They say that over the summer children forget about a third of what they learned during the school year. That’s why the first third of school books are reviews of previously learned material. It’s also believed that children who do some steady reading through the summer do not lose that third of what they learned, even though the summer reading they do doesn’t pertain to the subjects they learned. Reading is just good mental exercise and helps keep the brain in tip-top shape.
So one of our summer traditions that have proven to be super fun for both me and my kids is something we call ‘theme studies’ where I become the student and the kids teach me. They each take a turn teaching for a week at a time. They pick any subject they want, and for five days they present lectures, demonstrations, storytelling, audiovisual materials, games, crafts, assignments, field trips, etc. They can take anywhere from five minutes to an hour to present their daily lesson.
Of course, they pick subjects they’re passionate about. We’ve had it on dinosaurs, international flags, dolphins, national parks, magic tricks, Lego stop motion filming, movie special effects, cartoon drawing, and origami, just to name a few. We visited a fascinating flag store, watched selected parts of movies; I’ve been assigned to write stories, draw cartoons, and been challenged to memorize all the titles of Star Wars: The Clone Wars episodes (sure, why not?) This has proven to be so exciting at our house that the kids have argued about who gets to go first in the summer, and me, shoot, this is one of my most favorite things EVER! I just sit back, enjoy the show, and let knowledge happen to me. Sometimes I learn interesting things I never knew before, but most of all, I get to see their passion for something, which is always contagious.
So now I challenge you, introduce this to your kids and watch them run with it.
Here’s another idea we’ve used to fight that inevitable summer boredom. We have Project Jars filled with ideas. This requires a little work from an adult at the beginning, but then once that’s done, the jar business runs itself for the rest of summer. You fill a big jar with strips of paper on which you’ve written ideas of things to do. (And feel free to decorate that jar if you feel so inclined.)
Include creative tasks, such as Draw a Cartoon, Make an Origami Animal, Create String Art, Draw Outside with Sidewalk Chalk. Throw in a few helpful tasks, such as Organize the Shoes in Your Closet, Sweep the Kitchen Floor, Ask Brother/Sister What Help He/She Needs. Make these short tasks or else they’ll never reach in the jar! Include some things that are fun but require some reading, like Plan a Trip to a Favorite Place, Find Out When the Next Meteor Shower Happens, Find a Funny Limerick and Read It to Mom. Add some random funnies: Make a Favorite Snack, Run Through the Sprinklers, Planting on Backwards. I also included a few that said to come up with three more ideas, write them on strips of paper, and add them to the jar.
Our rule is that, if you don’t want to do what you draw from the jar, you can draw a second time, but you must choose one of those two to do. If you draw a strip that says, ‘Free-For-All’, you can keep drawing papers until you get one you want to do.
We put a second jar out labeled ‘Done.’ I bet you know what to do with that one. If you get through the whole jar before summer’s over, you just dump them back into the original jar and start again.
Our jars have grown as the kids’ interests have changed and as we’ve thought of more good ideas. But we’ve kept the jars from year to year, so it saves time in starting from scratch thinking up ideas. Have fun getting creative!