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School Talk: Enjoy break, but keep learning

By: Vicki Barber
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Summer is such a great time of year — warm, lazy days that last well into the evening. It’s such a great luxurious feeling until the kids run out of things to do. It begins with a slow murmur of “I’m bored,” moves to a whining little trickle of “what can I do now?” to a crescendo of your own comments of, “They’re driving me crazy because they don’t have anything to do.” The scenario may hold off until July, but it may happen by next week, so be prepared with activities to keep them busy, and this summer, it may be fun to support their learning as well. Here are a few ideas appropriate for all grade levels. Reading Reading stories can be fun at any age. Little ones like a quick story with lots of pictures. Older ones like adventures. Middle schoolers may like the idea that if they are reading a great, exciting chapter book and really get involved in it, they may be able to get parents to allow them to read longer into the evening and they can stay up past their bedtimes. For high school kids, I like them reading the book before they see a movie. Then we can talk about what was different and which was better. For example, “Blind Side” and “Eat, Pray, Love” both have books and movies. Math Math in the summer? Yep! It’s easy. Let the kids help make cookies and do all the measuring. Parents can double or triple a recipe and let them figure out the new measurements. Doubling fractions can get tricky. If you’re building some new shed or bookcase, let the kids do the measuring on that one too. Parents might want to check their accuracy before you build, but the more they do it, the more accurate they’ll get. By the way, what drill bit sizes will you want? Let them figure that out also. Science Without blowing anything up, you can do science all summer. Days planting and tending a garden, cooking or canning the ingredients and eating all the yummies are a great way to learn about plants, sun, rain and bugs. Evening star gazing and finding the constellations are fun especially if there’s a meteor shower or an eclipse. And, 4-H provides great animal projects, as well as other learning activities for the summer months. A new puppy, parakeet, or goldfish may be available for some families. Social studies A visit to the grandparents can provide all kinds of family history the kids may not have ever heard. Now there may be some stories you’d just as soon not be told, but mostly it can be focused on past fun events. I also like museum visits for the summer. There’s more time to wander through exhibits, ask questions, and get a feel for what it was like 20 years ago. That may not seem like a lot to an adult, but for a child who’s 10, 20 years is twice as old as he is. Even the teens may be surprised to see things like rotary dial phones, typewriters, mimeograph machines, and outhouses, that some of us can remember. Geography is easy to include when you ask your child to use a map and find where you are and where you’re going. Add in a little ball playing, sketching or painting, and some summer sing-alongs and you’ll have covered all the school-learning bases. It doesn’t take a great deal to include some activity every day to stretch a summer day into fun learning events. When school starts in the fall, the kids will have new skills they’ve acquired, and they won’t even feel like they’ve studied anything, yet they’ll be more ready than usual for this year’s learning. Vicki L. Barber has been with the El Dorado County Office of Education for 26 years. In 1994, she was elected as the Superintendent of Schools.