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Does the term “summer school” scare you…or get you yawning? Take a family vacation this summer and use the time productively! These summer learning ideas can help your kids get hooked on learning and excited about discovery…all year round.
Make your summer beach trip fun and educational!
One of the things I love about parent-directed learning is that you can take anywhere you go and anything you do and turn it into a learning adventure. If you make sure your own attitude is leaning towards the fun side, they won’t even know you’re doing it!
This summer learning program is loosely based on the concept of unit studies. If you’re new to that idea, unit studies are simply a way to cover a variety of subjects using one particular focus. Once you’ve done this a time or two and gotten the hang of it, you’ll find yourself moving in this direction in lots of different situations 🙂 Pretty soon you’ll be enjoying a seamless lifestyle of learning as a family…
We’ve used this summer school unit study (we called it “beach school”) for years, but you can tweak this plan no matter where you’re headed!
I’ve discovered that a week or two at the beach just about brims over with fun educational ideas. Use the ideas below to inspire you, and then make sure you follow your kids’ delight and interests to build on them. One important note about ANY unit study you work on – don’t get bogged down or legalistic about doing it the “right” way. “The right way” is when your children find something they’re excited about and then continue to learn more on their own.
Too intimidated by the thought of crafting an entire summer learning program? No worries! Feel free to choose only one or two of these ideas and run with them – your summer learning experience will still be tons of fun and engage their minds.
When they’re hooked, you’ve done summer “school” right!
Summer learning ideas – science
The beach naturally lends itself to oceanography (both biology and earth sciences)
Get out library books on:
- oceans of the world
- how waves are formed/tsunamis
- currents (world/local)
- estuary life
- ocean chemistry
as well as
- shore life – plants and animals
- sea life – plants and animals
- weather and wind studies
- fresh water/salt water (you can do a neat Venn diagram with your comparisons) (Here’s a printable from Eduplace to download!)
Summer learning ideas – history
Check out in advance if there are any forts, lighthouses, historic buildings/ports and see what time periods/events they might correspond to…lighthouse studies can go even another way (science-directed) as you study light, rainbows, vision/sight…depending on interest/relevancy/age and attention span. You can also explore ships/sailing/early navigation, leading to a study of one or more early explorers. A quick Google search can get you started, as well as a call to the Chamber of Commerce or local historical society. For both science and history, you can Google “museums” or “history of” with the town’s name, and go from there. One year we found a great marine biology museum that offered wonderful hands-on beach walks; the museum was small, but the walk-and-talk was rich!
Summer learning ideas – math
- Count/categorize shells, rocks, plants, animals and graph them,
- graph/figure out times of high/low tides,
- plan (and maintain!) a budget and/or estimate and keep track of expenses,
- figure gas mileage,
- figure trip mileage
- download a math app to use on the drive
- print out one of these math worksheets on money skills – always an interesting topic for kids/teens
Summer learning ideas – writing
- keep a journal; use words and pictures
- write a short story based on an interesting character from your trip (historical fiction!)
- create a word search or crossword puzzle of terms used/learned in your studies
- create a haiku or other type of poem
- do a research report or presentation on an interesting plant/animal/discovery
- write a movie script or play based on an incident or experience
Summer learning ideas – art
- illustrate any of the above!
- do a craft project using found materials
- “have at it” with a single-use or digital camera
- create a photo collage from the results!
- create a lap book with photos, souvenirs, stories, etc. to summarize the trip.
While you’re out and about, and especially in a new place, geocaching will help add an air of exploration, and is a fun way to both put map-reading skills to good use and encourage geography studies.
And don’t forget to bring along (or pick up during your trip) some educational games, which not only build fun family memories but can reinforce concepts learned during your studies. This selection is good for middle school and up and covers a variety of educational topics.
Stuck inside on a rainy day? The weather doesn’t always cooperate with even the best-planned vacations, right? Hop on Facebook for a second (no scrolling through your feed, now!) and look through these groups for some educational and relevant suggestions. (Tip: Use the search function to look for movies related to a particular topic or your destination.)
- Christian Homeschooling with Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Roku and MORE!
- Secular Homeschooling with Netflix and other media
- Homeschool with Netflix, Amazon streaming, etc
Wrap it up when you get home
…with books and videos. YouTube is a great free resource – just use the search function to find related videos. But do take some time to preview them, both for content and quality. Better yet, have your middle-schooler or teen create a short video from stills and their own videos taken during the trip: you’re building memories and skills.
The beauty of this approach to vacation is that you can tweak it to just about anywhere you go! Beaches or mountains, city or town…with just a few phone calls, some internet research and planning ahead, you can turn almost any trip into an opportunity for learning.
Keep thinking and stay creative…and you’ll be living a lifestyle of learning in no time!