Summer “Days Off” DO Count!

by Deb Velto, K8 Program Director, Oak Meadow School
Summer is a time for rest and rejuvenation, and a time when our schedules often switch from education to relaxation, as families embark on vacations and other fun activities. Some parents wonder if taking a break from academics will cause a gap in their child’s learning. Going on an adventure, whether it’s a local day trip or a week-long vacation, is full of healthy, unstructured opportunities to practice existing skills and build new ones in an informal and fun context. Here are some ways to encourage continued learning while you’re enjoying summer adventures.
Plan it

Photo Credit: Cindie Young (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Cindie Young
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Where will you go on your adventure? Why does this place feel important to your family to visit? How will you get there, what will you do when you are there, and what will it cost? Do some research to find out some interesting facts about your destination. Learn about its history and cultural significance. Together, find out about its natural resources or key features of the local landscape, and then have each family member choose one thing to see or do. Even if you can’t do everything, getting the whole family involved in the planning stages lets children flex important brain muscles. What can you learn about this place before you go that will help you appreciate it more when you are there,
Get ready for it
Give children the opportunity to get ready for the trip on their own. What will they bring? How will they pack? If these skills are already a habit for them, perhaps they could help get a younger sibling ready with the items they need, or help gather the items that the family will need as a whole. Involve your child with making shopping or packing lists. Is any special equipment needed on your adventure? If you are going away for several days or more, how do you prepare your home before such a trip?
Map it
Photo Credit: The Moreland Family (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: The Moreland Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Use an atlas or other map to plan your trip. Where will you stop for breaks? How long will it take? What cities or towns will you drive through? Are there places of interest that you would like to see? Make a copy of the map and trace your route with a marker or highlighter. Depending on the size of your family, you might need two or three maps. If your child asks, “Are we there yet?” ask them instead, “Where are we now? How far do we have yet to go?”
 
Talk about it
Many students today are lacking practice with oral communication. The availability of email and texting has reduced the frequency that people communicate through speaking. Days off provide a great opportunity to talk with each other. Travel by car, train, airplane, or boat offers endless hours to talk about plans, experiences, memories, literature, goals, and life in general. Once you arrive at your destination, encourage your children to ask questions. They may enjoy calling up a grandparent or friend and tell them all about your trip once you get home.
Pay for it
Vacations can be a perfect time to practice money skills, when the moment comes to buy food or souvenirs on your journey. Have a younger child practice making change or counting money at a store. Older children might be encouraged to budget a larger amount of money ahead of time for the whole trip and make choices about what they purchase. Offer them the opportunity to interact with the cashier on behalf of the family, growing confidence and social skills while practicing math.
Write about it
Create a family trip journal! Get a blank sketch book to pass around during your travels. It can be a great way to pass the time in the car or pull it out for some relaxed down time once you get where you are going. Draw pictures, tape in small artifacts, and write about your trip together. You will end up with a great keepsake from your trip!
Photograph it
Photo Credit: Adam Hall (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Adam Hall
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Bring a camera along to document your experiences. Print the pictures once you get home and create a memory book, or add them to your family trip journal. Arrange the pictures chronologically and write captions so you won’t forget the details. Such books are treasures and can be used as a prompt to tell the story of the day over and over. Older children might enjoy making a slideshow or photo montage of the trip.
Collect it
Vacations can be fun times to collect natural materials or artifacts that might not be available at other times of the year. Bring home some shells, pretty stones, or sea glass from the beach, or some flowers from a hike that can be pressed in your journal. Then, in the winter, pull out these summer reminders to help create holiday gifts or use for other crafts and art projects.
Remember it
Practice storytelling and memory recall skills by bringing out mementos to show friends and family once you are home again. Use your family trip journal or photo memory book to remind you of fun stories that are worth telling and retelling.
Summer is a welcome break for everyone, and it can also be a time for learning opportunities hidden within a great adventure. So don’t worry that your “break” will lead to a loss of learning, but instead embrace the chance to watch your child grow through the free-spirited atmosphere that summer provides.

