Okay…alright… the fighting has to stop. Go outside, both of you! Eye-yiee-yiee!
I don’t know about you, but I always looked forward to the sipping-slushy-lemonade-on-a-hammock-in-the-shade summers when my kids were young. Really. I’m not being facetious. It was my time of year when I finally got to have my kids back…BACK from the dizzying morning rushes… BACK from the frantic wardrobe malfunctions… BACK from the homework overload… BACK from all the rigors and influences juxtaposed against our family’s personal favorite pastimes and faith. Summertime was always our time…to regroup, to cuddle in the chase lounger or romp in the great outdoors, and be a comfortable, connected family unit again. I spent my kids’ youth working for the school district so I could be on their schedule. (It was hell, but somebody had to do it. Ha. I’m kidding). It was a twelve year investment worth every moment.
Now I share this article with you because maybe, like me, you also get to hang with your kiddos in the summers, but maybe unlike me YOU are about to pull your ever living hair out. Maybe it’s the rough-housing, or constant need for food? Maybe you are just tired of the noise and them being underfoot when you are trying to clean house? Someday, I know you won’t believe me, but you’re gonna miss this. These days go way too fast. I encourage you to “redeem the time” and the purpose for this particular post is to show you how.
There were always three parts to our summers when my kids were young: 1. Learning….2. Play….and 3. Vacation. In this post I will start with the “L” word (learning), and you just stop that moaning right now. This is going to be a total blast and besides that, extremely rewarding. Who’s gonna be a “home team” player?
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Summer School at home
- Enroll the kids in the summer reading program offered at your local library, and then make it a fun part of all your lives by….
Spending at least a couple hours every day reading in a beautiful outdoor setting (on a blanket under shade trees next to a babbling brook at a city park, in a hammock at a mountain campsite, while sunbathing at a pool or pond, or on a boat or a raft floating a river or lake, or in a tent by flashlight under the stars at night, etc.). My kids loved doing this. It didn’t have to always be books either. It could be comics or magazines or poetry or jokes or whatever tripped their trigger. Even books on CD were allowed. We’d listen to them on road trips, or while we did crafts, painted, or doodled.
Reward each finished book with a prize (like finding all the lending library boxes in the neighborhood and browsing them for fun, new books to exchange, renting and watching the film version of the book, doing some activity featured in the book – like gardening, cooking a certain dish, being a detective and solving a crime, starting a journal, treasure hunting, getting a puppy/kitty, taking a day or weekend trip to somewhere new, making something, baking something, finding dress-up clothes at second hand shops, going to see animals, etc. In our town there was an emu ranch that we visited, and also a lady who had a wild bird rescue with a large variety of owls.)
I spent so many winters watching my kids struggle with this subject or that one, and always wanted very much to help them understand, but our lives were so compressed and pressure-cooked during the school year (with school and homework, after school sports and activities, eating and sleeping and keeping up with laundry) that it was impossible to devote much time to truly helping them. So when summer finally arrived that was my goal.
I enrolled one of my kids in an online eSylvan program for a while, which proved to be marginally helpful. And otherwise, I created my own home tutoring programs, Math Camps, Science Camps, or Writing Camps. I remember using hop-scotch and water balloon piñatas to teach various concepts. I used a ton of indoor and outdoor games and activities to help my kids catch on to whatever it was that had them road blocked during the school year. Being fresh out of school, truly the last thing I expected they wanted to do was MORE schooling, so I never told them. Because, really, it’s not like any schooling they’d ever done before, and what they didn’t know wouldn’t bore them. So, whatever you do, DON’T label any of the rest of this “tutoring,” “learning,” “school,” or “educational.” Just pretend it is fun and games – and one giant summer-long field trip. Kids love field trips. But don’t be surprised if your kids ask to do “school” because they find out they LOVE it!
And before we get started I hope you’ll pick up the reading materials that I discovered in my quest. I’ve listed them below. They will help you and your kids soooooo much. It’s going to be a little bit of work for you up front to read through it all, but I promise by about the middle of whatever first book you choose you’ll start getting excited. There is just something exhilarating about being empowered, seeing a challenge from a new angle, and having the tools to tackle it.
The first thing you will want to do with your kids once you’ve read the books is to have them take the assessments ( oh dear, but whatever you do, don’t call them assessments, or tests, or anything that even sounds like that. Pretend you are doing quizzes, yeah, like the ones that are in the teen magazines and all over the internet. For some crazy reason we all like to take those silly quizzes, thinking we will find something new about ourselves. I think it is uniqueness we are hoping for. Well, that’s exactly what these assessments are looking for too. So make it fun, maybe as an activity while you are on a family road trip, or make a picnic lunch and while everyone is lounging on the big blanket out in a park somewhere, whip out the quiz and lay it on them. It’s best to do the quizzes one-on-one, so that one kid is not influenced by another kid’s answers. Stay positive and enjoy the conversations that are triggered. When you are done you’ll have all the info you need (praying also for God’s wisdom) to get started fashioning games and activities that match their learning styles; ones that will help them with whatever subjects they are having troubles with in school.
