Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Summer learning activities - most free or dirt cheap!

School lets out here very soon and I'm already planning my children's summer learning activities.  As I have mentioned before, my daughter failed to retain some basic multiplication facts over the summer, so I am going to focus more time on math review for both of my kids.  We'll do some summer reading too.  But they'll be shocked when they find out that they aren't going to get to play on the computer or play the PS3 as often as their little hearts are hoping.

Summer math resources to consider

Math Magician  Oswego, NY's school has an awesome math enrichment tool that is free to use called Math Magician.  Kids review math facts and are timed.  At the end, they get graded.  My daughter loves printing out the 100% certificate (you can print any of the certificates, but she keeps going until she gets them all.)  This is something that my son would like because he loves being timed to do things. 

Math Blaster  There are some aspects of this site that you can utilize for free, but the fun comes with the upgrade in membership.  With the upgraded membership, you get access to Jumpstart.com also.  Up to six kids can be added under the paid option and each can have their own avatar.  You can read my review of Math Blaster here.  Cost per month?  Just $7.99.

Reading Resources to consider

We plan to head to our local library and take full advantage of their summer reading program.  Our library doesn't offer prizes as incentives, so we will work something out with the kids.  I've already told my 10 year old that no books count on her list unless they are 5th grade or above reading level.  This means we'll be looking books up online, since not all books are marked with reading level on their spines.  I like to use Scholastic's Book Wizard to look up the reading level of books my children read.

A reading specialist once told me that it is very important to introduce and encourage your child to take out books that are not just stories, but actually are factually based.  This means that I have been choosing random fact based books for our library bag and my son now knows why frogs are wet and (unfortunately?) what happens to food after it's digested, which he happily shares with random people, only too glad to share his new found knowledge.

Summer reading programs to consider are Barnes and Noble, Borders, HEBuddy, and TD Bank.

Science and history activities to consider

We recently applied the Scientific Method to determine which cat was longer.  I won't say that either cat particularly enjoyed the experience of being measured by two kids, but I will say that the kids particularly enjoyed the challenge.  It's so easy to incorporate science into your day, other than watching a science related show on TV (my son loves "How It's Made").  That can include nature walks, grabbing a bird book and attempting to identify the birds that appear in your yard, or even a little fun with baking soda and vinegar.    You could try this New Zealand site for some fun and easy science experiments to do at home over the summer.  Be sure to ask the kids what they think will happen.  Sometimes things don't turn out they'd expect!

For history, we plan to visit more of the historic sites in our area.  Of course, being in "Historyland", that means there's the birth places of at least 3 presidents near by.  One place we haven't yet been to see is Robert E. Lee's birthplace.  Our daughter is showing an interest in the Civil War from lessons taught this year at school, so it is nice to expand upon that and provide her with some extra activities related to that interest.

You can always choose a theme - like Ancient Rome!  Lesson plans are almost always searchable online and free to download and use.  Ancient Rome is a good one since every kid knows how to read Roman Numerals once they learn to read a clock.  Find something your kids would enjoy learning about and build it into your summer routine.  Plan to check out books on the subject or plan a picnic, eating only foods that the Romans would eat.  Could be really fun!

Summer is what you make of it - so make sure your kids are learning and having fun too.

This blog post is not compensated, but rather is inspired by a SocialMoms blogging prompt asking, "What are your tips for helping kids learn throughout the summer?"
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