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7 tips to ignite summer learning

By Lynn Esser, Former Educator & Administrator

While working on a project several months ago, I was talking to Ken, a copywriter recently hired by Renaissance. Being that it was his first job out of college, I asked him what he thought of working life.

“It’s kind of like college,” he said. “I have deadlines when projects are due and I’m learning all kinds of new things.” The fact that he was still continually learning after years of schooling came as a surprise to him. I chuckled to myself—but the more I thought about Ken’s response, the more it made sense to me.

As parents, we’re not only our children’s first teachers—we’re their longest-serving teachers. It’s up to us to help our kids understand that learning doesn’t stop once they walk out the school door. Sometimes we need to get a little creative and show them how fun learning can be, especially during the long summer months. Here are seven quick tips for some summer learning mojo. (And by mojo, I mean motivation and joy!)

1. “Goal” for it.
Spend some time helping your child create summer goals. Maybe it’s to read a certain number of books, write five stories, or become a multiplication whiz. Whatever the goals, remember to make them “SMART” (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound). Create a log or an easy way to keep progress visible. Make a plan for how you’ll celebrate when your child meets his/her goal.

2. Explore your surroundings.
Visiting a park? Take time to read the signs and historical markers. Ask a couple of quick questions to check your child’s understanding such as, “Tell me about how this park got its name.” When traveling to a new place, research it before you go. Go online and learn more about it. Visit the library and find books on that location. Pick up a pamphlet or a visitor’s guide at a gas station and create a list of places to explore.

3. Learn on the go.
Visit your local library and stock up on audiobooks. Listen as a family and talk about the book. Take a moment after each chapter to discuss. “Help me remember. What happened to ___? Oh yeah, that’s right. What do you think will happen next? Interesting thought. Why do you think that?”

Keep a basket of books and flashcards in your car for unexpected delays. I often find one of my kids is waiting for the other to finish practice or we’ll wait in the car while my husband runs into a store for a quick errand. With books in the car, there’s always something to fill the time.

4. Follow their lead.
Kids are curious by nature and you know your child best. As they express an interest in a topic—whether it’s sports, video games, animals, or presidents—jot a quick note. (Better yet, have your child keep a list of topics they’re interested in or an “I wonder” list.) When you visit the library, you’ll then have a starting point when searching for books rather than wandering aimlessly. Or, when the inevitable “I’m bored” comment happens, you can ask your child to research the topic. Continue to find other ways to cultivate those interests. Download a podcast. Visit a museum. Talk to an expert.

5. Make math meaningful.
Enjoying lunch out? Ask your child to read the menu. Bring in some math dialogue. “Which costs more—a cheeseburger and a shake or a chicken sandwich and fries? How did you figure it out? What’s another way you could’ve figured this out?” This is an opportunity to talk about money, estimation, and rounding. There are so many real-life examples of math you can sneak into a conversation.

Legos are another great way to bring in math. Just look at them…they’re made for addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, and fractions! “How many Legos with four pegs does it take to get to 28? What if the Lego has eight pegs?”

6. Get “write” to it.
Ask your child to keep a summer journal. This can be in a fancy new notebook or on a digital device, whatever is most likely to inspire your child to write. At the end of each day, have your child write a few sentences on their day’s events.

Do creative writing prompts inspire your child more? Take turns writing a silly story. Begin by writing a unique sentence (or paragraph). Have your child add a sentence or two and continue the story. Encourage other family members to participate as well in this fun family writing activity.

7. Earn extra credit.
If you’re like me, you’re constantly taking pictures. Help your child combine their summer journal and pictures into a summer memories book, PowerPoint, video, or some other format so they can have a fun way to share what they did over their summer vacation.

Share your tips.
My kids’ summer vacation just started and I’ll take all the ideas I can get. If you have a tip, don’t hesitate to share in the comments below!

Also, learn more about ReadQuest®, our year-long reading adventure.

Lynn Esser, Former Educator & Administrator
Lynn Esser, Former Educator & Administrator
In addition to her tenure at Renaissance, Lynn worked in the Milwaukee Public School District as a middle school reading and social studies teacher for five years and then as a school administrator for four years.

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