Keep. Our. Brains. Fresh.
We are about to begin our 3 month stretch of summer break from school and as happy as I am about that I also am well aware that I must be prepared to entertain them. If not then whether I like it or not their brains will begin to turn to sludge until school resumes. My oldest daughter is 2 years ahead in most of her classes and finishing up the 4th quarter of her freshman year with over a 4.0 gpa in addition to being in the Marching Band and the Spring Play among MANY other extra curricular items. She took 4 honors courses and next year she will be in 2 Honors courses and 2 Advanced Placement courses where we will pay to have her test at the end of the year to qualify them asCollege credits…….in the tenth grade!
My second daughter is currently completing her third grade year and was awarded a certificate of accomplishment for earning straight A’s the entire school year. She has been taught in a gifted cluster of students in math since Kindergarten and she is reading at a middle year 5th grade level already.
My third daughter Cadance is a very spirited and high-strung 1st grade student learning more and more about words & reading and math every day. She is pleased to be moving towards second grade and I want to nurture that excitement over the summer.
Last there’s my fourth daughter, she is about to be two and her vocabulary is growing by leaps & bounds, her interests are mainly in copying whatever her big sisters are doing and she already loves to sing, recite lines from her favorite musicals and flip through cardboard books identifying images she recognizes. She is likely to be the brightest one out of all my girls when she is older.
How Did This Idea Become?
Now I didn’t go into their academic standings to brag about my genius kids, (well, maybe just a little bit!) I did do it to acknowledge that I am blessed with pretty intelligent kiddo’s and because I need to point out that for as long as I have been a mom I have faced the task of entertaining my children during the summer, and I have tried to take it seriously. I was not the most applied student once I hit the 9th grade. I was focused on friends, boys & my art in high school but not so much my lessons or classes. I lived for summer, and I loved the ideal American lazy summer. I loved one particular movie about summer when I was younger (and I still love it), “Now & Then” it was a coming of age story about 4 friends who reconnect as adults and remember back to one specific summer in their early teens in the seventies. They learned some life lessons but I bet that when they went back to school they barely remembered the last semester of the previous school year because the had lived the ideal lazy, sunsoaked summer.
This movie was the model for my summers as a child and I did lazy American summer well. So well that my oldest is smarter than me already by book smart standards. I guarantee I wasted half of each school year as a result of those “lazy” 3 months off each year. By the time you figure that I spent the first quarter back to school reminding myself of all the things I was supposed to remember from the previous school year and add that to the fact that once summer was in sight I would “check out” mentally and therefore not retain most of my last quarter studies, you get half a school years worth of education, wasted. Now you take that and put summer in the middle with zero productivity and it’s no wonder my kids are smarter than me! (Shhhhhhh, don’t tell them!) Check out this snippet from a New York Times article in 2011…
“THE American ideal of lazy summers filled with fun has an unintended consequence: If students are not engaged in learning over the summer, they lose skills in math and reading. Summers off are one of the most important, yet least acknowledged, causes of under achievement in our schools.
Decades of research confirm that summer learning loss is real. According to a report released last month by the RAND Corporation, the average summer learning loss in math and reading for American students amounts to one month per year. More troubling is that it disproportionately affects low-income students: they lose two months of reading skills, while their higher-income peers — whose parents can send them to enriching camps, take them on educational vacations and surround them with books during the summer — make slight gains. A study from Johns Hopkins University of students in Baltimore found that about two-thirds of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income ninth graders could be explained by summer learning loss during the elementary school years.
This learning loss is cumulative, summer after summer. It has a tremendous impact on students’ success, including high school completion, post-secondary education and work force preparedness.”
