School is out. The students have closed their books and taken the last tests. The books have all been sent back to the school house. It’s time to forget math and language and reading for a few months!
Whoa, not so fast! Summer is a time to let school simmer on the back burner, but do let it simmer and not grow totally cold. When a cook lets a pot simmer, she is letting the contents cook together and become a flavorful dish. Summer simmering of school work can be a time for students to take their book learning and turn it into practical learning. If the cook turns off the burner once the ingredients are in the pot, the dish will be cold and not very tasty. If a student leaves his books and their ideas in the school room all summer, he will find a cold return to school in the fall. Students should allow their learning to simmer this summer.
Depending on the age of the student the simmering may take different forms. For the child who has just completed first or second grade, parents may need to take an active role in stirring the pot once in a while. The young student who plays away his summer hours without picking up a book will find himself disadvantaged when he re-enters the classroom. Older students should make practical applications of reading and math as they help out at home. Following are some ideas that enable summer simmering.
Students need responsibility. It will vary according to age but children should be required to complete chores in a timely manner. Willingly sticking at a task until completion aides attention and focus back in the classroom. Summer is a good time to work in added responsibilities to a child’s daily routine.
Students need word encounters. All students should be encouraged to read during the summer months, but some need more encouragement than others. The child who is reluctant to pick up a book is the very one who should spend extra time reading. Usually, good readers need no encouragement. Create space in every day, maybe a half hour before they turn out the lights at night, for children to read. Have students read stories to entertain younger siblings. They can take a turn reading in family devotions. And parents, continue to read stories to your children. Especially in the early grades, a child’s listening level is much greater than his reading level. Reading to your children provides stretching their vocabulary and encountering ideas beyond what they will read themselves.
For the reluctant reader, provide an incentive for reading. Some libraries offer summer reading programs, or you can develop your own. An incentive should be something worth working for. It could be as simple as read ten books and we’ll have pizza for supper, or read ten books and we’ll get an ice cream cone at the ice cream stand, or take an afternoon and go swimming at a friend’s pool, or take a picnic to the park, or have a friend over to play. Find a goal that interests your child. Whatever you do, purpose to make reading a necessity.
Continue working at math concepts during daily life. Math surrounds us in all we do. Take the opportunity to keep math concepts alive. Young students often need practice with telling time and counting money. Throughout the day use the clock. Ask students what time it is. Tell them at 3:00 they may have a lemonade break and have them watch the time and let you know when it is 3:00. (Having at least one analog clock in a main living area is a good idea. We are seeing students who never encounter analog clocks except in their math text.) When they go with you to the store, use cash and let them count the change you get, or better yet have them pay for the purchase from your wallet. (This is not exactly practical for Walmart shopping, but choose shopping encounters where this will work. We are also seeing students who don’t see actual cash and change very often.) Following a recipe uses math, so does helping dad change the lawn-mower wheel by handing him the correct size wrench. Planting and harvesting the garden provide many opportunities to practice math concepts. And don’t forget good old-fashioned flash card practice for the younger students who are still learning the facts. Even five minutes a day will do wonders in keeping the facts in their minds.
Children need to play. “Play is the work of childhood.”1 For the younger child, summer should also be a time for play, the outdoor-use-your-imagination kind of play. Even older students should spend their recreation time with non-electronic, non-screen activities. Give the screens and phones a break. Go outside, get hot and sweaty, run around, soak up Vitamin D, grow muscles, and improve your imagination. Organized play, such as softball games with friends, has its place. They learn valuable life lessons when playing by the rules. Unorganized play, such as building a fort in the woods, also has a place. (And in play, students are also using what they have learned whether they realize it or not.)
Add geography, science, history, art, and music to the summer pot for extra flavor. Are you traveling this summer? Students can learn to read the map as you go. (A GPS is handy, but map-skills are also essential.) Fishing can be an excellent biology lesson. Making your own compost for the garden and growing plants with the compost is also science. Listening to Grandpa tell stories about by-gone years is a good history lesson. Enjoy singing together as you work. Students can make a card for Grandma and then write her a letter to put with it. The possibilities are only limited by your ingenuity.
The summer months provide many opportunities for learning to simmer. If students make use of these opportunities, they will find that they’ve cooked up a wonderful appetizer for the next school term. Happy simmering!
CONTRIBUTOR: Carolyn Martin