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Sneak Some Learning Into Summer

It's Summer, time for a break and a recharge, but Summer can be hard for parents—kids are home and want to be entertained. Do you fill the time with camps and structured learning? Or do we let them do nothing but watch tv or youtube?

Teachers spend an average of four to eight weeks every fall reviewing and reteaching material that students have forgotten during the long summer break. Many students lose the equivalent of one to two months of reading and math skills during the summer. Still that doesn't mean your child needs to be doing worksheets every day or enrolled in science camp.

Take a Vacation

We definitely need to balance time off and time “accomplishing” something. Are you and your family maybe taking a trip this summer? A family vacation is a perfect opportunity to create a scrapbook or online calendar for the year. Encourage your child to write descriptions of the places you visited and tell stories about your family’s escapades. Keeping a daily journal about things he saw or thought were fun could also be interesting.

And really, the fun of a trip starts with the planning. So even if you’re not taking a trip, you can always pretend and make an adventure out of it—or plan a future vacation. Involve your child in the planning by practicing how to use a map to find cities and tourist attractions, and how to estimate distances. Or have him research places he wants to go and what activities you all could do together. You could even make up an itinerary—whether staying home or traveling.

For instance, we found an ice cream museum in San Francisco (where we live), and a glass blowing studio to visit where you can learn how things are made. Or turn a boring, intimidating art museum into a scavenger hunt—start in the gift shop and let your child pick out some postcards of paintings or objects on display. Then try to find those paintings or objects in the museum.

Get Outside

It might be great to get everyone outside. Try a hike where you look up birds or flowers or scat to find out what it is. When we went to Yellowstone, we bought a book called Who Pooped in The Park? It was funny and we learned which animals left which type of scat behind.

Do you have a garden? We just planted some herbs and veggies in wine barrels since we don’t have much lawn space. They look great! You can talk about what your plants need: air, water, sunlight, and nutrients. Vegetables are especially fun to plant because you actually participate and learn where food comes from and then get to eat the end product. Our daughter chose cherry tomatoes—we’re eagerly awaiting our first ones.

Alternatively (or in addition to) what tween or teen wouldn’t want to bake cookies, brownies or chocolate mousse? Not only is there measuring, mixing and blending but you can also learn about other cultures depending what you make. Our daughter has mastered Creme Brûlée, which is fun for all of us! We bought her a specific baking set and even a blow torch--to be used with an adult!

Make or Bake

Craft shops are full of kits for making things, from bird feeders to model airplanes to knitting sweaters. These projects teach new skills or enhance reading and how to follow directions, and they offer the added benefit of creating a finished product.

Summer is also the perfect time for older children and teens to learn about budgeting if they are earning money. We certainly don't want them leaving home without that skill. Our son really wanted to learn about the stock market and the value of investing. A good way to get started is to research companies that teens are familiar with, such as Apple, eBay, or Nike. If he or she has a little extra money, set them up with an account and let them try a share or two.

There's no lack of fun things to do that also help keep his head in the game this Summer. When in doubt, some parents are making a list of 100 things kids and teens can do IRL and posting it around the house. That way when someone is bored, they can just check the list and find something to do—other than just watch someone else play a game on YouTube. And we all want that.

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