And the reading materials are:
Discover Your Child’s Learning Style by Mariaemma Willis, M.S. and Victoria Kindle Hodson, M.A.,
The Way They Learn by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias,
The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, M.D.,
Awakening Your Child’s Natural Genius by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D.,
Eight Ways of Knowing, by David Lazear,
Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences by Dr. Howard Gardner
In 1983 Dr. Howard Gardner, Director of Harvard University’s cognitive research project, published his book, Frames of Mind. The prize winning book introduced a new model of intelligence – Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. His cognitive research has provided educators a solid foundation upon which to identify and develop a broad spectrum of abilities within every child. Some of the best schools in America use the eight intelligences (which are a part of every human being). They are:
These intelligences are the magnets that draw our kid’s interest and attention.
Once we’ve found a way to draw their interest, it then helps to know their learning style:
Anthony D. Gregorc has written the definitive volume for identifying and understanding his model of learning styles. Sometimes it is more easily predicted by seeing how our kids handle stress? The Way They Learn is an awesome book for explaining learning styles, and modality.
Learning styles researchers Walter Barbe and Ramond Swassing present three modes of sensory perception (ways of remembering) that we all use in varying degrees. These are referred to as modalities. The most easily recognized are: auditory (hearing it), visual (seeing it), and kinesthetic (touching it).
In Discover Your Child’s Learning Style these authors provide assessments for all ages, along with a plethora of explanations, encouragement, and practical teaching techniques and ideas for every type of learner. Their biggest thing is to make everything fully multi-sensory. And they warn that not everything billed as “multi-sensory” truly is, by their standards. They believe that every single kid on the planet benefits when the materials are presented to them in a truly multi-sensory way (hearing it, seeing it, and touching it). They also make the good point that teaching and learning are two entirely different things. You can teach or present materials ad nauseam, but it’s the kid asking questions who is learning.
Now before you get too overwhelmed with all of this, please don’t give up on my article yet. Let me give you some examples that demonstrate why this is good information.
IF for instance you happen to have a “Nature Smart” kid (one who is always capturing insects and small critters, and who notices the colors and textures of leaves, and quickly identifies one bird call from another, or animal track from another, and who is always staring out a window when inside a building); and if this kid is also very “Concrete Random” (innovative, curious, creative, instinctive, adventurous); and this same child seems to need to “touch” things, even when they constantly get in trouble for it, if this child is struggling in math, these are some ways and means that might be beneficial to their learning success…
Let your child gather various leaves into a pile, bugs into a pile, feathers into a pile, seeds into a pile, etc. Let them choose what they want to collect. Then use their collection to help them understand counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing, colors, arrays, patterns, sequences, etc. Let them be the leader and patiently answer their questions by demonstrating with the objects all around them. Do everything outside in the fresh air where they will be distracted and connected and curious. You can make ordinary hikes into learning experiences. Ask him or her lots of questions about what they see and hear, and how things smell and feel. Let them make collages and collections with the objects that they’ve gathered. Give them a backpack filled with a camera, sketch book and colored pencils, plaster kits for capturing animal tracks, and let them journal what they see, make scrapbooks, hang their works on the wall. God made this world to be seen and touched and heard. He is just as much a nature lover as our child is. Your kid might grow up to be a park ranger, a farmer, or work for the Audubon Society or National Geographic one day, and all because you saw their potential, that they are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of their Creator, and you used their natural interests to help them learn and grow.
The Music Smart kid might benefit from math facts, geography, history facts, and language facts that are taught by using catchy tunes. Or they may enjoy doing chores, reading, or doing a science experiment if there is music playing in the background. Show them how King David in the Bible invented many instruments, and wrote psalms, and how he danced in the streets and worshipped God with his gifts. David was a man after God’s own heart. God put the music in him, and He put it in your child too.
Logic Smart Kids might do better appreciating poetry if you show them the mathematical side of it – limericks, for instance, have FIVE lines. Lines 1, 2, and 5 rhyme with each other, and lines 3 and 4 rhyme with each other. Challenge them to make an equal number of syllables for lines one, two, and five, but half as many for lines three and four. Show them how the limerick has its character because it is mathematically balanced. Show them that if music isn’t mathematically precise (4/4 beat or 3/4 beat) it will just sound like noise. If a painting doesn’t have the rules of balance, movement, and complimentary colors it isn’t as appealing. A joke isn’t funny unless the timing of the punchline is perfect. Show them how mathematics created a map of the stars in the universe, which can be rolled forward and backward like a huge clock. Show them that God is logical, and that your little darling was created in His image and likeness.
People Smart kids need friends; they derive energy from being around people. Put them in populated environments when you are trying to help them understand something. Create fun group activities and games where your child can interact with other people, see their reactions and responses, and talk about things. Take this child with you when you help serve at a soup kitchen, or visit children in the hospital. Turn those visits into learning experiences (how many kids have blue pajamas? and how many kids are there all together? etc.). God loves people too and He wants each one of us in His life. He created us for the pleasure of knowing us.
I could go on, and on, and on…but you get the idea, right? Isn’t it exciting? Aren’t you buzzing already with enthusiasm? Tell your friends. And let’s help our kids realize their worth and intelligence and unique place in this world. Who knows which one of them will find the cure for cancer, help to end world hunger, or finally invent that Jetson’s car we’ve been wanting for all these years.
Click here for my other Summer Survival Guide!
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
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