Take Advantage of Final Days of Summer to Encourage Learning, Prepare for New School Year

By Pat Hoge, Senior Director of Curriculum and Instruction Connections Academy

BALTIMORE, July 30, 2007 -- As the days of family summer fun dwindle to a precious few, parents everywhere are thinking about getting their kids ready to head back to school. But parents shouldn’t think of summer fun and learning as a contradiction in terms. In fact, by incorporating active learning activities into family time during summer’s final days, parents can help ease their kids’ back to school transition, and help them start off the new school year on the right foot.

Here are 10 easy parent tips to inject fun learning into kids’ summer routines:

  • Infuse learning into everyday routines. The simplest day-to-day tasks can help kids learn – and they won’t even know it. Encourage children to help with baking to practice basic measuring and math skills. Promote strong writing by encouraging children to write letters to friends, grandparents and others. Look at shapes of items around the house for a quick refresher in geometry.
  • Encourage kids to keep a journal. Summer activities abound, and there is no better way to capture those memories than by keeping a journal. Writing about daily events allows children to tell a story – the story of them – and boost their vocabularies.
  • Play car/travel games. Travel in the car offers a wealth of learning opportunities. Play the “license plate” game and try to name all 50 states. Challenge children to also name the state capitals. If going on a trip, do research about scheduled destinations and share tidbits of interesting facts or history with children.
  • Visit favorite online education sites. There are a number of good Web sites that offer interactive educational activities. Connections Academy’s Web site features a free, downloadable Summer Quiz Bowl Challenge (www.connectionsacademy.com/quiz). Suitable for the whole family, the quiz tests students’ knowledge and encourages educational dialogue and research in a number of areas – history, math, the arts, and more. Remember to practice safe computer skills and always know what sites children are visiting.
  • Make family time into “field trips.” A trip to a local museum, zoo or pool can become a mini-field trip. Remember that children learn well when exposed to hands-on activities. Look for an unusual local field trip, like making your children “geologists for a day” on a local area hike or “spelunkers” at a cave. Try developing a scavenger hunt for your outing, e.g., at the zoo – “find three yellow birds”, “the words ‘Do not feed the animals’,” etc.
  • Take the kids shopping for school supplies. In addition to reminding children that the start of school is fast approaching, making them a part of this annual shopping experience also allows them to practice simple finance and counting skills. Give them a basic budget and suggest that they identify what they can buy with that money. Allow them to read and follow the items on their assigned school supply list.
  • Get organized. go through last year’s school materials, backpack, etc. Going through school materials will help get kids thinking about the great things they did in school and will help parents get organized for the new year. If students are re-using their backpack, make sure it is cleaned out and ready for school well in advance of the first day.
  • Start back into routines. Children enjoy the final days of summer for the opportunity to sleep late and spend the day in their pajamas, but a couple of weeks before school starts, it’s a good idea to get them headed toward their normal school routines. Begin encouraging an earlier bedtime, and have children get up and get dressed as they would on a school morning. Don’t forget a healthy breakfast to start the day.
  • Incorporate arts and culture. Music, art and theater are all proven to help encourage children to be well-rounded learners. Take kids to a local children’s theater or an art museum to expose them to their artistic side. When returning home, encourage kids to do their own play or to draw and paint.
  • Go to the library. No summer learning would be complete without the regular use of reading. Reading stimulates children’s minds – opening doors to imaginary worlds and providing a view into places children may never have the opportunity to see firsthand. Local libraries are a gold mine of information once school starts as well. Get children their own library card and make it a regular destination both in the summer and during the school year.

Summer is a time for fun, but can also be a time to mix in great learning activities. To learn more about Connections Academy, a virtual public school with schools across the country visit www.connectionsacademy.com.