Originally Published: June 2001
A great deal of learning can take place during the summer without the sense of formality a child may associate with school. Here are a few ideas that are simple to implement but have lots of benefits:
- Read aloud. Don’t stop just because it’s summer. This is not only a wonderful way to stay close as a family, but the relaxed atmosphere adds to the enjoyment of good literature. It also allows those children who don’t choose to read on their own an opportunity to develop comprehension skills painlessly with a little subtle questioning on your part. (See the Design-A-Study book Critical Conditioning.)
- Enroll your child in a program that develops physical fitness. While general outdoor physical activity builds stamina, instruction will help the child develop specific skills.There are day camps lasting only one or two weeks which highlight a specific sport, like baseball or soccer, available through the YMCA. For the reluctant child, a short program is less intimidating, but still provides an opportunity to decide if it’s an area he may like to pursue in the future. If not, he has still learned some basic skills that be can practiced on his own.
- Take time for art, especially if projects were pushed to the bottom of the “to do” list during the school year. The Department of Parks & Recreation, as well as art museums may offer a selection of classes. If there’s not time for lessons, simply encourage children to draw. For those that are reluctant, arrange a picnic in the park. Let the children play first. After lunch bring out the sketch pads and pencils and let everyone relax by drawing things around them.
- Plan excursions that allow your children to experience history. Attend festivals that include food from other countries or time periods, cultural music, and demonstrations. Museums and local organizations, especially ethnic churches, periodically put on festivals, announcing dates and times in the newspaper. There are also professional productions such as Renaissance Faires and the franchised Medieval Times available in various locations. If these are not nearby, you may want to plan a family vacation in order to attend.Taking a ride on an old steam locomotive gives children an idea of what travel was once like. There are many volunteer organizations across the country operating steam lines. Often, excursions are offered which include dinner or tea on a beautifully appointed dining car.Civil War reenactments take place all summer at various battlefield sites. Make a day of it visiting the Union and Confederate camps, and the vendors who set up in tents nearby selling Civil War-related paraphernalia and refreshments. While fewer in number, Revolutionary War reenactments are also performed at various locations.
Education should be built on a broad base, not just on a pursuit of the three R’s. Experiences in art, music, and physical education, as well as exposure to the customs of other cultures can all be pursued in the relaxed atmosphere of summer vacation. A trip to the library may be all that is needed to pick up fliers of local events and available programs. Planning is minimal, but the benefits to the child will be long-lasting.