My daughter and I spent the summer between kindergarten and first grade doing virtually nothing. It never occurred to me to help her retain her math and reading skills, but then, when she started first grade, she struggled. She was put in the lowest reading group even though she had been in the highest the year before, and the first month or so of math was a nightmare. She was frustrated and had a hard time keeping up with the rest of the class. As first grade drew to a close, I knew I had to make the coming summer more productive. But I also wanted her summer to be fun and relaxing. I needed to find a good balance between work and play. That summer we came up with some fun ideas and activities that have become tradition with her and now my other children as they start school. Here are some things we do.
We plan family outings, one for each week of the summer. By planning an outing a week, they always have something to look forward to. This summer our outings include the water park, aquarium, dinosaur museum, and beach. Pick a mixture of outings. Plan some that are simple, like a picnic at a favorite park, and plan some that are more extravagant, like a trip to the zoo.
We learn about something they enjoy. I talk to the kids about what they want to learn over the summer. This summer my daughter wants to learn about poetry. ShadowPoetry.com has a list of different poetry types. I had her look over them and pick out one type of poem for each week of summer. Every morning during breakfast we talk about the poem type of the week and she writes a poem. We could have done the same thing with art styles, artists, musicians, or musical genres.
We don’t avoid math. Though it isn’t necessary to learn new math skills over the summer, it is a good idea to review the skills they’ve already learned. You can always buy math workbooks, some, like the School Zone Interactive series, come with software. If you aren’t interested in buying a full-fledged math workbook, you can ask your child’s teacher for extra worksheets, or you can print out work sheets online at places like Saxon Basic Fact Sheets and Discovery School's Worksheet Generator.
We also visit the library regularly. Librarians often provide book lists by grade level and subject that will guide your children to books they are sure to enjoy. And don’t forget that libraries aren’t just places to find books. As well as story time and summer reading programs, our library offers weekly science and craft classes.
We create a summer journal. This helps them focus on what they are doing and to helps them later remember what we did. I buy hard-backed composition notebooks when the school supplies go on clearance each year. Then, at the beginning of summer, each child gets a notebook to keep as their summer journal. This is where my daughter writes her poetry and my son draws his plans for robots and rocket ships. They glue in ticket stubs and postcards and fill it with anything else that strikes their fancy.
All of that said, however, we allow plenty of time to play. Try to have any curriculum done first thing in the morning. This way your children have some free time in the afternoon—it is summer after all!