Keeping it Campy at Home

A recent realization is coming down hard on many families right now as we move into the summer months—cancelled summer camps and other beloved outdoor activities. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many organizations have been forced to postpone or cancel their summer programs and events. Besides deposits, schedule changes, and other logistical obstacles, families are now left to improvise for children who have been left disappointed by these cancelled programs. Despite the fact that camps, at least in the traditional sense, won’t be happening this summer, families do not have to forego all of the activities and traditions. Below are ideas for bringing camp activities and traditions back with an at-home spin!


Ask for ideas

Before setting out to plan for summer camp at home, ask your kids about their favorite parts of camp. Which activities do they prefer? How do they typically spend the day? How much adult involvement do they expect? What props, supplies, or materials will they need for their activities? By asking these questions, parents can plan for activities that will truly engage children in a meaningful way. Answers to these questions will also help parents to get an idea of the vibe or type of camp that is most relevant. For instance, a soccer camp is going to be much different from a wilderness-style camp.


Provide a schedule

Creating structure will make the at-home camp experience feel more authentic. Since all camps, from sleepaway camps to sports-focused day camps, provide a level of structure and consistency, an outline of activities for the day or week will elevate the in-home camp experience. Parents can sketch out the week’s activities or a daily schedule on a white board or take it to the next step by printing a camp “brochure” for each camper.  Below is a sample idea for a daily camp schedule–with typical camp protocols included:


Time  Activity Dress


*Change into active wear after bfast & apply sunscreen

Breakfast in mess hall (kitchen) *Bunk must be made prior to meal Pajamas
9:00-10:30 Neighborhood scavenger hunt Sneakers; athletic clothes
10:30-11:30 Indoor/Outdoor game time

*Choice of frisbee, cornhole, boardgame, hopscotch/jump rope challenge

Sneakers; athletic clothes
11:30-12:30 Lunch in mess hall (kitchen)

*Must wash hands prior to meal; clean up dishes after meal



*Reapply sunscreen after quiet time

Quiet time activities

*Choice of craft, baking, screen time, reading, coloring, puzzle, movie

Comfy clothes
2:30-3:30 Water time

*Choice of water balloon toss, sprinkler time, slip n’ slide, pool or water table, squirt gun fight

Swimsuit; towel
3:30-4:00 Snack time Dry clothes
4:00-5:30 Backyard obstacle course Sneakers; athletic clothes
6:00-7:00 Family dinner in mess hall (kitchen) *Must wash hands prior to meal; rotating schedule of campers setting the table Apron for kitchen helper

*Apply bug spray

Stack firewood/gather kindling for campfire
7:30-9:00 Campfire s’mores; spooky stories; star gazing Sweatshirts (possibly)


Of course, activities and times will vary depending on camper preferences and family schedules, but this sample provides a simple outline for parents to structure their at-home camp. This will require a bit of preparation and planning, but once the plan is in place and materials are gathered, older children (7+ years) could ideally run the activities themselves.

Another option is to share the schedule with other families in the neighborhood so that each house can get in on the fun. This also allows parents to divvy up the work, kind of like a progressive dinner, but with camp activities. An important consideration if hosting for the neighborhood—TRIPLE CHECK with parents about any allergies, food restrictions, medications needed (epi-pen), or health concerns that might impact a camper’s participation in outdoor/physical activities.

Summer Writing For Your Middle/High Schooler

The summer slide does not only affect elementary schoolers; middle and high schoolers are just as susceptible to this loss of knowledge and academic skills over the summer months. Just because they have been in school longer and have received more instruction and practice does not mean that older students are going to be able to hold onto all of the knowledge that they have acquired during the school year. Without practice, even highachieving students can regress during months of down time. Especially with regard to writing, a skill that needs to be cultivated, students may find themselves a little rusty when they return to the classroom after the summer. To avoid the pitfall that is the summer slide, parents can encourage different practices to help students keep their writing minds sharp, while still enjoying all that summer has to offer.


Practices to Consider

Parents and educators can use student interest to spur both creative and academic writing outside of school.


