Summer Learning

By Cheryl Feuer Gedzelman, MA

As summer rapidly approaches, many of us have exciting plans — swimming, boating, camp, vacations, you name it. The weather is already getting warmer and the children are counting the days until summer. It is no wonder if your child is becoming less and less interested in school work. Are you worried that Jimmy and Samantha will forget what they have learned in school this year? Your worry is a valid one, for as we all know, one needs to practice any skill to keep it strong. Actually, summer is an excellent time to both apply what your child learned in school to real life situations and to learn more. By nature, children are curious. Your child may not enjoy doing homework, but in another setting, chances are that he or she enjoys learning.

Do you use Reading and Writing in everyday life? Show your child how!
Together, you can:

Read a manual to repair or build something for your house or to build a model car or plane.
Discuss what you have learned from a magazine or newspaper. Obtain age appropriate magazines and newspapers for your child such as Sports Illustrated for Kids, summer Scholastic or Weekly Reader (which you can probably order through the school) or “The Mini Page” section from the Sunday Washington Post.
Go to the library or book store regularly for books for you and your child. Make the trip exciting and fun.
Have daily reading time for the family and discuss what your child and you have been reading. Do not drill your child, but keep the discussion light and conversational.
Encourage your child to read to a younger sibling or neighbor.
Write letters to friends and encourage your child to do the same.
If possible, bring your child to your office for a couple of hours and demonstrate how important writing is in your office. You need to provide a model — if you watch TV all evening, so will your child.
Are you looking for opportunities to practice math?

At the grocery store, see if you can estimate the price of all the groceries.
For small items, have your child use money and count change.
Measure the area and perimeter of your house. Are you becoming exhausted? Parents do not need to participate in every educational activity. Suggest projects for children to do together. How about writing plays and then presenting them? The ideas are limitless. The important thing is to find fun and stimulating ways to practice key skills.
In addition to practicing skills, your children can learn a lot of new things this summer. Talk to them and find out their interests. The Washington area has an incredible number of fun and educational activities. Almost every child is fascinated with the National Zoo, the Air and Space Museum, and The National Museum of American History. There are numerous art museums; children can appreciate art at any age. Don’t just go to a museum and wander around aimlessly. Focus on one or two exhibits, and take a break for lunch. Rather than rushing through the exhibits, take the time to think about and discuss what you are seeing. Listen to what stirs excitement.

Does your child show a particular interest in dinosaurs? Here is your opportunity for further research. You can follow up your museum trip with a trip to the library. You can find books, research in an encyclopedia, or use the multimedia encyclopedia in CD-ROM. Be creative with the research. Why not prepare a fun scrapbook rather than a research report? In 1969, When I was 8 years old and sick in bed, my mother brought me beautiful large art paper and markers. I created a “moon book”, which included newspaper articles from the first landing on the moon, summaries about the moon expedition, a poem about my dog going to the moon, and short stories. It was great fun and certainly educational.

In addition to the creative and educational activities that you can provide, your child may benefit from more structured learning. This is especially true if you notice that some basic skills are weak and you want to give your child a boost and build self confidence for next year. Many summer school programs are offered in the metro area, and they are generally part time. Private tutoring can zero in on your child’s particular needs and reinforce weak areas. If you choose direct instruction, keep in touch with your child’s teacher or tutor and try to supplement what your child is studying with fun and applied activities.

Summer is not a time to forget skills, but a time to reinforce and supplement skills and knowledge. When the summer is over, keep up the enrichment that you began. Learning is a lifelong activity. Most importantly, when your child asks questions, listen and discuss. We teachers call this a “teachable moment.” Good luck and enjoy.

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