Preventing the summer break from turning minds to mush

My husband and I have always lamented that the typical child’s summer break turns their minds to mush. But we are always at a loss of what to do, recognizing that children do NEED time to “just be kids” at least some of their summer time. However, we also want them to have something to do some of the time that is constructive during the summer. Unlike kids of our generation, kids these days don’t spend most of their summer days outside exploring, interacting, just doing things.

I have read several other blogs (never realizing that once you start reading a couple of blogs, those point to more and more blogs!) about how homeschooling families are gearing up for the summer to still keep learning a part of it, just in a much more relaxed way. Some would call it child-led learning, interest-led learning, or delight-directed learning. Even though this is our 4th year of homeschooling, I am still looking for better ways to merge learning into life and not segregate “life” and “school” so much. Tracey over at Learners at Home is already soliciting ideas from her boys of what they would like to learn this summer when they are not doing formal school. She has her boys work on projects and “crafty” things that help them explore topics of their own interest. Cori over at Wonder in the Woods recently posted about going from tidal learners to herself becoming a tidal blogger as she and her family start their summer activities. So all of this got me to thinking – how can I get the boys to spend some time exploring and learning topics of their choice without it feeling like formal schooling?

While I know Alex Rider is not particularly one who likes “crafty” things and usually protests when I suggest doing a project that requires coloring-cutting-and-pasting, I am not really sure how Dragon Rider feels about these things. Lapbooks are a particularly popular project with homeschoolers because it allows the child to spend more time with the subject, is fun for most children (at least when compared to worksheets/workbooks), and produces something worth showing off to family and friends. So that is one idea for the boys, but will most likely be “shot down” by Alex Rider. They could also create a poster or display board to show off their project work, but that would still result in cut-and-paste and maybe even…drawing! LOL! 🙂 So that led me to other, more digital projects that can be done on the computer. I know this means more time at the computer when they should really be outside, but maybe we can take an outdoor interest (nature study, for instance) and combine it with a digitally based project. So along the lines of digital projects, I was thinking about:

  • Using Microsoft Publisher for creating a multi-page newsletter-like project (with pictures, text, and graphics)
  • Using Microsoft PowerPoint for creating a presentation (I even found a free product that will convert the presentation to a Flash application)
  • Creating their own blog (helping them get it setup without risking their privacy online)
  • Using ScrapBook Max software to create a digital scrapbook which can be published as a PDF file or posted into a blog

Why do I feel like they have to produce something with this summer learning? Because if there is not a goal put forth in front of them, it will get pushed by the wayside in favor of computer and TV time and won’t get done. So I feel like I need something to hold them accountable during the summer for spending time on something constructive, either mentally or physically. Which leads me to the idea that I need to make sure each boy has a list of goals to accomplish for their subject/topic of choice. IOW, if they are going to do a digital project, what points need to be covered about the topic to make it a worthwhile study of the topic? Is there some other kind of project that would BE the thing they are learning? Like what if they wanted to build a new dog house for Rocky? (This isn’t a great example, though, since Rocky doesn’t really like dog houses.) Then the product of the learning is the dog house itself. Maybe putting together a scrapbook page or 2 with some digital photos would be a great way to capture what was done. I am open to ideas for helping the boys come up with something that they really want to do or for presenting it to them such that it doesn’t feel like more school. 🙂


About Cindy

I am a wife to a wonderful hubby and mother of fraternal twin boys (born 6/28/1998). I enjoy family vacations/travels, my photography and acrylic painting hobbies, and anything else I feel like writing or sharing!
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5 Responses to Preventing the summer break from turning minds to mush

  1. J M Pontius says:

    My favorite choices of those listed are the PowerPoint presentation and the Scrapbook pages/book. Use the PP show to teach others what they learned, why it’s important or interesting to them, and how it could be useful to the other learners. (I’d like to know how to create the PP show since I’ve forgotten what I learned years ago!) As a visual learner for the most part, both of these two projects appeal to my learning style and provide the kinesthetic-tactile stimulation that I enjoy as well. The digital scrapbook appeals to the ‘techy’ side of me along with the aesthetic appeal of pictures and decorative enhancements that add pizazz to the ‘story’. These projects may appeal to the boys’ inner ‘ham’ (aka show-offs) because they have to ‘present’ them to others. Being in the spotlight could be a good and fun thing for them! I’ll be watching to see what others come up with for summer learning.

    • Cindy says:

      As for the kinesthetic-tactile stimulation aspect, physical lapbooks would provide the most. However, like you said, the “techy” side of both the boys and me would make digital scrapbooking and PowerPoint presentations more appealing as well.

  2. Carol says:

    Have them work their way through The Dangerous Book for Boys!

  3. Tracey says:

    Cindy, these are some great ideas~ I love the powerpoint idea! have to remember that one~ I think your right we are planning on outlining a few goals~ my youngest son’s goal for the summer is to work on knowing all of his times tables fluently. He plans on practicing on-line every day, another he suggested was he wanted to do cursive so he could learn all the letters and begin writing in cursive because he finds it so much more fun and fast. He wants to do all his work in cursive next year, lol ~ honestly THAT one was not my idea but he keeps adding to his list. I also love how you mention researching one blog leads to another~ I just love it because I get so many wonderful ideas from others and it really helps encourage me with my own boys and ideas~
    I plan on checking out the blogs you mentioned~ thanks so much for sharing Cindy, if I come up with any more ideas I will be sure to share ~

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