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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 ...

11 Book Resources to Help Parents Find Great Children’s Reading Books

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
website list of children’s book reading resources

By now, you’ve gotten the hang of how to choose age-appropriate books for your child’s summer reading list. The next step is finding great books that fit his or her interests.

Browsing the library shelves, asking librarians or friends for recommendations are good ways to find children’s books, but there are also plenty of online resources you can try. You might even find a few tools to support your own summer reading!

Try the book resources listed below.
  1. Bookish
    Bookish is one of several websites that provide you with personalized recommendations based on the books you’ve read. Once you create an account, start adding favorites to your shelf to find new titles. Although older students will be able to manage their own accounts, you’ll have to use the site on behalf of a younger child.

  2. Goodreads
    Students in middle school and high school may enjoy using Goodreads, a book-focused site that encourages interaction. Users can write reviews, track books they have read and want to read, join book groups, take quizzes, and more.

  3. Children’s, Teachers’, and Young Adults’ Choices Reading Lists
    The International Reading Association provides recommended reading lists for kids, young adults, and teachers each year. A short description is included next to each book to give you a better idea of what it’s about.

  4. The Best Children’s Books
    Formed by a family of teachers, this site lists children’s book recommendations by subject. For example, you can find books about punctuation, fossils, and ...

50 Facts and Events in U.S. Education History

By: Beth Werrell
50 important events in U.S. Education History

The Fourth of July is practically here! Flags wave at every corner, fireworks sprinkle the sky, and children sing patriotic anthems. It’s time to gather with family for festive picnics and celebrate the birth of the United States.

We all know how our country grew from thirteen British colonies to fifty United States. The Boston Tea Party and the ride of Paul Revere are just a couple legendary events that dot the timeline. But while U.S. parents and children know how the U.S. was formed, few know how our education system has evolved.

Review the fifty facts and events on this timeline with your child and give thanks for getting an education!
  • 1635—Boston Latin School becomes the first public school as well as the oldest existing school in the U.S.
  • 1647—A law passed in Massachusetts requires towns with fifty or more families to hire a teacher, and towns with a hundred or more families to build a grammar school.
  • 1690—Benjamin Harris prints The New England Primer, a reading textbook that becomes widely used for the next century.
  • 1783—Noah Webster finishes A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, a three-volume work he developed because he didn’t like the textbooks from England that were used at the time. In later editions, Webster rewrote words using American spelling.
  • 1791—Individual states take control of education when the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified.
  • 1801—While James Pillans discovered the method of using chalk on ...

Test the Sun’s Effects in this Sunscreen Experiment

By: Beth Werrell

Does your young child wriggle away when you apply sunscreen to his nose? Does your teen complain that she isn’t “tan enough”? Some children need help forming good sun-safety habits, and reinforcing them is crucial if you want to protect your child from permanent sun damage.

“There’s no other way to say it—tanned skin is damaged skin,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s why it’s so important to apply sunscreen diligently. To help your student understand the effects of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, try this sunscreen experiment for kids. All you need are a few household items and a sunny day.

Click on the graphic below to see the full instructions for this sunscreen experiment.

True or False

Ask your child these true-or-false questions to measure his or her knowledge of the skin.

  1. The skin is the largest organ of the body.
  2. Birthmarks are caused by minor damage to a baby’s skin in the womb.
  3. A callus is a bump on the skin that’s filled with fluid.
  4. You should wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
  5. One way pimples form is when your skin produces too much oil.
  6. Scars can form on your skin when an injury heals too quickly.
  7. You don’t have to worry about UV rays on cloudy days.
  8. You have skin on your scalp.
  9. A first-degree burn damages the first layer of skin.
  10. Only humans and primates have fingerprints.


  1. True...

Keep Kids Learning with a Fun Summer Online Trivia Quiz

By: Beth Werrell
QuizBowl Challenge: Free Summer Online Trivia Quiz

Summertime is made for fun—but learning should be an important and enjoyable part of this carefree season! To kick off your vacation right, why not do something special today to recognize Summer Learning Day with your kids? Marking the occasion with tasty treats and a mini-celebration will help you emphasize the importance of summer learning and start family discussions about educational summertime opportunities.

As any teacher can tell you, a student’s grasp of academic concepts can “slide” over the summer. Providing children with learning opportunities helps them to hold on to previously learned knowledge and better prepare for the new school year. One great way to keep those young brains active is by playing our fun, free, online summer-themed trivia quiz. Or, download the printable version for use in the car, at parties, or over dinner.

Featuring twenty trivia questions of varying degrees of difficulty, the trivia quiz promotes lively and educational discussion and is an easy way to incorporate learning into everyday summer activities. Students of all ages—and their parents—can play the Quiz Bowl and then challenge their friends. This summer trivia quiz is available to the public, so feel free to share the link with other families.

You may even want to continue the friendly competition by creating some of your own trivia questions! Parents can find even more ideas to help keep students learning throughout every season by visiting Connections Academy’s resources page.

By making summer learning activities enjoyable and incorporating a bit of lighthearted ...

Using Math in Nature: Activities for Kids

By: Michelle Pratt
Math in nature activities for kids

Summer offers endless opportunities for your child to build nature smarts. There’s gardening, swimming, biking, and other outdoor activities to enjoy.

While it’s good for kids to spend time outdoors, it’s also important for them to keep their academic skills sharp over the summer. It’s even better when you can combine summer fun and learning!

It’s time for you and your child to explore math in nature.

Finding Math in Nature

At first glance, math class and the backyard seem like two different worlds. But the two are actually very connected and math is all around us. In fact, math was developed to describe patterns in nature!

Here are some familiar math concepts with real examples in nature. There are also simple math-in-nature activities for you and your child to try.


Definition: When one half of an object is the mirror image of the other half.

