Virtual Summer Trip | One Day May Become a Reality

Vacation Planning

One of the best aspects of summer break is the chance to get away from home. Yet not everyone can afford to travel extensively or take big summer vacations. Instead of a disappointment, however, this can be an opportunity for kids to plan a virtual summer trip to anywhere on the globe and share their vision with the family.

Visiting other places is a chance to learn geography and culture. Travel is almost universally appealing, and with internet research almost any city or country can be virtually explored. Encouraging kids of all ages to expand their awareness of other places can inspire future travel goals and a sense of what it takes to go.

Planning a vacation has its own benefits and rewards, apart from taking the actual trip. It’s exciting to make decisions about where to go, how to get there, and what to see. Parents are often the planners when it comes to summer vacations. This is another reason to encourage students to spend part of their summer planning a virtual trip. They can be in charge of all the decisions and reveal everything to their family and friends through a presentation.

Choosing Location

The best way to begin a virtual summer trip is to select the location. Younger children can keep it simple by choosing a city they’ve heard about, or even a popular spot such as Hawaii or the Grand Canyon. Older kids might think of more exotic or remote locations, such as China or Egypt.

To keep these virtual planners from becoming overwhelmed, parents should encourage “limits” in either time or place. For example, if a high school student decides on Europe as a location, parents can narrow the virtual vacation to two weeks in order for the presentation to have focus and realistic material.

In addition to location, kids should incorporate means of travel in their planning and where to stay. This would help them understand geography (if planes, boats, trains, or cars are required) as well as travel economy. Older kids can work with an imaginary travel budget and learn the different (and many) costs of taking a vacation.

Exploring Culture

Every travel destination, no matter how close or far, is a chance to explore different culture. Planning a virtual summer trip is an excellent way for kids to learn about different regions and their people, languages, weather, food, music, landmarks, art, architecture and more.

For younger travelers, parents can help them find fun and educational activities in the location they choose. One example would be animal habitats in the area they would like to visit. For older kids, parents can suggest incorporating local museums, restaurants, and famous sights in their presentation.

Overall, planning a virtual trip is a chance for kids to learn about other places and people as well as what to see and do. This gives them a sense of wonder as part of a global community.

The Virtual Tour

The reward of planning a virtual summer trip and learning about travel, geography, and culture is sharing it with family and/or friends. Young children can draw pictures of their virtual vacation and explain their findings by describing the trip. Older kids can create a multi-media presentation, including maps, charts, pictures, and slides for others to learn and enjoy.

Parents can encourage their virtual vacation planners to incorporate regional music as part of the presentation, or even help make a food dish to represent the regional culture.

The overall result of this summer project is learning and enjoyment. Planning even a virtual vacation takes organizational skills, research, and attention to detail. Presenting the virtual vacation is a way for summer students to showcase their creativity and vision. And perhaps the virtual vacation will one day become a summer trip in reality.

Summer Clean-Out | Creating Memories that May Last Longer than Most Possessions

Pile Ups

Summertime can be a difficult balance for families between relaxation and activities. Most kids are resistant to doing work in favor of having fun, but boredom can quickly set in. And most parents want their kids to be somewhat productive in the summer, yet still enjoy the freedom of a long break.

One way to avoid these conflict pileups is to actually make some piles. Summer is an excellent time for family members to clean out some possessions that have lost their use or value and pile them up for re-purpose or donations. This is an opportunity to encourage a sense of community, volunteerism, and environmental awareness for everyone involved.

Getting Started

Beginning any project can be difficult, so it’s important to set goals and a timeline. Parents and kids can research community organizations, and which donated items they are seeking. For example, some police departments accept donations of gently used stuffed animals to give to children in high-stress situations. Other rescue groups may encourage donations of household goods or clothing.

Families can choose one or more “categories” of belongings to donate as a means and goal of community support, gather items to give, and then set a donation day to deliver and celebrate. This can be the start of a summer tradition of contribution and awareness of how much “stuff” people acquire that isn’t highly valued or used.

