There are a lot of awesome summer slides at the water park and playground. But, there is a horrible “summer slide” that refers to the loss of academic skills and knowledge over the course of summer break. This year represents an even more dangerous situation where two months of school were severely disrupted by the pandemic. I am a big believer in “down time” for students and usually don’t worry about summer academic activities for my kids. But, they usually have sports, 4-H day camps, 4-H animal record books, vacations and trips to local museums, zoos and science centers. Many of these activities aren’t going to take place this summer. Here are some ideas I have planned for my boys (ages 16, 13 and 11) to prevent the summer brain drain. None of these ideas involve Math facts, required reading minutes or worksheets, they are experiential learning experiences.
- Work with Me- I’m fortunate to have a remote job and Launch co-working and makerspace, which allows me the freedom to bring my kids to work. I often bring a child with me to help with small tasks and to watch me work. I discuss what I’m working on, use them to talk through decisions and let them see me be excited about accomplishments and frustrated about challenges. Meanwhile they are playing games, searching the internet or working on their own small project.
- Financial Education- Finances are not a subject that is covered well in public school, but such an important part of future success. I don’t agree with all of the principles taught by Dave Ramsey, but he does offer a middle school and high school based online course. Bonus that my kids just went through distance learning that wasn’t professionally designed and I want to show them what is possible online. So, they have their own online course to go through this summer.
- Make Something- I think the best tasks to encourage reading and math is to have a project where both are required. The oldest is tasked with choosing equipment and design for Launch’s future audio and video recording studio. The middle child has a VEX robotics kit off of Ebay that he wants to build and have running. The youngest is a “baker” and is creating weekly snacks for the family including finding recipes and being sure the ingredients get put on the shopping list.
- Farm and Garden- The boys have helped with weeding, mowing and planting in the yard and garden. They also help on the dairy to feed calves, scrape pens and irrigate. Not only is this great physical activity but they have to work together, run equipment and be responsible. This isn’t slave labor, it takes about 2-3 hours of their day and the rest of the time is theirs. But, the work makes them appreciate their couch and video time just a little bit more.
- Future Career- Knowing what you want to be “when you grow up” is probably the hardest decision of your life. Summer is the perfect time to explore interests and decide what you enjoy doing and hate doing. The oldest child over heats easily but likes discussing dairy economics. The middle child loves to work with his hands but loses patience with people easily. The youngest loves everything about food and really doesn’t like too much advice on his projects. They discover these things by trying out lots of different interests. They all have planned future careers, but every activity slightly switches these ideas as they gain new insight to what they enjoy.
Students in rural areas are at a disadvantage for having access to STEM educational opportunities in the summer. I’d like to help out with this and am offering day camps for coding, LEGOs and virtual reality. Does your child needs to have an experience where they get to work with me, make something and explore a future career? We will meet once a week for a month, with optional extended activities sent home. Check out the classes page to see what we have to offer and to sign up.