Having returned from a great weeks holiday in Donegal on the North West tip of Ireland I’d like to share a few thoughts and – hopefully useful – tips on learning in the summer holidays.
Our annual holiday to Donegal is always tinged with trepidation because the weather, even in July, can be appalling. This year, thanks to a last minute shift in the jet stream, we lucked out on blue skies and freak temperatures in the low twenties. Add this to the usual beautiful clean empty beaches and who could ask for more! This year James and Kate’s holiday highlight was a trip to Tory Island. Not so much for the island itself, but for being tossed around and drenched by the swell on the tiny ferry boat that took us there and back. It was refreshing that the boat’s Captain had an old fashioned attitude to health and safety – or the fun would have been missed.
The Summer Slide
“The summer slide” is the term given to children’s educational gains evaporating during the summer holidays. Some writers have described this in a pretty alarmist way. In his book Outliers Malcolm Gladwell makes much of the “agricultural school calendar” being responsible for the US and European education systems falling behind Asia. His solution – have a two week break instead.
It’s no doubt true that 6 weeks – or 8 weeks in Northern Ireland & Scotland - of summer holidays without stimulating our children’s brains is not going to do them any favours when they return to school. That said, having say 2 weeks of complete down-time while away from home is invaluable for de-stressing our kids and ourselves. Like all things parenting it comes to common sense and moderation. Here are a few tips & ideas for learning activities that will keep little minds active during the summer holidays - apologies in advance for stating the obvious:
Reading is one of the best habits we can pass to our kids and its educational value is immense. Of course these days kids will default to grabbing the ipad or watching TV – so I think it’s important to switch all screens off for a while each day. Here are some some reading suggestions from James – suitable for ages 9,10,11:
- The “Percy Jackson” Books by Rick Riordan – no cover photo because he’s passed them all on
- The “Alex Rider” books by Anthony Horowitz
- Everything by Michael Morpurgo
Kate’s favourites include:
- The “Pippi Long Stocking” Books by Astrid Lindgren
- The Borrowers books by Mary Norton
- everything by Michael Morpurgo too
- Matilda – Roald Dahl
What about the 5,6,7 year old reading list?
I’m a big fan of clearing out the cupboards so we’ve passed most of our early reader books on to younger cousins. I would certainly recommend everything Roald Dahl, especially The Twits, Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but beyond that I’m hoping you guys might help by posting some suggested reading on our Facebook page or using the comments below - please add the age too!
All Things Crafty
Kids love a craft project but it can be difficult for parents to organise. The good news is it gets easier as kids get older. Here are a few great craft products that require little parental organising.
Kate, and lately James, are fixed on creating multi-coloured bracelets with her rubber bands and loom. The patterns are quite intricate and need a bit of mathematical thinking – and there are hours of dedicated weaving ahead!
As you may already know we’re big fans of the Paper Toy Monsters book. This was a life-saver a few years ago when we weren’t so lucky with the Donegal weather. Suitable for age 5 to 9, all you need is glue and scissors and away you go. Here’s a nice French site with some great free paper-toys to get you started:
There are endless crafty possibilities – here’s a site with hundreds of craft projects split into age ranges. If you have any crafty tips please post them on our facebook page or in the comments below.
Chess is a great way to develop mathematical thinking because it’s all about patterns and strategies. If your kids are new to chess it’s useful to start by using an app which shows you all the possible moves when you select a piece - this is a great way to learn the rules & moves while playing. Here’s a great free chess app for android and here’s one that looks good for ipad / iphone.
Komodo is a great way to avoid sliding back in maths during the summer holiday. There’s no need to double the effort just because there’s no school. I’d recommend - after two weeks of complete downtime - continue using it as normal for twenty minutes, five times per week. Komodo is designed to be effective in a short time – minimising the time kids spend at the screen – so once they’ve used it your kids can get outside to burn off some energy.
Co-founder of Komodomath.com & mother of James & Kate