Summer break is almost here! As a homeschool mom, I am ready for the break, and yes, we take the summer off. I just haven’t been able to get myself to do the year round thing. I know many families do, and it definitely has some benefits.
I personally need the break, maybe more than the kids do. However, as a former teacher, who spent the first nine weeks of every school year trying to catch my students up with everything they lost over break, I know the importance of keeping up with skills over the summer to prevent the summer slide, as it’s called.
*Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase after clicking through, The Unexpected Homeschooler may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read full disclosure policy in the menu.
What Is the Summer Slide?
Summer slide is the amount of academic skills a student loses over the summer while not actively learning. When students are not in school, they can lose an average of two and a half months of math skills and two months of reading knowledge during their summer break. This increases over time, and by junior high, it can equal as much as two years of learning that has been lost. That’s a lot!
Many students spend a large amount of their summer inside the house watching television or on electronic devices. It’s hard to keep them actively involved in learning and even more challenging to come up with creative ideas that they’ll want to do. So what can you do?
How to Prevent the Summer Slide?
There’s really no mystery to preventing the loss of academics over the summer. The best form of prevention is to continuing learning throughout the summer. The trick, however, is to make it so fun your kids won’t realize they are learning. Don’t worry! Instead of spending hours searching the internet for fun summer activities, I’ve got you covered with lots of great ideas your kids are going to love.
Provide Extended Learning Opportunities
Extended learning opportunities are the key to helping your child continue to learn over the summer. These are intentional experiences or activities you can set up to increase the amount of time they spend learning and reduce the summer slide that can happen.
If given the option, many children aren’t going to go out looking for ways to learn while on summer break. You have to be proactive and plan out the activities. I think the best way to do this is to print out a calendar and then choose from the suggestions I have listed below.
Write on your calendar one or two activities you’d like to do each week. Also, list the materials you may need for them so you will know in advance and can have them ready. That way you won’t be scrambling around looking for things at the last minute or give up altogether.
Having ideas marked on the calendar is going to make you much more likely to do them. You won’t have to be on the computer for hours searching for fun things to do with kids at home. Just look at your calendar a few days or even the week before and gather any materials you may need. When the day comes, you will be ready to have fun with your kids!
I have divided the list into categories to make it easier for you to cover a variety of subjects over the summer months.
Language Arts Activities
Many kids won’t always go off and read on their own without some sort of motivation. I have gathered some ways you can entice them to continue reading throughout the summer.
1. Reading Bingo Challenge
This is a fun way, especially for your younger readers, to want to read each day. You can get a free printable reading bingo card from The Chirping Moms and see how they use it with a reward system to get their kids excited about reading.
2. Read the Book and Then See the Movie
Most of our children love to watch movies. You can use this to your advantage and find several books that were turned into movies. Encourage your child to read the book first, and then reward him with a movie night along with his favorite snacks to watch it. Check out this list of books that have been turned into movies.
3. Summer Reading Programs
Sign your child up for a summer reading program. There are several we’ve been involved with over the years that have really inspired my girls to read over the summer. Here are some of our favorites:
- Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Program– We have participated in the Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Program for many years. Each summer, my kids can’t wait to get their form (which you can print out online or go into the store and pick it up) and start reading. Each child (Grades 1-6) must read 8 books of their choice throughout the summer. They fill in the title, author, and what they liked most about the story on their journal sheet. When it is completed, they take it to the store where they can choose one free book from the list on the back of the form. These books are located on a bookshelf in the children’s department. We have found their selection to be great every year. They have been new books that my girls have really wanted to earn.
- Scholastic Read-a-Palooza Summer Reading Challenge– Scholastic runs an online reading challenge as well. It runs for 18 weeks, and kids can enter the minutes they have read, which unlocks digital rewards like videos, accessing book excerpts, and other summer-exclusive content. They also have a list of resources you can use on their site, such as a book list, reading pledge, minute tracker, and certificate of achievement.
- Half-Price Books– Half-Price Books has a summer reading camp with activities and rewards for the summer. There’s a different activity each week, reading logs to print, and a giveaway you can enter. They also have suggestions for books for different age levels.
4. Have Family Mad Libs Nights
Have you done these before? I remember doing these in school, and they are so much fun and an easy way to practice grammar! My family gets a kick out of them. You can buy the tablets online, and they come in so many different topics you are sure to find one your child is interested in.