14 Tips for Surviving the Summer with Kids (from Homeschooling Parents)

School’s out! The kids are home for the summer, and suddenly your world has been turned upside down. How will you survive ten weeks with children home all day?
Homeschooling parents do it year-round. But when you’re not used to having kids home all day, it can certainly feel like a shock to the system. Here are fourteen strategies from homeschoolers to help you get through the summer:

Photo Credit: Melanie Yang (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Melanie Yang
(Oak Meadow Archives)

1. Free your children from boredom by encouraging independence. At the start of the summer, ask them to brainstorm a list of things they could try if they get bored. Post it in a handy place. When they complain of boredom, refer them to their list. Create a dog agility course in the backyard! Make a kitty condo by taping boxes together! Set up a cozy reading nook (indoors or out). Build a fort. Learn about ants, find an anthill, and watch them at work. If all else fails, suggest that they lie flat on their backs, look up at the sky or the ceiling, and wait there until a more interesting option comes to them — something always does.
2. Find a new rhythm during the day. If you live where summers are hot, the sun’s pattern may shape your daily rhythm. Spend time outdoors in the morning and late afternoon. During the middle of the day when the temperature is at its peak, do restful activities in the shade or the cool indoors. Evening can be a lovely time for a daily family walk.
3. Let your children follow their own bodies’ individual patterns for sleeping, waking, being active, or resting. Encourage them to listen to how they feel after a late night or an early morning. Challenge them to figure out their own most comfortable daily rhythm and follow it during the summer months, even if the schedule will be less flexible come September.
Photo Credit: Bolyard Family (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Bolyard Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

4. Balance outings with unstructured time at home. During the summer, day camps and other activities can have a big impact on the shape of your days. If your family is extra busy, be sure to make room in your schedule for regular unscheduled time at home as well. If you’re usually at home without much structure, consider designating one or two regular days each week for outings.
5. Lean on the village. Connect with other compatible families and plan regular playdates where one parent gets a break while the other supervises children from both (or multiple) families.
6. Make regular time to play together as a family. Plan a set time in your day or week when everyone sets aside work responsibilities and obligations, and do something fun that you can agree on. If agreement is hard to come by, take turns choosing a family activity. Make a habit of being present with each other without distractions or multitasking.
7. Set things up so everyone in the family can be as independent as possible with meals and snacks. It’s nice to have one meal a day together as a family, but perhaps breakfast, lunch, and/or snacks can be a help-yourself venture. If your children are capable in the kitchen, ask them to regularly take a turn making dinner for the family during the summer. Or make dinner prep a family project once in awhile so the primary cook isn’t doing it all alone.
8. Keep bags or bins of interesting things handy for children to play with and explore. Stock up on puzzles of different kinds; Mad Libs, crossword puzzles, and Sudoku books; and interesting materials for experiments and crafts. Check the public library to find out if they have a “busy box” collection to lend out. Save these items and pull them out as a last resort when you need a few quiet moments to yourself.
9. Gather plenty of basic craft supplies, and set up an area in your home or yard for artistic exploration where children can be as independent as possible and clean-up is relatively easy. For craft ideas, visit our Pinterest boards.
Photo Credit: Joy Cranker (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Joy Cranker
(Oak Meadow Archives)

10. Take midweek field trips! Enjoy local museums, historical sites, libraries, parks, hiking trails, and beaches. Go on a weekday morning when crowds are most manageable. Your local library may have free or discount passes that families can borrow.
11. Give your children extra responsibilities – and extra benefits, too. A child who is around more can help out more. Use this opportunity to help them learn how to do useful, routine tasks around the house. Those who prove capable of cleaning up the kitchen might be allowed to experiment on their own with new recipes or culinary inventions. Turn wood-stacking into a fun race, and end with a bonfire when the stacking is all done. Have the kids speed-clean the common areas of the house before sitting down to watch a family movie. Make a post-lawnmowing swim a routine perk of the job. Give your children the opportunity to feel useful, develop skills, and then celebrate a task well done.
12. Limit screen time. Send your kids outside to play creatively in nature every day if you can. If they’re reluctant or it feels challenging to you, read this article for some ideas on how to get kids outdoors.
13. Take breaks from each other. Adults and caregivers need time “off the clock” where they can turn off their parental radar and recharge. Children benefit from relationships with different adults. If your child’s needs do not allow for separation, invite other adults to come and share the load.
Photo Credit: Kara Maynard (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Kara Maynard
(Oak Meadow Archives)

14. Enjoy your time together. Take advantage of opportunities to connect throughout the day. Those moments may happen unexpectedly, so be on the lookout and make the most of them. If your children are more independent, putter around the house or yard occasionally just to find and say hello to them. If they are at an age where they want to be with you every moment, give in to their need and keep them close. September will be here all too quickly, and these moments do not last forever (even if it sometimes feels that way).
Happy summer!
What other suggestions can you add for an enjoyable summer at home with children?

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