Today's column is the second of a three-part series on summer learning for kids. Last week, I provided an overview of why summer learning is important and highlighted 3 useful approaches to summer learning. This column focuses on 3 teacher-tested strategies for parents to implement a "summer slide" prevention plan for their kids and provide learning fun throughout the entire summer.
Adventure to Fitness hears from innovative and driven teachers year-round about what works -- and what doesn't work -- in their classrooms. Much of this insight is highly relevant for the home environment too, and especially for parents who are seeking to keep their kids happy, learning, and healthy during the summer break. I have synthesized the most salient points below as strategies proven in the classroom that you and your kids may find helpful this summer.
1. Keep it fun and encourage creativity
The importance of fun and intellectual freedom is something we hear over and over again from teachers across the pre-K to 5th grade spectrum. The more kids can relate and find joy with what they're learning, the more they'll retain from the experience and want to engage in that activity in the future. Whatever your summer learning goals for your child may be, the key lesson imparted by our teacher friends is to encourage creative exploration and foster an innate sense of achievement. Pinterest is a great resource for finding fun activity suggestions from teachers and other parents.
Adventure to Fitness also hears from many teachers who use their adventure videos and breaks as a "reward" for good behavior in their classrooms. It's great that they are presenting healthy, educational activities as things to be earned and anticipated. Parents can do this, too. By presenting your child's summer learning activities in a positive, lighthearted manner -- and choosing activities that they will truly enjoy -- you are setting your family for a great summer of learning.
2. Leverage the power of the Internet
Many classrooms are now using some form of "blended learning," which combines online + traditional teaching methods and educational content. Online programs can also be particularly helpful for those days where your child is not at a day camp, or if your budget doesn't have the wiggle room to send your child to a formal summer program this year.
Resources such as Khan Academy have become widely-known for their cleanly-presented videos on a plethora of topics for both kids and adults, and is a great resource for summer learning. Programs like Sharks 4 Kids are also useful because they can provide ways to incorporate Project-Based Learning (PBL) into your teaching repertoire.
3. Carefully curate your child's "screen time" and promote "away-from-screen" activities, too
The reason why "blended learning" works so well in classrooms is because the online content is carefully selected by the teacher for its educational quality, and supplemented with "away-from-screen" activities as well. Many parents limit their kids' "screen time" during the school year, and we see benefits for maintaining this discipline over the summer break too. Kids' physical activity levels can plummet during the summer months without participation in active summer programs.
To save time, look for online programs that also offer physical activity and off-line resources -- like reading lists and print-out activities -- as well. As I mentioned in my previous column, there are several free, high-quality resources available online that you can combine to create a multi-disciplinary "summer curriculum" for your child.
Another helpful "away-from-screen" activity is to encourage kids to write a summer journal about what they learned each day, which activities or books they enjoyed, and what was more challenging for them. The journaling process not only helps to develop your child's critical thinking and writing skills, but it also provides helpful feedback for you to share with your child's teachers once the school year begins again, as well as plan next summer's line-up of summer learning activities.
There are plenty of ways to approach summer learning, and I hope these teacher-tested strategies help you and your child have a fun, educational, and healthy summer. Next time, I'll be wrapping up this Summer Learning Series by focusing on "Creating Learning Adventures out of Family Vacations."