Tough Going

Getting rid of possessions may be challenging for people of all ages. Little ones may not understand the idea of donating to those less fortunate. Adolescents may be reluctant to give away their things, especially if they feel attached to them. Even adults can be overwhelmed with sentimentality or the idea that they “might need it later.”

This type of summer clean-out is a learning process for everyone. It’s important to start small and keep in mind the ripple effect of contribution. One way to make the tough decision of what to donate easier is to assign a “value” system. For each category of items, family members can assign a numerical value that reflects importance, necessity, or sentimentality. If the number value of an item is high, then it stays. If the number value of an item is low, then it goes.

For example, if a family wishes to clear out some board games for donation, they can take each game and value it with a number. If a game is played often and brings back fond memories, the number value would be high, and the game would stay. However, if a game has been outgrown and is rarely played with, the number value would be low, and the game could be passed on to another family rather than just taking up space in the home environment.

Big Reward

Hopefully, most family members will feel internal reward for giving to others and creating more breathing space in the home. However, like the value system for donations, it’s also important to have a tangible reward that everyone can remember and enjoy. This reward could be going out for pizza or ice cream on donation day, or even creating a small scrapbook page to mark the clean-out tradition. Family members could write their thoughts in a shared notebook about the experience of working together, helping the community, and reducing unneeded or unwanted possessions.

Recording and commemorating the summer clean-out will create memories that may last longer than most possessions, and hopefully inspire future community contributions and volunteerism.

Summer Card Sharks – Simple Games to Stop Brain Drain

Lazy, Hazy Days

Nearly everyone looks forward to summer, especially elementary school kids. For grades K-6, summer generally means splashing, swinging, and staying far away from academics. Though vacation is a healthy break, it can unfortunately cause what educators call “brain drain” or skill loss.

This skill loss means that on long breaks, most students lose or forget the skills and material they learned during the school year. As a result, they enter the next school year behind grade level and needing to catch up. Many elementary students are likely to read some books over the summer for enjoyment, yet few are eager to sit and do math problems for fun. Therefore, summer math skill loss is nearly double that of reading.

Parents who are motivated for their children to practice math skills over summer often go about it in ways that are expensive, uninspired, and ultimately ineffective. Math camps are costly and tend to undermine the academic freedom that summer brings. Typical summer workbooks mirror the drudgery of homework. And math video games, while fun, add to screen time while also teaching players more about how to “beat” the game rather than actual math skills.

However, the lazy summer days don’t have to make for hazy math with elementary school kids. A simple deck of cards can provide numerous opportunities for students to maintain their math skills and have fun doing so.

Card Games

Card games are an easy and enjoyable way for elementary school kids to enhance their math skills over summer. There are many card games for all ages to enjoy, and parents can incorporate these games during family time. Once kids get the hang of the games, they can play with siblings, friends, or even by themselves in some cases.

Here are some card game suggestions that incorporate math skills for almost all elementary learners to enjoy:

  1. Memory: Playing “Memory” with young children using a deck of cards helps them identify numbers as concrete representations. By matching number pairs, children practice number recognition and visual memory. This game can be single or multi-player and can be varied depending on players’ ages.
  2. War: Using a deck of cards to play “War” with elementary school children helps them retain number values, understand the concept of greater-than and less-than, and even presents an introduction to mathematical probability.
  3. Crazy Eights: “Crazy Eights” is a multi-player card game that encourages addition skills and mathematical critical thinking through strategy. Players try to eliminate their hand of cards by matching either the number or suit of the card on the table. The losing group of players must tally their remaining cards to give points to the winner of each round.

Card Activities

A deck of cards can inspire many activities for elementary school kids, not the least of which is card tricks. Many “magic” card tricks are based more on math principles than sleight-of-hand, which makes them fun and simple to perform if math skills are sharp.

One magic card trick that is easy to master and requires operational math skills is creating “tens.” With face cards and tens removed from the deck, an “audience” member chooses one card from those remaining. The “magician” then lays down the remainder of the cards and pairs them up to create values of ten: ace and nine, two and eight, etc. The one card remaining for the magician is the pair to the audience card to create ten. Therefore, the magician can subtract the value of the remaining card from 10 and “guess” the value of the audience card.