  • Encourage your middle schooler to start a daily or weekly blog. They can write about any of their interests or hobbiescooking, skiing, fashion, hiking, video games, outdoor adventures, etc. The options are endless. An important precaution, however, is to ensure that your child’s blog is private or protected by certain privacy settings that only allow specific people to access the site.
  • Practice letter writing as both a leisurely activity and a form of correspondence for trips, vacations, and/or sleepaway camps. With travel plans as a likely part of the summer, what better way to practice different forms of writing than by using stationery, postcards, or email? If your child is away at camp or on a vacation with a friend’s family, ask for the address so that you can initiate the written correspondence. Mention in your letter that you would be thrilled to hear back from them. Ask specific questions about the time apart, especially if your child is reluctant to write. If possible, include a roll of stamps in the suitcase so that all your child has to do is write the letter or postcard and drop it in the mail.
  • Create a “favorite quotes notebook” where family members share the responsibility of finding interesting quotes on certain days of the week. Pass around the notebook, allowing others to reflect on and comment about the new quote. Keep the responses free-flowing and as brief or lengthy as people would like—the point is to encourage inquiry, reflection, and writing, not to discourage by imposing strict expectations or rigid standards.
  • Use social media to engage your child in more than just selfies. While on vacation, take photos of experiences, landmarks, activities, and anything else that you encounter. Then, ask your child to comment on the photo or experience. What will they remember most about this captured moment?

Practice “pit/peak” journaling/writing after a vacation or new experience. Sometimes called “rose/thorn,” the instructions for this brief journal entry is simple—independently reflect on your favorite or best memory from the trip and your worst or least favorite aspect of the experience. The response should be honest and reflective, but doesn’t have to be shared. The point is to get your child in the habit of capturing considerations on paper in an organized fashion.

Summer Writing For Your Elementary Schooler

Summer slide, or the tendency for students to lose academic knowledge or skills while they are out of school during summer break, is a common concern among parents and educators. For many students, literacy skills see the most regression over the summer, which is why summer writing can be so crucial for families once school lets out.

Practices to Consider

The key to encouraging summer writing, especially for struggling or reluctant writers, is to fuse function with fun. That is, make writing feel less like an assignment and more like an engaging activity by linking it to your child’s everyday summer activities.

  • Grab the sidewalk chalk and help your early elementary-level children with their sight words in the driveway or out front on the sidewalk. Because chalk can be easily brushed/swept or hosed off, children do not need to worry about perfection. Stress the fact that this meant to be a low-risk activity to practice sight words.
  • Continue using sidewalk chalk to write sight words, spelling words, or vocabulary words, but add a layer of complexity by devoting specific colors for consonants and vowels. Extend the challenge by grouping long vowels and short vowels, underlining consonant blends, etc.
  • Practice summarizing, making predictions, and extending or altering the endings of your child’s favorite bedtime story. This activity allows them to tap into their literacy skills and their creativity. It also incorporates choices—they can choose their bedtime story, decide on an alternate ending, or add on to the story to keep it going in whatever direction they’d like.
  • Use a whiteboard on the fridge to start a daily or weekly vocabulary word for the family to learn and practice. Of course, you will want to make sure that the vocabulary term is grade-level appropriate or something that your child would see in school in the coming years. The purpose is to get them excited about and proud of their expanding vocabulary. Add to the challenge by tallying every time your child uses the word properly.
  • Show children that writing can be a great way to wind down, especially at the end of those long summer days filled with physical activities. A leisurely way to settle one’s thoughts is to put them on paper. Encourage a brief daily journaling routine or start a 365 diary. The diaries are meant to capture key takeaways from the day or respond to thought-provoking, open ended questions. At the end of 365 days, your child will have an autobiographical account of their experiences and musings.
  • Frame the writing activities or journaling practices as an experience—designate a specifically cozy spot in the house with cushions and blankets, special pens, markers, and stickers. Play soft, instrumental music in the background and remove distracting technology. Parents should follow the guidelines as well and join in with their own journaling. Turn off the television, silence phones, and immerse yourself in writing for 15-20 minutes to demonstrate how a leisurely routine is cathartic and engaging for everyone.


Promote Intrigue in Reluctant Readers

I am certain that everyone who has been through school has had to endure the hardship of “required reading.” For students, the complaints regarding assigned texts can range from boring and irrelevant to abstract or obscure. For some, the mandatory novels are considered beyond complex and actually cross over into arduous territory. Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales was one such text for me—and truthfully, I haven’t touched it since sophomore year in high school English. At the time, I considered Chaucer’s collection of stories to be pointless. But what if I’d been given additional layers of questions to pique my interest while reading? Instead of simply assigning analysis and comprehension questions, encourage reluctant readers by making connections to the text that they did not know were there.