Examples: Butterfly wings, flowers.

Activities: Make a list of 25 things in nature that have symmetry. Go outside to search for examples, if needed! You can also do this Leaf Symmetry Craft to get you started.


Definition: A perfectly round, three-dimensional object.

Examples: Earth, sun, an orange.

Activity: Find an example of a sphere in nature and one that’s manmade. What’s different about them?

Fibonacci Spirals

Definition: A series of squares with lengths that match the numbers in the Fibonacci sequence. It forms a spiral when you draw a line through the diagonals of each square.

Example: The inside ...

Online Summer School: A Flexible Summer School Alternative

By: Beth Werrell

Are you looking to make the switch to full-time virtual school? Summer is the perfect time to take online school for a “test drive.” It’s also a great way to prevent your son or daughter from losing the knowledge and skills gained during the school year, allowing him or her to catch up with peers or get ahead for next year. And when school starts up again in the fall, your family will already be familiar with the workings of an online classroom!

Benefits of Online Summer School

International Connections Academy (iNaCA) makes it easy to fit an online summer school course into your family’s summer plans.

flexible summer school alternative start dates for 2014
  • Schedule Flexibility: Rolling start dates allow you to plan around vacations, summer camps, and family fun. Since course materials are online, you can take summer school with you on your travels, as long as you will have access to an Internet connection.
  • Variety of Summer Classes: iNaCA offers a selection of more than 100 online summer courses that will enrich kindergarteners, help students in grades K–8 review foundational skills, allow high school students to explore new interests, or get seniors back on track for graduation.
  • Certified Teachers and Support Coaches: Your child will have access to a certified teacher experienced in online instruction. Support coaches will be available to guide your child through the summer courses.
  • Flexible Course Time Line: The flexible online format of this summer school program allows students to schedule class work at their convenience.
Online Summer Learning Programs

Check ...

Map Out Your Summer Adventures with Geography Apps

By: Tracy Ostwald Kowald
Geography Apps for Kids

Family visits, vacations, and field trips will keep your family on the go this summer. You can add to the fun and turn travel time into learning time with geography apps for kids.

Geography apps help children practice their map-reading skills, measure distances, and learn the layout of the United States. Please note that the suggested games and activities offered in the apps below are intended for use by anyone over the age of 13. So, we strongly recommend that parents review the terms of use before letting younger children play with the app or register for an account with the respective websites.

Travel with Flat Stanley

Have you met Flat Stanley? He is a visitor—often made out of paper—who is mailed to other classrooms. In fact, Flat Stanley has even visited virtual school! For a while, Stanley will join a new group of students. They will write about his visit so Flat Stanley can share information about the experience when he returns home.

Try these apps to share in Flat Stanley’s adventures over the summer.

  • Flat Stanley (iTunes, free) is an app that allows Stanley to travel digitally. Help your student test it out this summer so he or she can learn about students in other locations.
  • Learn the States with Flat Stanley (iTunes, free) helps students learn the names and spellings of the 50 states. There is also a paid version, US Geography with Flat Stanley HD, that covers flags, state ...

How to Turn Your Summer Reading List into Book Spine Poetry

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
Book spine poetry examples grouped in a collage

Poetry abounds in the most ordinary surroundings. One popular and fun form of poetry is book spine poetry. Rather than being written from scratch, this type of poem gathers phrases, words, and lines already written. Just stack up books from your personal collection and summer reading list, read the titles, and rearrange them until a poem emerges.

Take several books—any books—and focus on the titles alone. Leave the meaning of the book itself behind, because the final poem may express something entirely different from the contents.

These poems are free verse, a poetry form where rhyme is unnecessary. Punctuation is optional. However, this poem needs a little punctuation to fully make sense.

Book Spine Poetry: In a pickle, little by little, make the impossible possible.

To me, this poem reads:

In a pickle?
Little by little,
Make the impossible possible.

Book spine poems reflect the personality of the poet because each poem comes from the poet’s own book collection. One of our middle and high school English language arts teachers offered this. It works with or without the repeated word painless.

Barron's painless book spine poetry

Papers, Papers, Papers,
Research Projects,
Everything but the kitchen sink.

This selection came together on a table of literature for middle and high school students. A collection of simple titles, in this case verbs, can take on a meaning of its own.

Middle and High School literature books stacked for book spine poetry

Okay for now,

Props are allowed. Poetry, by its very nature, gives a thoughtful outlook on the world.

Keep calm and garden on book spine poetry

The Happy Plan:
Herb Gardening
Grow Your Own Pizza
Gardening for Geeks ...

Summer Games and Activities Using Beach Towels

By: Dan Reiner
Boy running and playing beach towel games on the beach.

Wherever summer takes you and your family—the beach, the park, or the backyard—your child is always looking for something fun to do. If you’d like some simple activities that children can do anytime, anywhere, just grab a beach towel!

For these beach towel activities, no beach is actually required. The beach towels are used as convenient props to help you and your child quickly set up the activities. Have your child find a game he or she likes on the list below to get started.

Use Towels for Shape Practice

By helping children practice creating shapes with a beach towel, parents can help introduce or reinforce the properties of different shapes. Ask younger children to take the towel and fold it into shapes such as squares, rectangles, triangles, or trapezoids. Challenge older students to create more complex shapes such as isosceles, right, and equilateral triangles. Using multiple towels, have older and younger kids work together to create one big picture of a house or other object using multiple shapes.

Play Beach Towel Baseball

This game is a variation of baseball, but you can adapt it to kickball as well. You need four beach towels that you can fold in half to use as bases. To give the game an extra beach theme, use a beach ball and a soft Wiffle bat.

Design Beach Towel Costumes

Give your children and their friends a variety of beach towels and challenge them to create unique outfits out of them. You can ask them ...

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