Welcome Back Summer: 5 Ways to Enrich, Enjoy, and ConnectJun 3rd, 2012 | By Jessica Parnell | Category: Build Enrichment Over the Summer, Featured Articles
There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again. ~Elizabeth Lawrence
The long and golden days of summer are forever etched in our adult memories as a glorious period of freedom and joy. I clearly recall roaming in packs through our neighborhood, exploring both fields and forests, and venturing out on my bikes or to playgrounds with friends. What I don’t remember is my parents worrying and fretting over my safety, where I was, or whether I was learning something that would help me grow and develop academically. But I did survive – and I learned and grew with varied experiences.
Times have changed. It’s a different world, tougher in many ways, and more fraught with peril and the likelihood of being left behind in the economic dust if our kids stumble and drop the ball. We worry more, and compete fiercely for our children’s intellectual future and financial stability. Sometimes, a scholarship is the only way a family can afford to get their child into a university.
According to the organization Reading Is Fundamental, studies show that out-of-school time can even be dangerous for unsupervised children and teens. They are more likely to use alcohol, drugs, and tobacco; engage in high-risk behaviors; and receive poor grades; than those who have the opportunity to benefit from constructive activities supervised by responsible adults. And The Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Summer Learning states that on average, students lose approximately 2.6 months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Studies reveal that the greatest areas of summer loss for all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, are in factual or procedural knowledge.
Still, we want so much for our children to experience that special feeling of freedom and joy that we did as kids, and to take the burden of stress from their little shoulders at least for a bit. So how do we provide critical summer learning experiences while allowing them their time to play and roam in that “enchanted garden of youth?”
5 Ways to Minimize Loss and Provide Enrichment Over the Summer
- Keep your child curious about learning. It’s up to you – the parent and teacher – to get the creative ball rolling this summer . Both curiosity and creativity are inherent in nearly all children, but they may need a “boost” of sorts to get the juices flowing. A child learns by example, so your enthusiasm and creativity you bring to each day is extremely valuable and enriching. Add a new twist to kickball game rules, think hard about how to incorporate basic math/engineering into the simple childhood ritual of building a fort. Most of all, ask lots of questions, and listen hard to what your child has to say. Use every teachable moment that comes your way – there may be many more than you would think.
- Explore areas that might spark interest and identify new strengths. Ask yourself – what haven’t we done before? Even if it’s outside your normal realm of comfort, how are you going to know that your child is not going to be inspired by it? We tend to return to the same routines of our own youth, or pick trips and activities that we “know the drill” to because it’s easier for US, but childhood learning is all about new experiences. You can ask your child and spouse or friends for input, but most of all, be willing to take a new plunge , just for the sake of learning something for the first time.
- Investigate what learning style is most natural to your child. New experiences and opportunities are a great way to watch your child objectively and take note of how they process new information. Does your child process information best through visual, auditory, kinesthetic, verbal language, or from what is printed on paper? Does he/she learn best in an environment that is quiet, noisy, includes music; while sitting, reclining, alone, or with others? What are your child’s natural gifts and what does he/she love to do? This will help you to tailor your teaching in a way that best fits your child, and understanding your own approach to learning will illuminate the differences and similarities between you and your child.
- Build momentum for a great fall kickoff. A stimulating summer will prepare your child for a superb fall start much more than months of boredom in front of the computer or television. According to Johns Hopkins University, to be truly successful in school and life, children and young adults need ongoing opportunities to learn and practice essential skills. Be sure to both begin and end the summer with a bang – schedule a trip or activity that you KNOW will be an ace in the hole for fun and enthusiasm, and keep those mental neurons firing and active.
- Have fun while learning through enriching family activities. This point may seem overly simple, but you really should choose summer activities with more fun in mind than education. Too many parents get caught up in workbooks and math drills, and forgot the WOW part of learning. Then, take the time to truly think through a trip or activity to explore just how to apply it to real life and learning opportunity. You will be surprised at how educational a “trip just for fun” can be!
Many parents have ingrained upon their minds an image of summer as a carefree, happy time when “kids can just be kids,” without the overbearing influence of adults. But by approaching summer this way, they don’t fully consider how valuable enriching experiences such as summer camps, time with family, and trips to museums, parks, and libraries actually are. A summer filled with guided enrichment will build family bonds, show you how your child learns in new situations, and ultimately gift you with the ability to become an even better teacher in the years to come.
Additional homeschooling posts:
Proms and Homeschooling: To Prom or Not To Prom?
To many teens, attending the high school prom is considered a crowning moment of glory in your youthful history – a time of romance, good times, flirting, dancing, and dreams come true.