Questions for readers to consider


  • At any point in the novel, do you recognize aspects of your own personality in any of the characters? Explain.


      • This question prompts readers to consider the human component at play when characters develop throughout a work of literature. Good, bad, or otherwise, no matter the text, there is likely some way in which even the most unenthusiastic readers can relate to or see themselves in one of the characters.
      • The similarities or parallels that students uncover could involve personal interests, styles of speaking or behaving, familiar conflicts or insecurities, etc. The point is to challenge students to relate to the characters in some way by reflecting on themselves as “characters.”


  • Identify a main character’s tragic flaw. When have you seen someone, from history or pop culture, with a similar flaw? How does that person compare to or relate to the character in the novel?


      • Follow up with questions about how this flaw began for both people; was it caused by a similar conflict or catalyst?
      • These types of questions prompt students to consider how people from different time periods, backgrounds, and cultures can have similar flaws or difficulties.


  • How does the setting have a noticeable impact on one or more characters?


      • To recognize a setting’s impact, readers have to consider in what way the character either belongs or doesn’t belong in their society. This question encourages readers to examine social constructs, cultural norms, and belief systems and determine how our surroundings can impact one’s individuality.
      • This question also prompts students to consider the nature vs. nurture debate—in what ways are we all potentially imprinted by our environment?


  • If you were to pull one sentence from the text to represent the entire novel’s style, which quote would you choose? How does this resonate with what you have read or experienced before?


      • Essentially this question is like a summary on steroids—students are challenged with finding one specific line in the chapter or novel as a whole to represent the overall message of that section.
      • This question also prompts hesitant readers to consider the purpose of specific dialogue and narration by asking how the author’s intent is most explicitly or subtly conveyed while reading.


  • What type of person would enjoy this type of story or novel? If you were to create the novel’s prime reader profile, what would this look like?


    • This type of layered question requires students to look beyond their own like or dislike of the text and consider how it may appeal to other readers.
    • This question also prompts readers to consider how and why authors make deliberate stylistic choices when crafting a story. What impact does the author hope to achieve? In what way would a reader connect with this work?

Teens & Employment Pt. II

When teens are eager for employment, there are things to consider before diving into the workforce. Depending on a child’s age and level of independence, parents may want to assist in the process of job hunting, applying, and interviewing without fully micromanaging the operation. Previously, we discussed the importance of matching part-time opportunities with your teen’s interests or hobbies, as well as how to plan for scheduling conflicts and juggling obligations. In addition, families will want to cover a few more bases before beginning the job hunt.


Teens need to know that they will start at the bottom

A first part-time job, as exciting as it may be, will likely not be glamorous. As logical as it may seem, teens need to be reminded of the fact that the “tasks” required of the part-time job won’t always be entertaining or equal to their level of skill. It is important that children understand that, with little to no experience in the workforce, no job, title, or task should be considered “below” them.


  • Prepare teens for the cold realization that their first job is probably going to be underwhelming—and a serious check to the ego. As a new-to-the-workforce, part-time employee, teens will be spending much of their time stuffing envelopes, restocking shelves, making photocopies, scooping animal cages, filling orders, clearing tables, washing dishes, etc. They must be prepared to go into the experience with a “whatever it takes” mindset.
  • Talk to them about appreciating the experience—it’s not about the menial tasks; it’s about the greater lessons that teens garner from these part-time jobs. By starting at the bottom, teens learn about the importance of everyone’s contributions. They also gain insight into what will be required of teamwork, reliability, cooperation, diligence, and people-pleasing.
  • The workplace is one arena where effort and hardwork will always be recognized. In school, children are evaluated on the outcome or result—they do not always achieve based on the amount of effort that they put into their studies; it’s the grade that is emphasized. However, at work, employers are familiar with the learning curve. They know that newbies are being thrown into a sink-or-swim scenario and are often supportive and understanding of errors when effort is apparent. Remind your teen that, like everything worth having, a job is not going to be easy. But with the trials and tribulations that come with the part-time job, they are also gaining life skills that will benefit them greatly as they enter young adulthood.


