April 17, 2018
Contributed by Julie Strahan, MA, elementary school music teacher
As the days get longer and the spring sports begin, we all know summer is approaching quickly. And with it, the dreaded “summer slide” where children lose important information learned in school during the summer months.
It is hard to imagine a slide when your elated 6-10 year old gets off the bus on the last day of school. With intentional decisions, this time of relaxation and respite can still produce students who are ready to succeed in the fall without delays.
When my children were small, we knew many homeschooling families, and many who sent their children to private schools. I felt I had to justify my selection of an inner-city public school. However, “schooling” for the Strahan kids didn’t end at the doors of our inner-city magnet. Rather, I “all-schooled” my kids, especially in the summer! In addition to our weekly library visits and our read-aloud books at dinner, we went on “field trips” to museums, zoos, and historical sites—as intentional learning experiences.
Most importantly, our summers included the “20/20/20.” This was a daily calendar Monday–Thursday (Friday was field trip day) of 20 minutes of reading, 20 minutes of math, and 20 minutes of instrument playing. While anecdotal, I rarely saw a slip in scores from spring to fall for my children—and I did watch. My children performed well on standardized testing and in academic writing because they had many experiences and gained first hand knowledge of many different things.
Here are five things parents can do all the time, but especially during the summer, to augment learning:
1. Visit the library often, but be prepared.
Read reviews of children’s books that your children might enjoy and either request them or ask the library to order them. Get kids hooked on historical fiction that they love. Use the library’s interlibrary loan system to receive additional books.
While you’re there, sign up for the summer reading program at the library AND at local bookstores. Barnes & Noble gives away free books each year in their reading program.
2. Join the local zoo, or science museum, or history society.
Most of these memberships are reciprocal and will work in other cities and states – providing a free experience when you’re at the baseball tournament out of town. Free passes to some locations are available at the children’s library table—ask!
3. Find a favorite recipe from scratch.
Double or half the recipe and write out the math so the ingredients are correct. Figure out how much it costs to make a boxed cake mix (including 1/12 of a dozen eggs, etc.) versus buying something pre-made or baking without a box. Or make glurch or slime—make more than one variety and compare and contrast the consistency. Revise and try again!
4. Download free educational apps that kids can play as a reward for completing their jobs.
See if your school has a summer subscription to Dreambox or other game-based math and reading practice.
5. Invest in the print variety of a local newspaper, at least on Sundays.
There are comics to read and recreate, word puzzles, crosswords, book reviews, recipes, stories about travel, sports box scores, blueprints of houses, the exchange rates in other countries, and calendars of free and interesting events for the coming week.
We did a lot of cool stuff that we learned this way —the day there was a GI Joe drop from the top of the Federal Reserve bank was certainly memorable. If you read, discussed, and researched all of the items in the Sunday edition, it would take you at least a week to finish!
If you still feel like you don’t have good ideas for what to do, or you have limited resources where you live, why not give Cantata Learning a try? Here’s how ONE Cantata Learning book can provide A WEEK’S WORTH of summer learning adventures:
First, read Engineers Solve Problems: A Song for Budding Scientists out loud and sing the song. Then, read the glossary and talk about the guided reading activities. Now you’re ready to try out the following five ideas:
1. Research what engineers do and what kinds of engineers there are.
Do you know any engineers? Have your children interview them and write a “Breaking News” story about what they do. Make a green screen and read the interview like you are a reporter on the news. Video record the interview so you can watch it again later!
2. Think of all of the ways you could use the word “improve” and find a way to work it into conversation.
That word is in advertising often—make sure to point it out and talk about what the “improvement” is in the product. Think of what the opposite of “improve” would be and find ways to use that word too.
3. Draw a picture of something you would like to build.
What will it do? Does it solve a problem we would have if it weren’t around? Go through the recycling bin and find materials that can be used to create something. Revise and improve your drawing so that your building could be recreated by someone else. Measure your creation and decide the “scale” it would need to be in order to work in real life.
4. Drive through a city or farm and look at the buildings that have been designed and built.
Sketch one or more of these buildings and recreate it at home using Legos or K’nex or wood blocks. Compare your final product with the actual building.
5. Listen to the book’s song many times until you can sing it without reading the words.
Think of how you could “improve” the song to talk about your own design process. Change the words and write them down. Sing or rap them along with the instrumental accompaniment. Once you have practiced a few times, record your new words with the instrumental to show your new song. You could even send it to the author and publisher!
Good luck, and don’t worry! Even small efforts help to grow your precious children in new and exciting ways!
About the author: Julie Strahan is a mother to 3 young adult children. She and her husband, Frank, live in Minneapolis, MN with their yellow lab, Scout. She now teaches K-5 music in a public school.
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