Mad libs are short stories with the different parts of speech left blank. Underneath each blank, it tells you the part of speech that is missing from the sentence (Ex. noun, action verb, adjective, etc.). Each child or family member can take a turn giving an answer for a missing word while someone is the secretary filling in the blanks. This makes sure only the person writing can see what the story is about.
When you are done, read the story and be prepared to laugh!. These are fun to do in the car on long rides. These can also be done independently for just as much fun. To do that, the child shouldn’t read the story first. Just fill in all the blanks.
5. Make Lists
Making lists is fun for a lot of kids. If you buy a special notebook for them to keep their lists in, that makes it meaningful. They can practice grammar skills like capitalizing proper nouns and writing out titles. Have them make a list of their “favorites.” Here are some ideas:
- Places to visit
- Games to play
Let them come up with their own ideas for lists as well.
6. Keep a Summer Journal
A fun way to keep memories from the summer is for your children to keep a journal of everything they do. Girls especially like to do this. This is a fantastic way to keep those writing skills fresh. They can draw pictures as well.
If you purchase a cute journal and some fun pens or colored pencils, this can become a keepsake.
Here are some cute themed journals:
For the beach lover:
For the outer space fan
For the donut lover
Here are some other ones they might like.
This is a really nice set of 20 different journal stencils and 24 color Fineliner Pens to decorate the pages of their journal.
If you have a child that is more into documenting things on a computer and loves to take pictures, you may want to consider letting him create his own blog. There are several options for kids to do this. You can check out the two I’ve listed below.
Either option will make a nice keepsake to go back and look at later in time, and you never know if it will inspire a budding writer!
7. Pen Pals
Having a pen pal is a great way to work on writing skills. It’s also a lot of fun if you get an international one and can learn about their country and culture, throwing in some geography and social studies.
8. Homemade Bubbles
Who doesn’t like to blow bubbles? This is such a fun summertime activity and why not sneak in a little science while doing it. Let your kids learn how to make their own bubble solution by experimenting with different recipes.
Homemade Bubble Solution Recipe
9. Bubble Projects with Science Experiments
Once you have a bubble recipe your kids like, try out some of these projects with them. Each of these includes the science behind the magic. There is also a worksheet that gives ideas for different objects that can be used as a bubble wand.
10. Mentos Geysers
This is a really cool experiment your kids are sure to love! It makes quite an eruption that will get their attention and open up a discussion about how it happened. ‘
Warning: This explosion happens really fast, so make sure whoever is adding the mentos does it quickly and runs away fast! As you can see from the picture, my daughter almost didn’t make it away in time!
11. Homemade Compost Pile
Composting the trash your family throws away is a great way to learn about recycling. Your children can learn how to make a compost bin and then it can be used as fertilizer for a garden. This is really interesting to watch.
After you have learned how to create a compost bin, you need to have a garden or at least a few plants to use it with. I have found a great site that covers a plethora of ideas about gardening for kids. There is a lot to learn on this site, and it has all the basics and more to get started with your own garden.
13. Nature Scavenger Hunt
Kids love scavenger hunts, so why not hit the great outdoors and get them learning about nature. I have created two nature scavenger hunts you can print and use. One has pictures for your younger children who may not be reading yet, and one with a list and points to total up. Be sure to download them at the bottom of the page!
14. Edible Chemistry
Chemistry can be a complex subject in school, but you can use some simple recipes to introduce or review some of the concepts with your child and make them easier to understand.
15. Rainbow Science Projects
Everyone is always amazed when a rainbow appears in the sky. Help your kids to make a prism to understand how it happens and then make their own rainbow.
16. Make Elephant Toothpaste
This is a pretty cool experiment your kids are going to love and will want to play with for quite a while after because it’s a great sensory project as well. It’s called elephant toothpaste because it makes an enormous foam that looks like toothpaste an elephant would use.
The picture to the right is the one we did. It wasn’t as big of a reaction as the one on the link with the directions because we used regular hydrogen peroxide you would find at a drug store. If you would like the results shown on that site, you need to get a hydrogen peroxide that is 6% or 20 volume. This is lots of fun! You need to try this one!
17. Walking Water Science Experiment
If you are looking for a neat experiment that even your teens will like, this is it! Watch colored water walk from one cup to another and amaze your kids.
