For the past two years, I’ve been teaching in a summer camp at the school where I am a preschool teacher. Since I taught in summer camp, my kids tagged along with me and benefited greatly from the structured environment and the regular academic review (plus lots of time outside and plenty of fun activities).
This year, however, I’m not teaching summer camp in any official capacity… but I don’t want my kids to get bored! Neither do I want them to forget EVERYthing they learned in school this past year, so I feel that they need to be regularly reviewing basic concepts. Summer camp is the easiest way to address both problems, but I can’t exactly afford to sign them up for any programs available in our area.
Enter Summer Camp at Home! Now mind you, despite the fact that I teach for a living and lesson planning is actually one of my favorite parts… well, summer is summer. Ain’t nobody got time for that planning stuff. So this is my fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, let-somebody-else-do-the-planning… and-the-cleanup… kind of summer camp.
Sound good to you? Yeah, thought so.
1.Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic
It’s so important to keep these basic concepts fresh in the mind throughout the summer, and it’s also super easy! It only takes about half an hour each day to do some simple worksheets, reading practice, and flash card review. I love to do creative, play-focused activities with my children and students, but in my opinion, these 3 subjects require plain old hard work (repetition and regular practice in applying the skills) in order to truly master them.
Try a few of these options:
- Preschool and lower elementary grades can take advantage of the dollar store’s selection of basic workbooks. They’ll especially love the ones with Disney or other cartoon themes! My kids do a combination of phonics/spelling (depending on their level) and math workbooks every day, one page in each workbook. I’ve also picked up age-appropriate workbooks at their levels in thrift stores and at yard sales.
- Free printables abound online! My K3-General Subjects Pinterest board has some great links on it; check out my othe
- r Pinterest boards for more subject-specific printables.
- Flash cards for many basic topics are also available at the dollar store: numbers, shapes, colors, letters, math facts, and more. You can use these flash cards to play lots of different games, as well.
- Various websites offer customizable worksheets so your little summer students can focus on areas specific to their needs. Twisty Noodle is great for beginning writers, while the AtoZ Teachers website offers a handwriting worksheet generator for older writers. Math Fact Cafe is a great resource for creating math worksheets on any level. Starfall is one of the best online resources for teaching and developing reading skills.
Do you have any nature centers in your area? Trails to hike? Public gardens, zoos, animal parks, farms you can visit? All of these qualify for science study, and give your kids great hands-on experiences without a lot of planning or prep on your part. Many of these types of places often have special programs for kids that are cheap or free and provide an even more educational experience. If you’re willing to shell out a few more bucks, most cities have children’s museums and science museums with lots of great hands-on exhibits (and a relief from the summer heat).
My county (Fairfax County in VA) has a special program for kids that rewards them for visiting 8 of their 12 parks and nature centers, and many national/state parks have similar programs. Check out what your local state and national park programs have to offer!
I also plan to take my kids to nearby farms to pick fruit that’s in season throughout the summer, which adds another element to their science (and health and nutrition) education.
In addition to a wealth of science opportunities, we also live surrounded by Civil War battlefields and other historic areas. We also live within driving distance of Colonial era historic sites, like Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown and the like. On top of that, we can head into DC or Baltimore, MD (Fort McHenry!) anytime we want for a field trip as good as any they’d encounter anywhere! For those of you who live in the Metropolitan DC area (or are planning a trip this way), check out Specialicious for local deals on various activities. Also try Certifikid, which is available in 10 different cities around the country, and offers discount deals on all kinds of family-friendly activities, including local historic sites and more. Dealize is a great resource to help you find local group deals wherever you live.
My plan is to take my kids on two field trips each week – one science based, the other history based. You can fit it into your schedule however it works best for you!
We play outside a lot, too, which has tons of obvious benefits besides being just plain old fun. For hot days, sidewalk chalk and bubbles under the shade are the way to go, at least until evening comes and we can run around a bit in the cooler air.
We also invest in an annual pass to the water park just down the street from us – it’s a wonderful way to cool down and have fun throughout the summer, and adds a vacation feel to our busy summer.
If you live near a Bowl America, consider their Summer Blast Pass, which offers free bowling games to kids all summer long. All you have to pay for is shoe rental.
Otherwise, we opt out of sports programs in the summer, preferring to keep our schedule on the slower side. You might find, though, that your little summer campers benefit from more organized sports programs – swimming lessons, perhaps, or participating in fun runs.
If you’re not very artsy – see me raising my hand?- and/or you dislike cleaning up a mess made by little artisans – raising my hand again – then consider checking out local arts and crafts stores for their kids’ programs in the summer. Here are some that we’re going to try:
- Michael’s has a kids’ art class program called Passport to Imagination with different themed activities each week. One class costs $5, 3 classes are only $12. Joanns has a program called “Little Makers” with different classes in various arts and crafts. Most of them are geared towards children 8 and older, some are designed for younger children, ages 5 and up. Also, most of their classes cost, some $20 or more, some $10 or less. If you have AC Moore near you, they have “Summer Fun Wednesday” classes from 1-3pm each Wednesday.
- Home Depot and Lowe’s also have free kids’ workshops throughout the year.
- The Lego Store also has a monthly Mini Model workshop where each attendee can build and take home a mini model. You have to register for these right away, though, as they are quite popular!
- If cooking is more your thing, and you have one near by, try Williams-Sonoma’s free Junior Chef classes.
- Microsoft stores and Apple stores have kids’ programs (ages 8 and up) for the more technologically-minded.
What’s summer without fun? I mean the kind of fun that doesn’t have any other purpose! I check out Facebook groups, local blogs and websites for links to free and cheap fun summer activities. Local libraries are also a great source of fun kids programs in the summer and all year long.
Here are some of the fun things we’ll be doing this summer:
- Free/Cheap kids’ movies from several different local theaters. Regal Entertainment is one that offers $1 kids movies once or twice a week throughout the summer.
- Downtime at home: we don’t have a lot of time during the school year to watch TV or play video games, so I let my kids have some free downtime during the summer to do those things.
- Playdates: We’ve had a couple already and have scheduled a couple more. We are especially looking forward to spending more time with friends we don’t get to see as often during the school year.
- We also hope to schedule a few day or weekend trips throughout the summer, just to relax and get away and “feel” like vacation.
- And finally, when my husband and I go on a missions trip to … wait for it… Arkansas!… my in-laws will be watching The Boyz for a week, so they get a whole full week with Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt, Uncle, & Cousins!
So how do you do summer at home? Do you continue school? Try to maintain structure to one extent or another, or just let the lazy summer days ride on by?