It is hard to believe that tomorrow is the last day of the school year! Part of my disbelief might come from the late arrival of summer weather, but I know much of it is because time just flies by these days. But even if we’re not yet feeling the scorching heat, it’s still time to get into our summer routines – camps, vacations, excursions, etc. For the students, it is time to relax, to play, to learn in non-school environments. Each year, parents ask us for recommendations on how to help their children keep up their school skills and learning over the summer, and how to best prepare for the coming school year.
My first and most emphatic answer is free play – get outside, explore, create, build, discover – all of those wonderful verbs that need little preparation and minor supervision, but can be fun and educational for all involved. Asking questions, wondering, discussing, looking up answers – all of these are ways to help facilitate your child’s discovery and learning over the summer.
But I know that many people want something a little bit more concrete. So the next basic, and the most important, is to read. Make it a daily habit for your child. Reluctant readers respond well to reading with an adult (I read a page/chapter, you read a page/chapter), or having family reading time. Try non-fiction, magazines, anything at all, so long as there is regular daily reading happening. Discover a favorite author and try to read all of his/her books, or read on a theme related to a passion or a place you will visit later in the summer. For INTL* students, it is especially important to keep reading in both languages. Reading helps improve vocabulary, spelling, comprehension, and more.
Beyond reading, there are even more activities:
17. Keep a journal of activities and thoughts, or of travel, or questions, or stories – anything that promotes regular writing.
18. Write postcards or letters to friends, or maybe a relative would be willing to have regular correspondence over the summer (and beyond?). Actual cards and letters are wonderful to receive and send, and can include drawings, collages, etc., but email can work well too.
19. For even more reluctant writers, have them help write lists – to do, groceries, plans, etc.
20. For children who like to observe, or would rather be playing outside, perhaps they can log their observations in a special notebook. Or sports-oriented students can keep a log of their activities and accomplishments.
21. Play word-based board games – Scrabble, Bananagrams, Boggle, etc.
22. Have kids make their own “memory” game – color and write the cards in pairs; or make their own flashcards and decorate them – this helps the brain remember the words even more!
23. Have your children manage allowance/spending money, pay for items at the store, or calculate what is needed for postcard stamps or to exchange money.
24. Let them rearrange the furniture in their room, but ask them to make a map of before and after, and measure to make sure things will fit.
25. Collect and sort things – shells, stones, leaves, flowers, etc. For older children, help them to use a field guide to identify things collected.
26. Cook together – measure, predict, read directions, etc.
Lastly, one of my favorite recurring summer memories from my own childhood is that of putting on plays for our parents. My family and two others would vacation near each other, and get together for big family dinners. After we had finished, Bess, the eldest girl, would direct us in staging plays for our parents. We would disappear into the living room as our parents lingered at the table, and then one of us would be sent to formally welcome them to come to our performance. Sometimes they were stories we all knew, later Claire, Cyrus, and I would write our own skits, and sometimes they were largely improvised “comedies”. Peter, the eldest boy, would move furniture to create our stage and set, and little Anson and Andrew always served as babies, pets, or maids (poor toddlers knew no better!!). We were busy, engaged, collaborating, imagining, and then delighted our parents with our antics. I hope some day I’ll sit back with my friends as we watch our children put on a play of their own design and making, cobbled together in the hour or so after dinner, and enjoy all of its and their quirks and wonders.
Have a wonderful summer!
*In 2020, the International School of the Peninsula (ISTP) formally changed its name to Silicon Valley International School (INTL) to better reflect its bilingual programs, location, and international values.