Summer Reading There are plenty of learning opportunities even when school gets out—and that's great news for you if you're asking things like

How do I keep my kids learning this summer without doing school?


What are some extra-fun things we can do to keep everyone thinking and trying new things?

Or especially

I can’t get my kids outside. Or even out of bed. How do I get them excited about doing anything educational?

Try a few of the ideas below for a great summer that encourages growing minds— and gives yours a break.

Grow cucumbers.

Or grow tomatoes, watermelons, and peppers. There are plenty of warm-season plants that grow really well in a backyard setting.

The backyard is full of learning opportunities. If your child doesn’t know how to grow a garden, introduce him to Google. Or take a trip to the library.

Build a birdhouse.

Let the kids try their hand at odd jobs around the house.

Emptying the lawn-mower bag, for example—cleaning the pool, building a birdhouse, unclogging the drain pipes, cooking dinner, and much more.

If you’re asking them to do chores they’ve never done before, that means they’re learning. Have them look up instructions, and ask the older ones to help the younger ones.

Let them even make a mistake or two, and be right behind them to use it as a teachable moment.

Sleep under the stars.

Summer adventures don’t have to be expensive or 150 miles away.

This one can be a learning experience for all ages, and it’s as close as lying out on the back porch under a sky full of stars.

Take out maps of the constellations and try to name the stars. There are even apps where you can hold up the phone to the sky if you get stuck.

Look up pictures of clouds and chase down a rainstorm—everyone can watch the clouds out the window. Chase a sunrise, or go for a drive on a windy day under the thick, low-hanging clouds. Even weather comes with a lesson to learn.

Visit a factory (or the back of a restaurant).

Try calling up your local manufacturing company or doughnut shop. Lots of (unexpected) places are happy to host a “backstage tour.” Some even give you free samples. ☺

Say au revoir to English.

Learning a language feels a lot less like education when you’re using an app.

You can interact with them, practice vocabulary, and have conversations. (Plus, many of these are free!)

If your kids decide to try a new language, they can take that a step further by learning about the culture of that country.

For example, if your children choose French, have a Saturday morning where they work together and make traditional French crepes. They can learn the names of the ingredients they’re using, then set the table in the French style before serving up crêpes avec crème.

And there’s no pressure—because it’s summertime. They can mess up, they can burn the crepes, or say oui wrong, but hey—they’re learning.

Sell lemonade.

This reinforces the value of money to your child in a way that really matters to him (because this time, it’s not a story problem). This is money for his piggy bank or extra spending money for family vacation!

Lemonade Encourage each child to start a small business that’s age appropriate. That might mean anything from a lemonade stand to a bake sale or a garage sale. It might be lawn care or house cleaning.

Learning will become a personal thing when your kids see the money they are earning and investing.

Read stuff.

Have each of your kids create a reading list for the summer. They can choose whatever they want and run it by you for the final decision.

And there is a two-fold advantage to a summer reading list:

  1. Reading has so many benefits for the mind. There is no better way for your child to "accidentally" learn.
  2. It’s built-in quiet time after a busy morning in the sun. And it’s the alternative to “quiet time” with the remote or video game controllers.

And feel free to pull from what each child was learning during the school year. If your 9th grader studied American heritage for history, have him read historical fiction or nonfiction on American heroes.

Also, consider checking out your public library. Many public libraries offer a summer reading program that awards participants prizes for each book they read, and enters their name into a contest for the “grand prize” if they read a certain quota of books.

And write stuff.

This can tie right into everyone’s reading lists. Try these ideas:

  • Write a different ending to the story.
  • Write a song you think one of the characters in the book would sing.
  • Write a commercial for your book.
  • Write an e-mail to the author of the book.

Or your children can journal about the day or write a letter to a big brother or sister who isn’t home for summer vacation.

A long-forgotten practice (almost unheard of to people 18 and under) is scrapbooking.

Have everyone scrapbook about the summer. Each family member can write about his own experience and paste in magazine clippings, photos, and ticket stubs from outings to fairs and baseball games.

Make your own bubbles.

Make Your Own Bubbles This is just the beginning of your family’s DIY summer. Mixing water, dish soap, and corn syrup together is all over the Internet right now for homemade bubble solution.

Find other DIY projects or crafts to do together, then give them a try! Make them simple for a fun afternoon or more difficult for something that can last all summer.

Volunteer at a soup kitchen.

Learning to serve people might be the most valuable thing your child gains this summer.

Most cities are full of volunteer opportunities and unmet needs. It’s not a question of opportunity—it’s about finding a willing pair of hands.

If you aren’t sure what opportunities are available, search by your zip code!

Put on a play.

There’s no better way to discover your inner Shakespeare than by putting on a play in the living room.

Pull scripts from literature the kids have read during the school year.

Break out the bed sheets for curtains and bathrobes for costumes. Make popcorn to hand out in paper lunch bags. And video everything for playback 10 years down the road.

It’ll be an unforgettable experience for everyone.

Go see a whale.

Day trips are your friend. Museums, aquariums, zoos—these are interactive education handed to you. You don’t do anything except drive the kids there and buy them a Popsicle halfway through the visit. Encourage them see the sites, read the plaques, and touch the displays (preferably the ones that do NOT say “Do Not Touch”).

Also consider church camps, sports camps, or even mission trips.

Review the basics before school starts again.

This is easier than it sounds.

A unique thing about Abeka is that the curriculum is designed to review in the beginning of each year. The review reinforces what the kids have learned and gets them ready for the new chapters and concepts in the next grade.

Start them slow a month early if you need to! Do a page a week from each subject. It shouldn’t be hard because they already know it—but it’s a trackable way to “warm up” for the next year.

And don't forget…

It’s okay to do nothing sometimes too. Play a game. Drink some lemonade. Sit around talking about ideas, telling stories, and laughing until your sides hurt.

After all, it's summer!