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Fourth of July Education for Kids

By: Beth Werrell

Most American families are familiar with the festivities of Independence Day. In fact, 63% of people attend a fireworks display and 76% get together with family. With the busyness of the day, it's easy to forget to discuss the symbolism behind the day, especially with young children who don't yet understand.

This time of year is perfect for a history lesson teaching kids the meaning behind July 4th and why we celebrate the day. The information in this blog post should help get you started. As an added bonus, view the instructographic below for a fun activity you can use during your Independence Day celebrations.

The Declaration of Independence

Before the first Fourth of July, five men (Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman, and Thomas Jefferson) were tasked with writing a document explaining why America was declaring its independence from the British. Thomas Jefferson was chosen to write the first draft, and the first version was officially signed and adopted on July 4, 1776.

In the document, which still exists today, the 13 original colonies explained why they wanted to be free from the British. The document listed all of the bad acts the British king had committed against the colonies and made clear what the colonies felt their rights were, including "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

It was with this document that the United States officially became free.

The Liberty Bell

After the Declaration of Independence was signed ...

Summer Reading for the Gifted Student

By: Gintas Bradunas
Keep Gifted Students Reading All Summer

If you're the parent of a gifted and talented student or a student who reads above grade level, you may want to begin the summer by reading your child his or her rights. No, not their "right to remain silent," but rather their summer reading rights! "You have the right to read and to not read. You have the right to skip, to browse, and to explore. You have the right to read anything."

These are great words to use when kicking off summer reading for a gifted student. As students blessed with endless curiosity, gifted students will read when given books that challenge, that tap into their imaginations and spark their interest. But how do you find such a book? How can you draw a gifted and talented student away from video games and into the worlds of words and endless creation?

Start by exploring some outstanding reading lists that make finding books for gifted students easier. Many of the links that follow were developed by Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, an organization devoted to the development of exceptional students' talents. The recommended books also may be appropriate for other students reading above grade level—or for reading aloud as a family.

As you review these lists, remember that each gifted student is unique and will find different books stimulate their interests. Allow your students the space to explore, to create, and by the end of summer, they may have their own recommendations to contribute to next year's reading ...

6 Learning Ideas to Prevent Summer Brain Drain

By: Stephanie Osorno
Avoid Summer Brain Drain

School's out and the sun's out—yes, summer is here. For many children, summertime is when books collect dust and the "break" from learning begins. While fun and refreshing, this break has downsides: it can lead to the dreaded "summer brain drain"—a time when learning and engagement decide to hibernate until fall.

This doesn't have to happen. Even during the summer months, students can continue to learn, accomplish their educational goals, and expand their creativity. Here are some entertaining summer activities to keep students engaged all season long:

Start a blog.

Does your child love writing? Summer is the perfect time to start a blog. Blogs are a great place to unleash creativity. Best of all, since blogs are digital, they can easily be shared with family and friends to keep them up to date on your child's adventures and learnings. Topic ideas can span anything and everything—from simple "day in the life" posts to your child's inner thoughts and feelings to fictional storytelling. The purpose is to be creative and enjoy the writing process.

Some blog tools or platforms are free and extremely user-friendly. These include Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger, Medium, and more. We recommend that you supervise to ensure that your child posts only appropriate material and adheres to online safety practices.

If you want to avoid the "digital" component of a blog, simply encourage your children to write in a journal. They can keep their writing to themselves or share it with others to read.

Turn a family ...

How Summer School Works in Private Virtual School

By: Stephanie Osorno
Benefits of Virtual Summer School

As the spring semester comes to a close, you might be considering summer school options for your student. Online summer courses can be beneficial for many reasons, including gaining credits to accelerate graduation, retaking a course without falling behind, catching up because of a busy schedule, or simply continuing to enjoy learning throughout the summer.

You may already know that International Connections Academy (iNaCA), Connections Academy's online private school option, can be a great choice for students who live in a state that does not offer a Connections Academy®—supported public school, or for students who live abroad, but did you know that it can also be a great option for summer school?

iNaCA's flexible online summer school program offers students in grades K–12 a wide range of courses—with certified online teachers—at an affordable price. To familiarize yourself with iNaCA's summer school program, read below and learn how iNaCA's summer courses benefited four students!

