Summer “School”

The warm weather is finally here! I’m so excited to get outside with my kids and enjoy the weather. My job allows me to stay at home a few days a week in the summer and hang out with my kids. I love the idea of letting my kids have time to just be kids, especially in the summer when I can spend more time with them, but with the break from school comes the pressure to keep up the academic skills that they have worked so hard on this year in early elementary school.

I’ve never liked the idea of flash cards or worksheets for kids. They don’t hold their interest and it spreads the idea that learning is only work and no fun. However, it is great to give the kids natural opportunities to work on the skills that they have gained. I’ve had many wonderful teacher friends and colleagues who have had some great ideas for how to naturally practice what they have learned. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Writing: One of strongest correlations with developing good early reading skills is the amount of time the child spends writing (see There are so many fun ways to practice writing that are fun:

    • Write letters to friends, family, or their favorite star (athlete, singer, Disney character…). It is fun to write to them, plus they get to learn about postage stamps, addresses, and how mail works.
    • Be investigators with a clipboard. Go on a nature walk and have them draw or write what they see and what they find interesting.
    • Write and draw their own books. It is so much fun to let them think of a topic and write their own story. Then have them tell their story to the family.
  • Reading: Practicing reading is great for all ages, but don’t forget to keep reading aloud, even after they can read on their own.

    • Go to the library or bookmobile and check out a new book. When a topic really piques their interest, I use the LINKcat app on my phone to order a book on the topic and have it delivered to my local library. You’d be amazed at the wide range of topics in children’s books. My most recent search for Carcharodon Megalodon returned many books for us to choose from (and I even got to learn something new).
    • Take some books to a local park on a nice day and spend some time relaxing, reading, and having a nice picnic snack.
New activities every time at Science Saturday.
  • Science and Math: There are so many opportunities for science and math in everyday activities.

    • Cooking provides a great opportunity for both chemistry and math. The recipes provide great opportunities for counting and measuring. The ways that food changes when cooked provides a chance to talk about chemistry. “Sid the Science Kid” has a Cooking is Chemistry video free on
    • Play in nature and notice the different organisms. Spend time looking at leaves and insects and birds. Look up more information on them on them together.
    • Science events around time. We love going to Science Saturdays at the Institutes for Discovery every first Saturday of the month. There are also lots of other opportunities to learn about science for kids, such as the Space Place and Arboretum. NASA also has amazing resources to use (like tracking and viewing the International Space Station at night). 
    • Water play and sandboxes. How many cups does it take to fill the bucket with sand? What happens when we dump the water down the tube? The possibilities are endless and fun.
    • Find books related to their favorite science topic. There are tons of cool experiments to try at home. We also love to find books that teach us both about their favorite topics and then go out and explore to find those things in real life.

Learning can be so much fun and taking time to explore the wonderful area we live in can be fun for me and my kids. What are your favorite summer “school” activities?

Jill is a born and raised Wisconsinite. She grew up just outside of Madison before heading to northern Michigan for college. Afterwards, she returned to Madison where she married her high school sweetheart, Micah, and earned her PhD in Educational Psychology. Micah and Jill live just outside of Madison with their two children, Levi (5 years old), and Alice (3 years old), and they all love sports and being outside. When Jill isn't enjoying the local Madison parks and activities with her family, she loves to play board games, and relax at home with family and friends. Jill is a busy mom, an active member in her church, and enjoys her job as an Associate Professor of Psychology for a small liberal arts college.


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