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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 ...

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 Online Summer School Schedule 2015

  • 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 ...

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