Ugh, nothing is more dreaded than those first few weeks of school when it seems the students forgot everything they knew at the end of the year before.

This year, I told my students that summers aren’t for losing those skills, but they are for sharpening those skills. They don’t have to learn more they just have to apply what they already know so that they know it really well by the time school starts again.

I will certainly be sharpening skills over the summer, but I won’t be doing it locked up with pencil and paper inside my house and I would never encourage that with a  child either…summers rock! So does learning. Here are a few ways you can bring them together:



*If you have a daily/weekly reading requirement at your school right now, keep reading that amount every night over the summer.

*Read a book with your child and then create a collage, puppet show, drawing, clay figures, etc…something depiicting what you just read about.

*Almost every library has a summer reading program–join it! They usually have prizes and it’s organized and kids love it.


*Have your child keep a summertime journal. Have them set a goal of how often they write. Try to monitor this to make sure they’re remembering to punctuate and capitalize sentences correctly as well as writing complete sentences.

*People watch or catalog browse–have your child brainstorm stories about the people in the catalog. Have them practice narrative writing skills by writing the story out.

*They could practice persuasive writing skills by writing a letter to one of their parents to persuade them to do one special thing this summer.

*They could research a place your visiting for vacation or even a water park and write some facts about it. It would make the experience even more meaningful if your child knew a little something about the place your visiting before you get there.

Math (which has become my baby, my beloved subject matter, near and dear to my heart….don’t forget about math in the summer!!!)

*Point out the way we use math in everyday life. Create little applicable problems for your child. If they are in the younger grades have them calculate the amount of miles they rode their bike with you over the course of a month. If they’re older, have them calculate the number of miles on a trip you’re taking. Point out the change in speed limit on a road trip and see if they can find the difference. Go shopping with your child and explain how you use rounding when making sure you don’t overspend at the grocery store.

*Basic Fact Practice. Depending on your child’s grade level s/he is probably learning basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division facts. Buy a set of flashcards (usually available at the dollar store) and practice them for a few minutes each day. If you have a child who struggles with basic facts, don’t focus on strictly memorizing instead use one of the following approaches:

-Focus on pairs to ten ==this helps with addition and subtraction

-Focus on doubles facts for addition or mutliplication. I.e. if they know that 8+8=16 then they can find the relationship between that and 8+7 (7 is one less than 8) so it’s 15.

-Doubling–Practice doubling. This is hugely valuable for basic multiplication facts. If a kid can find 6×2 by doubling, than s/he can find 6×4 by doubling, and then 6×8. The student could also add 6 to 6×2 to find 6×3, double that for 6×6, and double that for 6×12.

-Use facts you know. For any operation, if the student knows a related fact, then s/he can use it to find the unknown. If I know that 6 x 5 is 30 and 6 x 2 is 12 then 6 x 7 is 42. If I know 14-7 is 7 then I know that 14-6 will be one greater because I’m taking one less away. Etc…

*Math Games–Have a math game night and play one of these games:

-24 from Pioneer Woman–this game is incredible and can be adapted to older grades to really focus in on order of operations. It’s quite a challenging game. I played it with my after-school program students.

Close to ____________. This link is an interactive online game where kids are “dealt” cards that they arrange to add together to get closest to 20, 100, or 1000. (So it’s adaptable to many ages). They can play this game at home with a deck of cards, a sibling/parent/grandparent, paper, and pencil. So much fun and so challenging but it really encourages an understanding of numbers and their value. (I’m trying to keep this list kind of brief, so I don’t detail these instructions, but if you click the link and play the game a few times yourself, it will make sense).

31-This is another game that can be played with cards. I loved this game as a kid. The rules vary depending on where you look. This particular link tells you that all cards must be from the same suit in order to add them up, but for young kids trying to make math fun, I say disregard that rule. It also says to play with tokens that you give away to the winner of each round. Some people may not like this because it’s too much like gambling (don’t do that then, just play the game and announce a winner after each round) or play it that way and make it fun, maybe play with candy or something.

The kids won’t even know they’re sharpening skills and it will be fun for the whole family.