Family summer fun: 10 ways to learn and connect

Summer break is a time of year when homeschooling parents wonder how to keep kids busy, motivated, and productive - yet still allow for plenty of fun and relaxation. Even those who keep to a year round schedule often ease up for a more restful pace during the summer.

There are also concerns that the skills children have learned will dull from lack of use if they don't do something to stay sharp, but how does one accomplish that without 'doing school'?

There are some very simple things a family can do to connect with each other, and keep young minds from turning to mush - turn off the television, go for walks, head to the zoo or a local museum, plant a garden, arrange to meet friends at the park for some low-frills picnics, and read out loud together under a shade tree.

For something a little different, here are a few ideas for projects, big and small, short and long, to make this a summer to remember:

  • Write a letter to your future self. Your students compose a letter addressed to their future selves about what they want to have accomplished by the end of the next school year. Seal it, write a "Do Not Open Until" date on the letter, and place it where it will be seen regularly. It will act as a reminder of their goals for the coming year, and when they open it, they can evaluate how well they met their objectives.
  • Create a scrapbook or graphic novel. Girls seem to enjoy scrapbooking, but boys? Not so much. While the girls are making a scrapbook with pictures and captions that memorialize the previous year, a comic book or graphic novel format might be just the ticket to inspire the guys to do the same in their own unique guy-like way.
  • Host a "Getting to Know You" neighborhood potluck. This is more of a major undertaking, but the rewards are worth it. Get permission from the city, plan the site (blocked off street, local park, large yard) and a menu, sign up some volunteers for various dishes, make and deliver invitations, advertise your event at the local grocery store, and have a few games and activities ready that will help make some connections in your community.
  • Celebrate the end of the school year with an awards ceremony, but with personal, unique twist. Parents and kids can award prizes to each other about particular areas of improvement,  appreciated character traits, specific acts of thoughtfulness or kindness, or humorous quirks and habits.
  • Plan a family auction. During the summer, award tickets to the kids for each book they finish, doing 'extra credit' projects, being proactive and helpful around the house, or any other behavior or accomplishment you'd like to recognize. Include friends and relatives as well if possible. Have some fun and interesting items ready for the auction, and launch the next school year with an entertaining night of bidding on prizes with the tickets they've earned and saved over the summer.
  • Write and perform a play or musical. This could be a reenactment of a family adventure or milestone, (especially a humorous one), the retelling of a story, a spoof of a tv show, movie, or book, or script it from a historical event.
  • Create your own version of a well-loved game. Make a Monopoly board of your community, or a Clue game based on your house or a local business or building.
  • Enjoy an International Dinner once a week/month. Have the kids plan a dinner around the foods and flavors of another country.
  • Make an obstacle course in your backyard for lots of healthy play this summer. Use a stopwatch to time them and keep a chart of how much they improve their speed and dexterity over the summer.
  • Keep a climate/weather chart. Summer can be a time of extreme weather for some parts of the country. Make a chart to keep track of weather predictions, and see how they compare with the actual weather. It helps if you have some simple weather measurement tools of your own.

Once you get started with these ideas, you will probably think of your own ways to learn and connect with your family this summer.

Regardless of the season, never miss the opportunity to nurture your family relationship and make learning a pleasurable experience.