Let’s say your child hasn’t yet embraced this “learning for learning’s sake” concept yet and you’re worried about losing learning over the summer. Here are some ways to sneak in some hidden learnings, ditch the required readings, and gain valuable insights into your child’s ability to reason, connect, and learn.
1. Speak it, learn it, live it.
Draw out a mental or written review of what your child “learned” this year. I add quotation marks because learning intended doesn’t always mean actual learning. It couldn’t hurt to review, but not with a pen and paper, but the real way we learn; through conversation. New concepts come with new vocabulary. The trick to making it stick is tying vocabulary to life.
Diameter- Though my son learned this new word in the context of geometry, why not review it through a summer swim?
“If you walk the diameter of the pool, you’ll see the pool thermometer.”
“Should we order the 12 inch diameter pizza or the 14 inch?”
Yes, it does sound a little awkward, but your child will catch on and if you continue to use the term when ordering pizza, your child will associate the shapes, the measurement, the label with not only geometry, but life. Keep making connections and those neural pathways will become more attuned.
2. Parties are a great time for math skills.
I’ll admit it sounds corny, but play dumb and assign your child to cut the cake so all 16 people get an equal piece (so what that there are only 10 people). Hand him the cutter and walk away. You’ll probably be followed with, “How do I do that?” Lead him to discover 1/2 of 16 would be 8. Now, does it get any easier? How about 1/2 of that? Work with basic fractions that build up to more complicated concepts. Next year’s fraction concepts will return to the party days of summer. Linking math with the real world…really.
3. Movie nights!
Don’t you dare tell your child you’re watching a documentary. Instead, it’s a “movie night” and you found this great one on Netflix. Look how cute those animals are on Ted Talks: Animal Voices, play to the thrill-seeker in your life with The Edge of Space, get a charge out of Tesla: Master of Lightening, or re-enact a battle or connect to a vacation spot with America: The Story of Us. Even if your child decides not to watch it with you, leave it on. You may find yourself learning (it’s never too late) and he may join you later when you’re having fun without him.
4. Read, read, read.
Though most teachers recommend the classics or some nonfiction, I’ve learned that ANY reading is good reading. Yes, even re-reads ad nauseum. If you haven’t read a page or two of your child’s game guide, do it. You’ll find it much more complex and thoughtful than you realize. Add 15 minutes of nightly reading with your child. It really does make a difference. Invest in a series that your child loved (ala Harry Potter or Charlie Bone) or follow an author. Go hang out in a used bookstore and stock up or just kick back in a hammock with the game guide for your son and a novel for you. Reading isn’t only for your brain; it’s a great bonding experience too.
5. We’re going on a trip on our favorite rocketship….or car, or plane.
Travel. Anywhere, anyway, for any reason. Travel opens up the world of possibilities, invites comparison/contrast thought, and inspires memories and maybe stories of your own. When money’s tight, making a day trip downtown is a vacation in itself and the great part is you get to come home to your own bed and the comforts of home. Explore. Take a train, take a bus, get yourself lost for a few hours. Let your child hold the map and plan the route. You’ll be reinforcing lots of life skills, plus money and geography concepts just by your walking tour.
6. Invest in some new apps.
Before you even consider the price of an app, invest in Amazon’s free app of the day delivered to your inbox or all in an app of its own. I’ve purchased so many FREE apps and Amazon is nice enough to hold them in the cloud when I hate to let them go but my phone can’t fit anymore. Some great free learning apps I was lucky enough to use have been Buttons and Scissors (logic, reasoning), Simple Physics (physics, budgeting, and building fun), Odd Bot Out, and Symbaloo (to organize all of your learning and pleasure). If you are looking for the best “for fee” app, it’s Dragonbox- hands-down. Who else can get a 7 year old to do high school algebra? (Yes, really.)
7. Modeling, but not on the runway.
Showing that YOU never stop learning is an inspiring way to demonstrate to your child that we all can improve, make mistakes, fail, and take pride in new efforts. Sign yourself up for a pottery class, take an online free course (Coursera rocks), or just learn a new recipe with your child. Life is learning and you’re never to old. If you’re unsure about it, just keep in mind that you’re learning for 2!
8. The gang’s all here!
When you have an opportunity for a pool party, summer birthday party, or backyard cookout, why not gather the group and have a Triviafest? You can use a boxed game or invent your own (and sneak in some review questions/skills). Give away some prizes and add some silly touches like the loser taking a pie in the face or getting hit with a water balloon and your Triviafest is a success (and so is the learning)!
9. Make plans for next year.
Whether you’re homeschooling or not, think about what’s coming. Where did your child struggle last year? Work on time management skills (having your child watch the clock for video game time deadlines), add a job of the day or the week (to improve working independence), or consider a new sport for the following year. Talk to your child about his ideas, interests, struggles, and understandings. They all add up to learning. Check for offerings through your local zoo, science center, or sport opportunities. Discuss monetary considerations, timing, ability and more with your child. You’ll be teaching him that his thoughts are important and be building independence through learning.
Traditional schooling tends to make learning obvious. When you talk about reading a book or doing a worksheets, it’s sometimes more work than fun. When you approach learning through everyday or summer occurrences, it lends a freedom to more natural learning. Though it’s hidden to your child, you’ll be able to see learning happening.