Thursday, June 11, 2015

Balancing Academic with Relaxation in Summer {guest post}

I have recently teamed up with a group of amazing women in a Babywise Friendly Blog Network. We post guest post on each other's blogs from time to time.

Today I have the honor to introduce to you all Valerie Plowman. She is a mother to 4 children and has been blogging and helping mothers map out the ins and outs of parenting for several years. Her blog has been a resource to me for over 6 years now, and to so many more. You can find her at

by Valerie Plowman

A very common, and very legitimate, concern many parents have during summer months when school is out is how to avoid a summer setback. A summer setback is when the child returns to school in the fall and finds he/she is not at the same level he was when school let out for the summer. When you avoid a summer setback, you avoid a loss of skills.

Despite this concern over summer setback, we are conflicted as parents. We have this opposite pull that makes us want to have a relaxed summer. We want to give our children a break and give them the chance to worry about nothing but being kids for the summer. We want a more relaxed schedule and a shorter to-do list. I know that as my children have gotten older, I have wanted summers to be less and less structured. However, that doesn't mean I want my children falling behind themselves over the summer.

So how do you balance?

You can do some academics each day without turning each and every day into just another school day. One thing you can do is simple math facts and/or math worksheets. Math fact pages can be found all over the internet. Doing a short sheet of addition problems, multiplication problems, or division problems can be done in 10 minutes or less. It can a be a post-breakfast or post-lunch activity. Doing this daily (or as close to daily as possible) can significantly help your child to be on top of math when school resumes in the fall. You can also check out this post for more ideas to help avoid summer setback in math.

If you ask any teacher how to help your child during the summer, she will encourage you to read, read, read. Reading is the simple answer, and there are simple ways to fit reading into your schedule each day.

Reading programs are a fun way to stay motivated to keep reading up during the summer. Check with your local library to see if they have a summer reading program. If you can't find one, you can always plan your own goals and reward system for reading milestones through the summer.

One of my favorite things to do in the summer for reading is called Sustained Silent Reading (SSR). This is when you all sit in the room together and read whatever you like for 30 solid minutes (including the parent). You don't talk; you just read. We do this in the afternoon right at the time my toddler goes down for a nap. I like the afternoon because it is the middle of the day. It is a time the kids can all take a break from their play and relax a bit. It is also a break from the heat of the day and a chance to cool down. All of my children really enjoy SSR.

Another way to help with reading is to read to your child each day. If you read stories before bedtime, keep it up during the summer (if you don't, I encourage you to start). Read aloud to all of your children, no matter the ages. During summer, bedtime can really creep up on you. Do what you have to to ensure there is enough time to keep bedtime stories as part of your routine.

Plan regular visits to the library through the summer. How often you can go will depend on your proximity and circumstances. We go once each week. I let each child choose 3-5 books for the week (I don't want too many books to keep track of). The children enjoy having a variety of books to read. Having a new book keeps them interested.

Find unique ways to get reading stories or reading practice in. I have my six year old read me a book each day while I do her hair. She is able to finish a book in about the time it takes me to do her hair. This is a consistent time of day that we can remember to fit this reading practice in. The other night, our ten year old read from Oliver Twist to my husband while he did landscaping. You can also do reading in the car, have your child read to you as you make creative.

Summer often involves time spent in the car while traveling near and far. Something we love to do is listen to books on CD as we drive. It is a great way to get extra reading in while still being able to go do your fun things.

While you want to do what you can to prevent the summer setback, you still want summer to be relaxing. You can allow down time. You can spend a relatively short time on the learning stuff each day and leave plenty of time for play and rest and relaxation.

It is important to remember that for children, play is work. Play is more to children than what it is to us. For adults, play is fun and relaxing. For children, play has learning attached to it. My daughter's Kindergarten teacher sent home a paper of things to do this summer. Along with reading and simple math problems, she stressed the importance of play for children. To read more on the benefits of free play, see this post. Do not feel bad about giving your children time to be creative and have fun playing.

Another great thing to do during the summer is fun learning ideas. This can be a good time to try out some of those fun pins decorating your Pinterest account. There is so much learning that can happen through fun activities.

Television, movies, computer time, and video games can be okay at times, but be careful to not let that time overrun your child's time for free play. Limit the time allowed with electronics each day or each week. Make sure you are not letting electronics suck up your play time.

What you don't want is to panic two weeks before school starts with either 1)Ack! My kids haven't done any sort of learning for 2 1/2 months! or 2)Ack! We haven't done anything fun this summer!

Sit down and make a list of things you would like to see happen this summer. What kinds of learning things do you want to happen? Write out how you can work those into each day and make some goals you can keep.

As you are making your list, write down some fun things you would like to see happen daily and throughout the summer. Essentially, make a bucket list (but a reasonable one). A bucket list doesn't have to be a list of highly amazing things. You might want to go for a few bike rides. Go swimming a few times. Try some new parks. Go to that new splash pad. Write out your ideas and pencil them into your calendar for the summer.

With a little bit of forethought and effort, you can make sure you have time for play and time for learning throughout the summer. You might also enjoy these posts I have written on the topic:
Avoiding Summer Setback in All Areas, Summer Planning and Preparation, Summer Fun At Home, Summer Structure, and Occupying Children During Summer.

Valerie is a mother of four, ages 2-10, and blogs at

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