Whew! We are now in the “dog days” of summer, and if I know one thing, it’s this: My twin boys are way, way out of school mode. Sigh. For some reason, they seem to think that learning is supposed to stop when the last school bell rings. Unfortunately for them, Mommy has other ideas.[Insert tantrum here: “Summer is for fun, Mommy! You are trying to make summer boring!! WHY are you making summer boring?” Nope, I couldn’t make things like this up. Oh well.]
If your kiddos are anything like mine – meaning, none too eager to “hit the books” when the sun is shining and the days are long – I promise there are a few relatively pain-free ways to prevent summer learning loss. I’m not trying to turn them into the next Albert Einstein, but I also don’t want them to forget everything they learned last year.
That’s where the Summer Bridge activities series comes in handy. A teacher friend of mine introduced me to the Summer Bridge concept, and it couldn’t be simpler. The Summer Bridge series offers a workbook for every “in between” grade level, and, with only one page per day to complete (and optional extra activities), it’s almost kid-complaint-free. (Never fear, parents; there is an answer key to review their work.) The rule in my house is that the kids must complete their Summer Bridge workbook page before they turn on any electronics. Hello, incentive! By the end of the summer, they will have completed over one hundred and forty pages of reading comprehension questions, math problems and vocabulary games. Isn’t it amazing how baby steps can become big strides?
To maintain their reading skills, I also require them to continue the school habit of “at least thirty minutes per day.” I’ll even let them stay up late if they want to read in bed – which is not a luxury they get during the school year.
Fortunately, my boys now enjoy reading – but it wasn’t always that way. The only, and I mean only, way Twin B started to enjoy reading was that he finally found a book series that he enjoyed. Hallelujah! I truly felt as though the angels were singing. He started with Stink and Captain Underpants, and has moved on to Wings of Fire and the Percy Jackson series. The Summer Bridge workbooks include recommendations for age-appropriate books, and teachers and librarians always have excellent suggestions. I’ve had the best luck, however, by asking the parents of my children’s friends. When a kid who has never read Diary of a Wimpy Kid starts begging for the brand-new release – well, that’s my favorite kind of peer pressure. Hint: These popular series often have cool websites with fun features that may also get your child excited to read the latest.
Last but not least, be sure to incorporate fun, yet educational, activities into your family vacation. I love visiting cities, large or small, and exploring the new opportunities they offer. Earlier this summer, my family visited Chicago, and – despite the initial protests – we all enjoyed the Field Museum of Natural History, the Adler Planetarium, and Shedd Aquarium. By visiting their websites in advance, I was able to figure out which exhibits in particular would appeal to my boys and relate to what they’ve been learning. Because Twin B has been reading the Kane Chronicles series, he was especially interested in the Egyptian mummies at the Field Museum. Oh, and because we were already there, somehow he also managed to enjoy Sue the T-Rex and a fantastic exhibit on China’s terracotta warriors.
Oh, and don’t forget your stay-cations. How many of us don’t take advantage of the opportunities in our own hometowns? Guilty as charged. But I won’t even need to bribe (ahem, gently persuade) my kids to visit the Rubik’s Cube exhibit opening at Discovery Place, Charlotte’s family-friendly science museum.
See what I mean? Learning is fun … even if my kiddos will never admit it. Even better, they’ll be well prepared to start the new school year, and not nearly as shell-shocked when they get that first homework assignment. In my grade book, that equals an A+ for Mom!