Many operational math skills can be practiced with a deck of cards. Parents can safely check the internet for tutorials and share them with their kids.

Card Sharks

A deck of cards is an easy, portable, fun, and almost unlimited way to encourage math retention and development in elementary school students during the summer. Whether playing card games or demonstrating magic tricks, a card deck fosters non-screen entertainment with family and friends. A deck of cards encourages creativity in kids as well as critical thinking, operational strategy, and math readiness for the new school year.

Speaking of Summer – A Summer Presentation to Help Public Speaking

The Public

When most parents reflect on their high school summers, they often remember their summer jobs. Whether babysitting, lifeguarding, or scooping ice cream, most high schoolers used to work at least part-time during summer breaks to earn extra money, work experience, and often a reason to get out of the house.

However, the current tendency for summer high schoolers is to not work outside the home. There are many reasons for this trend, but the primary one may be surprising. Teenagers are not less responsible or motivated to work than their parents. The main reason high schoolers report for not getting summer jobs is that they don’t want to speak in public.

The Fear

Nearly everyone has a fear of public speaking. This brings to mind the old joke that people fear death less than public speaking and would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy. While this is an exaggeration, for high school students the fear is real and it’s getting worse. A majority of teenagers would rather communicate through text or social media than speak directly to people they don’t know.

As students get older, they naturally become more fearful of public speaking. This current escalation may not only interfere with part-time summer employment, but also academic performance when school is in session. Much of high school and college curricula is moving toward class presentation as a means of assessment. In addition, many universities are adding personal interviews to the application process as part of admissions.

Ironically, as the fear of public speaking rises in high school students so does the need to develop such skills. Summer break is an ideal time for students to hone their public speaking skills, and parents can help them do so right at home.

The Pitch

Fear of public speaking is strongly reduced through preparation and practice. Parents have the opportunity during summer break to help their high schoolers through the process. Teens may resist the idea at first, but with support, direction, and potential reward, they will eventually embrace the chance to conquer their fears.

Parents can help their teens set a goal and a timeline for creating a presentation to be given to the family and/or friends. This may seem like a strange assignment for summer but following a step-by-step plan will lead to success for everyone involved.

The Plan

  1. Establish that this summer presentation is for practice only, and that the audience is without judgment. Ideally, all family members could share in the public speaking by creating their own presentations, so the spotlight is not on just one person.
  2. Allow freedom in choosing a topic, and make sure that the presenter is interested and enthusiastic about it.
  3. Set goals for what the presentation should achieve. Should it be informative, entertaining, persuasive? Don’t forget to set and keep a deadline.
  4. Allow each presenter to prepare and organize their material, research if needed, and format their speech.
  5. Encourage use of multi-media visual/audio aids to enhance creativity.
  6. Establish practice sessions to increase confidence.
  7. Set up a reward for completing and delivering the presentation—whether it’s a gift card or another acknowledgement of public speaking success.

The Result

One summer presentation to family and/or friends is probably not enough to eliminate public speaking fear altogether in high school students. However, the preparation and practice can help them reduce future presentation and speaking jitters. With family support, direction, and potential reward, students will be more confident and experienced in public speaking, which will have lifetime benefits.

The “S” Word Over the Summer…How to Never Stop educating the kids!

The longing of each elementary school-age child in the summer, is to pretend like school does not exist.  They will not discuss homework, or teachers, or any of the evaluations of their success by adults at school, such as a B- in reading. School is the unmentionable thing.  Try “pool” instead and you’ll have better luck starting a conversation.

Teach the Kids Undercover

I’ve got a secret plan: Let’s teach our kids over the summer without them knowing it.

We’ve got a lot of hurdles.  I’d argue that present day technology makes it harder, not easier, to pass on genuine knowledge to the younger generation.  Facts are deceptively accessible, but are they the knowledge we really need?  Still, let’s do it.  Let’s educate our children through experiences, like nature parks and local art showings.  Let’s ask them to discuss it all. Why is it even there? What is the goal of those people who preserve national parks?  Why do people play good music outside for the mere pleasure of having an audience listen? 

