While it may not seem like it, the summer is an excellent opportunity for you to teach your children how to become a much better student when the school year rolls around again. Let’s take a look at some of the very simple things you can do to make sure your students, of any age, can do during the summer to help improve their grades.
- Keep them reading – The first, and probably easiest thing, is to make frequent visits to your local library and get your child involved in the Summer Reading Program. Most libraries offer some simple games for children to play based on the number of books they’ve read, or a group of children that meet once a month to have a “book club” style meeting where they discuss books they’ve all read together. If they are not available to you, Barnes and Noble offers something similar. Middle and High school students may feel a little old for this kind of group, but you can find more “grown up” versions of these clubs for them, or you can enroll them in a study skills program where they will teach essential skills like time management and speed reading. While the initial idea of taking a class like this may not appeal to them, by focusing on the idea of teaching them a really useful skill like speed reading, you may be able to get them excited.
- Teach them about managing money and taking responsibility – Let your children make good use of budgeting and money management skills by giving them a “checkbook” that they can use to purchase groceries and other essentials over the course of a month or a summer. This can essentially be the same amount of money you’d normally spend on them during the same time period, but by letting them manage a small part of it themselves, you are teaching good decision making skills, money-management, basic accounting, nutrition, and planning for the future. To manage this, simply let your child fill his or her own basket at the supermarket and check out twice, and give them a small supply of cash. During this time, they pay for everything they do themselves. You’ll still want to go with them through the store so that they don’t come home with nothing more than a basket full of ice cream, but if managed well, this can turn into a very valuable learning experience for young children of any age, and gives you lots of opportunities to teach them about things like coupons, bank accounts, and how to manage money. Sometimes, you’ll even end up saving money since they’ll do such a good job!
- Get them involved with a garden – If you have a yard, involve your children in planting a small vegetable garden. Simply spending a few hours a week doing this will give them an opportunity to take ownership over some aspect of the household chores. You can also use this time to teach them more about measurement (weighing in and measuring the fruits and veggies), nutrition (how healthy are these vegetables?), cooking (if you plan a “pasta garden” or a “pizza garden,” you can make a whole meal of it!), and of course, biology (these are plants after all). If you have a small area in the backyard, then this is ideal, but if not, there are some park districts or village halls that will rent out small plots of land for a very small price (less than $50 for the whole summer in some areas), on which you will be allowed to plant whatever you’d like. Even a simple window planter can give you some freedom and flexibility. For some basic ideas, try this site.
- Develop a rainy day strategy – The ideal time for students to be exposed to “lessons” during the summer time is when it’s raining, and many of their favorite activities are gone for the day. If you are home with them, you could supervise them while experimenting with a new recipe for lunch, or when baking cookies. Alternatively, there are lots of great educational and cultural videos you can show to your children including symphony performances, old movies, and documentaries which may interest them. Having your children practice a play, skit or musical performance is also an idea – it can be performed in front of the whole family on your annual Labor Day barbeque!
No matter what you choose to do with your children during the summer, remember, it should be fun, and educational. The fun aspect will get them excited and interested, but it is the educational aspect that makes it truly beneficial for them, and will give you an opportunity to teach them some of those essential life lessons that they never get to experience in school. Overall, these activities make for a great summer experience that’s fun for you, and for them.