Getting Ahead of Schedule: Emma Gaydos

Emma Gaydos is a current student at Colorado Connections Academy. She spends a lot of her time on fun hobbies such as writing and playing tennis.

Emma has taken summer courses with iNaCA for two years in a row. She decided to take a geometry and an algebra course so she could get a head start on precalculus as a sophomore. Now she will be able to take AP®* Calculus next year. She would like to be two years ahead in school, and taking summer courses ...

Step into Nature’s Classroom This Summer

By: Beth Werrell
How to Become a Citizen-Scientist

Did you know that there are millions of as-yet unidentified plants, animals, and other organisms living on our planet today, or that many will become extinct before we even know they exist? What if you could help scientists discover those species while exploring the outdoors, learning more about plant and animal life, and meeting other aspiring citizen scientists and student scientists in your own community?

Welcome to BioBlitz 2016!

What Is a Bioblitz?

A bioblitz is a timed event, usually 24–48 hours, during which scientists, teachers, families, and students work together to identify and catalogue plants, animals, and other organisms living in a certain area such as a park, a stream, or even a city neighborhood. These citizen scientists then upload that information along with photos to the free iNaturalist app so professional scientists and ordinary citizens alike can easily share knowledge about life on our planet. (The app is available as a free download for both Android and iPhone.)

Ecologists can use the information collected to map and protect endangered species. Hikers can use it to avoid poisonous plants. Park rangers can use it to identify and remove invasive species that threaten local habitats. Ordinary people around the country can use it to learn what's growing in their own backyards.

In celebration of the National Park Service's (NPS's) one-hundredth anniversary, the NPS and the National Geographic Society will be hosting hundreds of organized bioblitz events in parks around the United States throughout the year. You can be part of ...

Nature Scavenger Hunt Bingo for Families

By: Beth Werrell

Bright colors, lively critters, bird cries, wild, pungent aromas, and budding life. There's so much to discover and observe as the summer days grow longer and new life emerges. Whether you have your next big adventure planned or your summer will be spent at home, you can spice up family time with a nature bingo scavenger hunt. Teach your child how to appreciate and observe nature with these simple bingo cards the entire family can use.

How to Use Your Nature Scavenger Hunt Bingo Cards

Going to the beach? These scavenger hunt bingo cards are perfect for that. Going for a stroll through the park? You can bring your bingo cards there, too! They can go everywhere with you. Follow the simple instructions below to make your cards, and then stick them in your busy bag for your next adventure.

  1. Print your bingo card pages on stock paper or another thick material.
  2. Cut out each scavenger hunt item individually.
  3. Stick Velcro dots on the back of each item, and then stick the other side of your Velcro dots into each square on your blank bingo card.
  4. Change out your bingo items as your destinations change.
  5. When you and your little scavengers hunt for items, peel each item off your board as you find it.

Tip: Glue your bingo board to the outside of a brown bag with handles. This will make it easier to keep track of the board ...

Staycation and DIY Summer Camp Ideas

By: Beth Werrell
Staycation and at-Home Summer Camp Ideas

Sending your child to summer camp can be expensive and may cut into his or her summer schedule. Find the right balance with the summer learning pyramid and gather ideas from the list below to create your own "staycation" and at-home summer camp experiences, which can be shaped around your family's agenda.

Summer Camp Activities at Home

It's summer! Take advantage of the weather and get active with outdoor games and activities, like water balloon tosses, tug-of-war competitions, and scavenger hunts. You can also encourage your child to find a sport he or she likes and practice with you in the backyard. Set up a volleyball net, grab a soccer ball, or throw a baseball back and forth.

Get creative with movie nights by hosting a backyard theater. Set up a "drive-in" movie by situating your car to face the garage and projecting a movie on the garage door or on a white sheet on the side of your house. Host a sleepover with your child and his or her friends and have them select a movie. Provide snack ideas, such as "ants on a log" or caramel popcorn, or have each child create his or her own trail mix snack bags.

