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Summer Health and Safety

How You Can Get Your Kids to Keep Learning All Summer Long

Photo: Courtesy of Aaron Burden

Sondra Pena


With school out, it can be difficult to stoke your kids’ curiosity and appetites for knowledge during the summer. We asked Sondra Pena of Time4Learning about how your kids can get the best education during summer vacation, and the rest of the year as well.

What is your No. 1 tip for parents to keep children engaged in learning over the summer?

Do not try to replicate what school-year learning looks like. For summertime learning, think about activities in two broad categories — information in and information out — and then try to keep a balance between the two. Think past fractions and verb tenses, and instead steer children toward experiences and locations that will spark their curiosities and help them discover what they are passionate about.

In addition to experiences, be sure to also provide outlets that let them share and reflect on what they have learned. A summer scrapbook with photos and momentos to chronicle their experiences is a great way to do this. Not only will they be practicing valuable skills, they will also enjoy looking back each year as their scrapbook collection grows.

So remember, even if your kids are not converting improper fractions into mixed numbers this summer, they can still immerse themselves in meaningful learning and have a fabulous time while doing so.  

Who benefits the most from homeschooling? Are there any stigmas related to homeschooling?

As a classroom teacher for 15 years, I always envisioned my kids attending the school where I worked. Initially, considering homeschooling made me nervous. However, when I started researching the homeschool community, I was pleasantly surprised.

One stigma about homeschooling is that the kids are not socialized — they will be bored and lonely. This could not be further from reality. I have found more opportunities than I can possibly take advantage of to involve my kids in clubs and groups with like-minded peers. Everything from co-ops for academics to enrichment classes for special interests.

Homeschooling is an a la carte menu that you piece together and customize yourself. Do some research and poke around your community to see what resources are available for homeschoolers, and remember: homeschooling is not a permanent decision. Try it out for six months; if it doesn’t feel right for your family, you can always switch back to traditional school.

When should parents start looking for outside tutoring for their children?

Before considering outside tutoring for your child, first identify if their struggles are related to academics or are more organizational in nature. If organizational skills are the trouble, tutoring may not be the solution. When the struggles are academic in nature, this is when you may want to consider outside tutoring.

In order for tutoring to be most effective, clear goals and expectations should be set from the beginning. If expository writing is an issue, find a short-term writing course that focuses on this skill. Trouble mastering fractions? Find a private tutor to focus specifically on skills related to fractions.

When tutoring goals are targeted and narrow in scope, children are more likely to experience success. So, instead of thinking of tutoring as a fix-it-all solution, think of it more as one tool in your tool belt, not to be over-used, but rather to be used from time to time in strategic ways.

What are some innovative ways to get kids involved and engaged with learning outside of the classroom?

In order to provide our road-schooled twins with meaningful learning experiences outside the classroom, we regularly make use of community resources such as public libraries, state parks, and local museums.

I have found that, no matter the city, the people at these places LOVE to talk about what they know. They are passionate, knowledgeable, and respond with enthusiasm and appreciation when met with the genuine curiosity of children. The park ranger that took us spelunking, the volunteer at the Maritime Museum that shared stories of shipwrecks off the Florida coast, and the geologist who took us fossil hunting on the banks of the Ohio River have all played a part in my children’s education.

Children should interact with and learn from people wherever they happen to meet them, not just in classroom or school settings. By exchanging ideas and experiences with others, stronger connections are made in their minds and learning becomes exponentially more meaningful.

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