Excerpt from The New York Times article, “This Is Your Brain on Summer” By, Jeff Smink 2/27/11
This is precisely the reason that as a mom I have always tried to infuse some fun learning opportunities into our summer so that my children don’t regress in their education. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED my lazy summers and I did keep my brain stimulated to some degree over the summer because I was always assigned a summer reading and I am a book-worm to begin with so there was always some casual recreational reading as well. Math, Science, anything that actual challenged my brain past purely fun reading though, that never happened and I want better for my girls academically than I set up for myself. Also I need to clarify here that I don’t ever want this to be summer school feeling and all-consuming of our summer, rather, be a fun way to incorporate learning into our summer entertainment & activities. Basically looking for INTENTIONAL ways to learn while having fun so they don’t even realize they are learning the whole summer.( Take a look at my blog about Living Intentionally as a mother and woman here in Getting a Handle on the Summer Schedule)
Being that I stay home out of necessity due to the nature of our family’s dynamic & make-up and having been so for the last 7 summers, I have done this in many ways over the years. I have become somewhat of a self proclaimed “Queen of Summer Fun” and I am always looking to one up myself, but it’s fun for me. Every year is still an enjoyable challenge to plan for though because our household dynamic keeps changing and the number of kids has changed more than once, and as their skills & interests change, so must my plans. These things in mind, I still love planning for and executing summer plans! This summer is no exception, this year we are doing weekly learning themes to “Keep Our Brains Fresh” until school resumes in the fall.
Our Plan As Follows
Every week of summer we will have a new weekly theme and we will be starting these themes next Monday as it is the first official full week of summer. The weekly themes my oldest daughter (she is helping me run & organize it this summer, just call her my “PA” personal assistant!) and I have decided to focus on are as follows:
- Outer Space
- Bugs & Butterflies
- American History
- Colors & Shapes
- Super Spy School
- Water Fun
The idea we have regarding the weekly learning theme’s is to focus on a different theme each week that gives us a commonality to incorporate multiple different subjects under the same topic, much like daycare’s and preschools do. Each Monday I will be posting a new blog with our weekly theme and some of the lesson ideas and tools we will be using that week. I plan to focus about an hour an afternoon on a different subject each day but which days I execute which “assignments” will depend on the flow of each week . We will only be taking an hour out for assignments on typical school days, Mon- Fri. As I mentioned before, I don’t want their summer learning to ever feel like they are attending summer school for 3 months straight.
Each week I hope to cover these subject areas in our daily
Mission: KOBF hour
– Art project or craft, I don’t plan for this to be a big production every week. Most weeks will likely be coloring, painting or drawing, but again, depending on the theme for the week, I may change-up the difficulty level & intensity of the arts & crafts sometimes.
– Vocabulary Lesson, this may be as simple as providing a list of words to have my 7-year-old copy for practice neatly writing into a short sentence each and also for my older daughters to include in a creative writing assignment.
– Reading, storytime style taking turns from one week to the next depending on the difficulty of the book chosen each week. Some weeks my 7-year-old will read it out loud other weeks it may be one of my older two and on some occasions it will still be me (we have quite the expanse of books in our home so most of the books will likely come from our existing collection but I will share those titles when available in advance).
– Math, this will be a practice session with themed math worksheets whenever I am able to find or create them within our theme. On some occasions though they may be hands on activities, like baking or cooking, or measuring to create (i.e. helping to prepare a dish for a camping trip or family cookout=measuring lesson)
– Physical outing or activity, it may be as simple as a dance session to some kind of music that fits the theme or it may be a game or sport altered to fit the theme but whatever it is it will get our hearts pumping! ( because our family has a wide age range we may personally incorporate multiple variations of play to whatever activity we do. Take the liberty of personalizing our recommendations to fit your families dynamic & age span).
– Snacks, I have always been a food lover and as a creative person I find it fun to “play with food” in my family fun theme’s, learning experinces and celebrations. I’m a super cheesy person and love a good theme! I will use our weekly themes as an opportunity to look at our meals, snacks and treats through a different lense through the summer so look out for some fun snack/treat ideas inspired by our theme selections!
We’d Love You To Join Along!
As I can fit them into our theme I wil be looking for “field trip” opportunities and we always welcome friends along for those fun outing so watch out for those in our weekly plans if you are local to us! Also we welcome play dates in the summer schedule too. If you can’t join us in person we would still love to hear about your fun summer themes if you decide to put this plan in place to fit your kids and your family! Share pictures and stories in the comments!
Whether you plan to execute this identical to my plan and future blogs on the topic or whether you use is as a guide, or even not at all doesn’t really matter to me. What matters to me is that you are proactive about allowing your kids brains to properly be stimulated WITHOUT electronics and that you make it fun for your kids specifically because while you are doing this you aren’t just keeping their brains fresh, you are creating memories! So go make memories this summer, but don’t forget to check back for more ideas on our themes and other summer fun memory making ideas!
As always, thanks for reading!