Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ways to Make Your Kids Smarter Over the Summer

Last week was our last home school post until August, but I decided to take up the topic of learning for one more week.

I mentioned on Friday that I read Outliers by Malcom Gladwell last week, and I found it fascinating. He made many, many interesting points. One of those points had to do with summer learning.

To nutshell it...when students from upper, lower, and middle class families are tested at the end of the school year, the range of increased knowledge throughout the year is pretty narrow. When students from upper, middle and lower class families are tested at the beginning of the school year, the gap is much larger.


The upper and middle classes avail their children of learning opportunities through out the summer. The attend camps and classes and they grow in knowledge. Lower classes tend to spend their summer vacations free and breezy. No learning. Unable to afford classes, tutoring or camps, they spend their times idyllically in play. Children from lower classes in society tend to either gain very little knowledge over the summer months and sometimes they even move backwards. They forget what they have learned.

I'd guess that is why there has been a surge of free child care/summer programs for lower income brackets over the past while. This allows for some structured learning which keeps the backwards digression in check.

I have no idea what income demographics are represented by you, my blog readers. But, hey, I can almost guarantee that not a single one of us wants our kids to be stupider in three months than they are right at this moment. Right?!

The goal is to promote learning opportunities in order to minimize forgetting opportunities. While still getting a break in. Because, let me tell you, the Barefoot Hippie Girl is all about summer break. How can we promote structured and unstructured learning opportunities for our kids over the summer months?

-Read. Have your readers read independently, and read to both your non readers and readers alike. Sign up for your local library's summer reading program if they have one. Assign books for your kids to read, or let them choose. Just read a lot.

We have our literary lunch hour. (half hour, actually) We are still working through Harry Potter and Team of Rivals (Abraham Lincoln). We are reading Team of Rivals M-Th, until we finish it. It is still leftover from our school year studies, so it is a priority this summer.

-Limit screen time. Whether television or movies or the Wii, set a limit. My goal is to keep my kids' movie watching to less than an hour per day. Somedays they don't watch anything-which I think is an awesome thing. And personally, I'd like to unplug the Wii for the summer months. It is a great activity when we must be cooped up for the winter, but in the summer I want my kids playing outside.

-Sign up for classes. Swimming, sports, science, camps. Learning is learning. Maybe all learning isn't created equal, but...

-Visit zoos and museums and national monuments. Not just to be entertained or for something to do, but read the placards and learn new things.

-Use some of the apps recommended in last week's home school posts. (some of the ladies had great ideas) I am using iPad apps to keep my various children up to snuff on math skills this summer. They are learning math facts while playing games.

-Do a "bridge" booklet. Barnes and Nobles sells books to use over summer break. They offer books spanning successive grades from K-1 and on. These booklets keep the students sharp on math, reading, grammar and spelling skills. I think each lesson is designed to only take 10-20 minutes per day.
-Borrow a page from Junie B. Jones' book, and have your kids journal. Ask specific questions for them to answer or simply have them write what they have been up to.

-Hands on. Summer is the time to do things. Science experiments are perfect for the summer. Grow stuff. Explode stuff. Record phases of the moon, or sunrise/sunset times. Draw and sketch. Catch bugs and study them. The sky is the limit.

Learning doesn't have to be fancy. It doesn't have to crowd out the laziness of summer. It can be fun, and it is profitable.

What are you learning goals for your kids this summer? How are you implementing them?