Keep learning alive this summer with learning activities your child can have fun with. Create a tree guide or an animal guide and take your child to the park so he or she can observe nature. You can also sign the family up for a ...

How Alice in Wonderland Changed Children’s Literature

By: Muffie Sandberg
Summer Reading Adventures with Classic Stories

One summer day long ago, an English mathematician went on a quiet river outing with an Oxford dean and his three young daughters. To entertain the girls, the mathematician spun a fantastical tale of another little girl who dreamt that she’d fallen down a rabbit hole, entering a topsy-turvy world inhabited by an execution-happy queen, a mad hatter, a tardy rabbit, a vanishing cat, and a host of improbable but unforgettable characters.

That tale was Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland—and 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of its publication. In honor of Alice's "birthday," we thought our own summer readers would want to know how Alice is still shaping what and how we read today.

Reading for Enjoyment

Before the publication of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, children's books (such as they were) focused on moral instruction and academic basics. The language could be dull and moralistic, with children's characters resembling miniature adults more than real-life kids like the inquisitive and oft-annoyed Alice.

"'Tut, tut, child!' said the Duchess. 'Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it.'"

But Lewis Carroll and Alice changed all that, moving entertainment to the forefront and moralizing to the background. (As Carroll and his duchess character suggest, the moral is still there, but you may have to search to find it.) Placing the child at the center of the story's action, Carroll launched a golden age of children’s literature and even helped change how society viewed childhood.

Thanks in part ...

Fill a Summer of Fun with Sidewalk Chalk Activities

By: Beth Werrell
Activities with Sidewalk Chalk

As summer approaches, creating a plan to keep your child active and learning is important. As you help to keep your child focused until summer break, start gathering ideas for the warm weather.

One item that can get you and your child through the summer months is sidewalk chalk. It’s a fun, simple solution for summer days when no activities have been planned. With sidewalk chalk, your child can broaden his or her education, push creative boundaries, and keep his or her body moving.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

Brainy Sidewalk Chalk Ideas

Print out a constellation chart and have your child pick a few constellations. Then have him or her lay the star pattern on the sidewalk using pennies or other small objects. Connecting the dots with sidewalk chalk creates the full picture.

Draw life-size dinosaurs with real measurements using a dinosaur database and a tape measure. Have your child choose one large dinosaur and one smaller dinosaur, if space allows. Measure out the length and width of each dinosaur on a driveway or parking lot, and mark each measurement point. Then, using a photograph for reference, help your child draw out the dinosaur within your marked measurements.

Build your child’s memory with an updated game of Simon. Start with four different colors of sidewalk chalk. Build out your Simon play area by sectioning out your colors into four sections in a circle. Be sure to leave an uncolored hole in the middle of ...

Summer Time Capsule for Kids

By: Beth Werrell

There’s nothing like a time capsule to boost a kid’s curiosity. Time capsules raise a lot of questions, such as, “What will I be like when I open my time capsule?”; “What will happen between now and then?”; and “How will I feel when I open it?”

But if you want a time capsule to have an impact on your child, find one that’s educational. It can still be entertaining, but it should spur questions such as, “What do I want to achieve?”; “Will the future be like I expect?”; and “How will I feel when I reach my goals?”

To get your child to ask these questions, try our summer time capsule activity. It’s a rewarding way to tie up summer vacation and prepare for the first day of school. Take a look at the graphic below for instructions, and check out the bottom of the page for tips on protecting your time capsule.

Protecting Your Time Capsule

When your time capsule is finished, you need to put it somewhere safe. This can be under the bed, in a closet, in the attic, or underground. Here are some tips to help you protect your time capsule.

  • Write down a reminder listing the location of the time capsule and the day when it should be opened.
  • Hide the box from the hands of curious children—or the paws of curious pets.
  • Wrap the shoebox you’re using with newspaper or wrapping paper. This will keep ...

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