if you push them and try to combat the summer learning loss, you won’t regret it come fall. And, if you want, you can always just blame it on me! 😉

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