Learn Through Doing

Let’s educate teenagers through real summer jobs, but not in the manner of pushing them into the workplace with a mentality of fake it till you make it.  Let’s educate our teenagers through exposing them to great, decent people doing great, decent work, and best of all, doing it with grace and a wink.  If you’ve ever received excellent customer service, you’ll know what I mean by grace, and if you’ve ever been that person, I take my hat off to you.  Search for the place where your teenager can learn from the best, even if they’re learning to make coffee.

Summer Programs

And then there are workshops offered in summer that focus on developing specific talents.  Summer programs that focus on chess or theater or woodwork are different in intent and pace from school. There’s a reason they aren’t usually called “classes”. They are project-based in nature.  I made something, your child thinks at the end, and it’s different from anything anyone else has made. Or maybe he doesn’t think much of anything except: That was tolerably fun!  I think I’ll go play a video game now.  But he has been a creator, has made a little bit of uniqueness and given you a glimpse into how he views the world.  You might be educated by that knowledge in your own turn.

So avoid “s” word, but never stop educating the kids.  Our time with them is too precious.

Music Education Keeps Children Cognitively Engaged During Summer Vacation

Parents and educators share concerns regarding summer learning loss for children. Although summer is a time for fun, travel, exploration, and relaxation, it can also become a learning gap where children lose knowledge and cognitive skills that they acquired during the previous school-year.

Benefits of Summer Music Education for Children

Why not try music activities to bridge the summer learning gap? Learning to play an instrument, singing, making music in groups, and participating in focused listening activities are all excellent ways to enhance your child’s cognitive, psychomotor, and social abilities. Consider the following benefits of music education for children:

  • Music study correlates with development of language and reasoning skills due to music’s role in developing the left side of the brain.
  • Music study correlates with better test scores among students, including SAT’s.
  • Through music, children develop auditory attention which transfers to better listening skills in the academic classroom.
  • Playing an instrument helps children to develop eye-hand coordination and enhances their ability to practice fine-motor skills.
  • Music is closely related to Math via rhythmic elements and pattern recognition.
  • Music-making promotes creative thinking.

3 Suggestions for Summer Music Education

Get your child involved in music activities during summer vacation! Here are 3 suggestions for younger children as well as teenagers.

Music Camp

Find a music camp in your area. Music camps can be found locally in schools, churches, college campuses, recreational community centers, music retail establishments, and commercial music centers.

Camps offer programs for age groups ranging from young children up to teenagers. Music camp activities include instruction on instruments, basic music theory, ensemble participation, and listening activities for music appreciation.

Sources of information about local music camps include the following: (1) the music teacher at your child’s school, (2) local, municipal recreation departments, (3) administrative offices in local schools and churches.

Private or Group Lessons

Summer is the perfect time for children and teenagers to start or to continue music lessons in private or small-group settings. This could be for singing or playing instruments. The extra free time afforded by summer vacation means that kids have plenty of time to practice without the pressure of schoolwork and homework assignments. With extra practice time, skills acquisition and creative accomplishment can skyrocket!

Adolescents who play in school bands or orchestras or who sing in school choirs can make huge progress by taking lessons over the summer. This will pay off when they return to school in the fall.

For students who take music lessons during the schoolyear, a summer break can lead to learning loss. Therefore, it’s important to continue lessons over the summer. Take advantage of a more relaxed and flexible summer schedule to really dig into music study. It will be greatly rewarding!

Age-Appropriate Music Learning Apps and Websites

Explore the many apps and websites designed to facilitate your child’s cognitive development through music activities. Through interactive games and creative tasks, children acquire music knowledge and improve their skills. Focused listening skills, music facts, pattern recognition, music composition, and music appreciation are just some of the areas that children can explore through music learning apps and websites.

Your child does not need to study an instrument or participate in organized singing activities to reap the benefits of music learning apps and websites.  The cost is minimal, and children can access these learning aides from home or while traveling on summer vacation. Make summer vacation a time of musical exploration and accomplishment for your child. Best wishes for a music-filled summer!