Keeping Young Minds Active During the Summer

Summer is a time for relaxation and family fun, but most parents would agree that their children should be actively engaged in educational activities and experiences over the school break. To keep your child productive, consider the following ideas, broken down into each major subject area:

1. Heed the Need to Read: Countless studies show the importance of summer reading: Kids who read in the summer outperform their peers in the fall. Avoid the “summer slide” by making sure your kids read often during the summer.

●Most libraries have a summer reading program with incentives and prizes. Visiting the library once a week can be a fun family escape. Research shows that kids who choose their own books (with parent approval) read more.

●Create a time during the day when no TV or electronics are allowed.

● Read to your child and listen to your child read.

●Listen to books on CD  while traveling.

●Model reading.

2. Do the Math! Few would argue the importance of math. Skills that are not used are often forgotten, so practice is essential. Besides specialized math tutoring facilities, which are gaining popularity and producing increasingly impressive results, there are many ways to keep math skills sharp at home. Consider these fun activities that allow your child to practice math:

● Follow recipes

● Read maps, and calculate mileage on trips.

● Use flashcards to practice facts.

● Utilize online math practice sites for kids, such as the following:


3. Invite ‘em to Write! Good writing skills provide evidence of learning and understanding. Writing makes thoughts and ideas visible and gives children a clear way to express themselves. Encourage your children to write using these ideas:

● Keep a journal on trips and at home.

●Write letters and emails, requiring correct capitalization, punctuation and grammar.

●Let your child record her voice telling a story, then dictate that story onto paper.

●Encourage your child to write one short story a week. Keep them in a folder as a keepsake from the summer.

4. Smart Summer Science:  Science helps us to understand the world around us. Besides being educational, science can be lots of fun! The following activities reinforce important science concepts:

●Visit science museums, zoos, and aquariums.

●Dig for fossils.

●Gaze at stars, find constellations and track the moon’s phases.

●There are many fun experiments that can be done at home. Visit the following web sites for ideas:

National Geographic Kids

PBS Kids-Dragonfly TV



5. Make History with Social Studies Activities-Summer provides an escape from  that sometimes-boring history class. Use the summer months to strengthen your child’s interest in things of the past. History teaches helps us learn from our past and prepares us for the future. Geography knowledge is vital, but often over-looked. There are many activities that can encourage your child’s social studies understanding:

● Visit history museums and historical places.

●Research your family tree.

●Make a map of your neighborhood using a GPS .

●Research and report upon the locations (states/countries) that you visit on vacation.


Kelly Wilson Mize is a wife, mother, freelance writer, and fifth grade teacher living in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a master’s degree in elementary education.

It’s in the Genes: Tom Schulz by Jean M. McLean

Hopefully Jean M. McLean’s article "Discovering Fun" in this month’s issue of ParentLife has helped you get your child excited about science. Jean had the chance to interivew Tom Schulz and get his advice on nurturing young scientists.

“For me, science is about discovery,” says Tom Schulz, cell biologist. “It’s like jumping on an explorer’s ship 300 years ago. It’s a fascinating opportunity.”

Schulz seeks to nurture his four children’s interest in discovery. For his homeschool family, he is the “special projects guy,” with his wife carrying day-to-day educational responsibilities for two boys and two girls, ages 6 to 12. Schulz took his Georgia family to see the once-every-17-years cicada swarm in North Carolina as part of his effort in “trying to infuse them with a sense of wonder and discovery.”

This Australian native benefitted from his mother’s emphasis on academics. She also gave him time to observe. He says children must have time to watch and track changes, an essential part of the scientific process. “I had a lot of time to read, think, and observe. Kids these days are harried,” he says, often through overscheduled athletics.

He says many biologists’ early interests in the field seem to be triggered by interaction with pets, and encourages families to take time for children to be involved with the animals around them.

Although he calls science “a closed field, spiritually,” Schulz knows colleagues watch and learn from how believers react to stress and adversity. These agnostics also notice when others are there for them in their time of need. While Schulz is studying cells, he is also planting spiritual seeds.

Schulz works in a cutting-edge field, both professionally and personally. At work, he has seen the wonders of an embryo’s heart pumping its first beats while also studying even earlier stages of development. At home, he explores the frontiers of fatherhood, ministering to other dads and making online observations.

“Probably due to my scientific training, I’ve made a bit of a case study of being a dad, and mentally collated as much information as possible whilst on the job. I’m starting to convert that memory bank to text, and attempting to offer advice for ‘starter’ dads.”

For Schulz’s insights on work, family, and faith, visit his blog at