Watch the video for instructions and then looke at the picture to the right for the final result. If it doesn’t seem to work right away, you may want to try a different brand of paper towels. Also, make sure you cut them in half so there isn’t too much in there.
18. Backyard Weather Station
Weather is a fascinating topic with lots to learn. You can help your child set up a weather station to monitor and learn about it. I have found some videos that give step-by-step directions to show how to build the equipment themselves.
Videos with directions to make the equipment:
Homemade weather vane video
Homemade Barometer Video
Homemade Anemometer Video
How to Make a Hygrometer
Here are some other STEM activities you can do with materials around the house.
19. Lemonade Stand
What kid doesn’t want to set up a lemonade stand an make some money over the summer? My girls ask every year! It’s really a great way to teach them about running a business and practice some math as well. Set up a lemonade stand in your driveway or neighborhood and watch your children become little entrepreneurs. I have instructions for a DIY lemonade stand below.
20. Construction Projects
If your child loves to build, here are the directions for a DIY lemonade stand if you want to teach some building skills along with math. This is a wonderful project to do together! Not only that, they will use this for hours of pretend play long after the lemonade business is closed.
Here are some other woodworking projects you can do with your child to sneak in some math. Some of these would make great gifts at Christmas!
And here are 40 of the best woodworking projects for kids! There’s something in there for all levels. Very cool!
21. Go Shopping
Teens love to shop! This is a perfect way to incorporate some math into an activity they will get excited about. Find a sale that is going on and head to the mall. Perhaps give your child a budget to shop with and stick to. While shopping, your child will have to figure out things such as:
- The percentage off
- How much money can be saved with the sale price
- Calculating the subtotal
- Determining the tax
- Calculating the final total
- If they have enough money or need to choose something else
- How much change they should get back
You’ll be surprised to see how interested they are in this subject when they can purchase something they want.
My girls love to sew, and we have been working on making a rag quilt we will finish up this summer. Even children as young as eight can learn to sew. There are a lot of math skills involved in sewing, and if you find a project they want to make, they will be eager to do it. Check out 10 Best Sewing Projects for Kids.
23. Eating Out
Eating out is a treat for the whole family, and you can use it to teach a little math as well. Bring along a tablet and pencil, and as the family is looking over the menu, have your child list the prices for the meals everyone is going to order. While waiting for dinner to arrive, have him total everything up and then figure out the tax (if applicable in your state). After he gets a total, teach him about leaving a tip and using percentages to figure it out. You could teach calculator skills also. By the end of the meal, your child will have practiced some useful math skills and had fun in the process!
Cooking is an excellent way to use math. You can teach basic math, fractions, measurement, and geometry. Have some fun baking chocolate chip cookies that everyone will enjoy while practicing those skills!
Geocaching has become very popular. You can find sites almost anywhere now. This is one of the best free summer activities! Everyone in the family will enjoy doing it.
Using a GPS or an app on your smartphone, you can track and find hidden caches in your area. The caches are usually small containers that are hidden somewhere that blends in with its surroundings. The box usually has a log to sign and sometimes a little trinket as a reward. Be sure to read the link above to find out the rules.
26. Take Virtual Field Trips
While it’s not always feasible to take your children on field trips, technology allows us to go places we never thought we could. Virtual museum tours are the next best thing, and more affordable.
It’s amazing to think you can sit at the kitchen table and walk through The National Achaeological Museum in Athens, Greece or The Louvre in Paris, France.
You never know how these virutal tours could inspire your children to dig deeper into a topic or give them a desire to visit in real life some day.
Virtual experiences will not only teach kids geography, history, science, and art, but also give them important background knowledge which increases their vocaulary and reading comprehension.
Keeping your children engaged over their break doesn’t have to be boring or difficult. With a little planning on your part, you can set up some summer fun for each week.
I have given you quite a lot of ideas to choose from, and there are sure to be summer activities that will interest your children. Most of these ideas cover more than one subject, so you are killing two birds with one stone.
By keeping your kids mentally engaged in learning during their break, you are helping them to avoid the summer slide that many kids experience. Not only are your kids going to benefit when school starts again, but you are making some great memories that will last for years.
What creative ways do you try to prevent summer slide in your homeschool if you take the summer off? Let me know in the comments below.