A boss or manager is not the same as a teacher or parent

Today’s teens have the luxury of second, third, and sometimes fourth chances. Many school districts, in an effort to give students additional opportunities to practice reflection and error analysis, require teachers to offer a certain number of reassessments, rewrites, or retakes to students. While these practices certainly boost grade point averages and self-esteem, they do not adequately prepare students for the real world, where one opportunity is often all that is given.


  • Unlike parents and teachers, employers are less likely to consider emotions, personal baggage, or careless errors as legitimate excuses for missteps. Their mentality is, “If you can’t do the job, I’ll find someone else who can.”  It may seem cold, especially to a teen who is used to getting multiple opportunities to succeed. However, teens need to understand that “one and done” is often the true expectation in the adult world.
  • Remind your teen that a boss’s stern demeanor, constructive criticism, or inflexible exterior is not personal—it’s just business. Their goal is to manage the team and do right by the company or organization. When the manager asks an employee to do something, it is not exactly a request. Talk to teens about how to take initiative, follow through on a commitment, and put forth their best effort.
  • Finally, it is important for teens to know that their job is their job. Teens should not rely on parents to call employers, set up interviews, call in favors, or make excuses for their tardiness or missed shifts. Just like a college professor would not entertain excuses from students’ parents, an employer is not going to make those exceptions either. Teenagers, when responsible enough to apply for and take a part-time position, must be responsible enough to handle their own working relationship with the employer.

A Teen’s First Job Pt. I

So your teen is set on part-time employment to make some extra spending money—great news! However, there are several discussions that should happen before teens take the plunge and make that serious commitment.


Encourage your teen to start by brainstorming his/her interests

One solid starting point when teens begin considering a part-time job is to point them in the direction of their own interests. It is much more enjoyable to invest your time and work somewhere when the job revolves around things you enjoy. Ask teens to think about what they like—then brainstorm from there.


    • If he/she prefers the outdoors, consider the following options: lawn mowing, mulching or other landscaping jobs, dog walking, raking leaves, assisting a summer camp, lifeguarding, bicycle delivery service, park service, etc.
    • If he/she enjoys animals, consider applying for dog or cat sitting, pet stores, zoo assistance, pet groomers, pet training schools, pet boarding companies, veterinary help, or rescue organizations.
    • If he/she is interested in helping others, think about retirement communities, church camps, child care programs, babysitting, food/clothing/book collection for the needy, hospitals or clinics, and programs to help people with disabilities or Special Olympics.
    • If he/she prefers art or literature, consider employment at local bookstores, libraries, museums, painting/crafting studios, music venues, or local newspaper or magazine publications.


Consider how the work schedule will fit in with life BEFORE applying

As much as teens may be thinking about all of the wonderful ways in which a little extra cash can help them, they need to really think about the time commitment that this part-time job will require. If school comes first, this potential job will come second—meaning that activities with friends, spontaneous weekend trips, and hangouts will all be pushed to the backburner. With this level of commitment, your child will need to consider the following:


  • How much time he/she is able to commit per week; some employers will want to hire only when employees can work a minimum of 10 hours per week, for example. You will need to sit down as a family and really crunch the numbers to ensure that the hours required for the job are realistic for your teen’s prior commitments.
  • Logically speaking, how would your teen get to and from his place of employment? If he has a car, that is much more manageable. However, if he isn’t driving yet, or shares the family car, public transportation may need to be arranged. Does he know the bus loops? Is the job within a walkable or bikeable distance? How long would he need to carve out in order make it to his shifts on time?
  • Your teen must also be prepared to make scheduling sacrifices. Besides school work and family obligations, the job will have to come first. That might mean missing the big game, a last-minute ski trip, or having to decline someone’s sweet 16. Will it be a bummer? Yes, but that is the level of commitment that even a part-time job will require. Teens must be prepared to say “no” when a social event conflicts with the work schedule or weekend shift. If they are not ready to sacrifice fun for funds, then it is not quite time for a job yet.
  • Tardiness at work is not the same thing as tardiness in school—there is no detention as retribution. Instead, if your teen is late to work, she must be prepared to face the difficult, sometime irreparable consequences. Discuss the fact that both the employer and your teen’s fellow coworkers are relying on her to show up on time. Being late to work often has ripple effects of which your teen may need to be reminded. Her tardiness might mean that customers have to wait, the business may lose money, other employees may have to cover her absence. Essentially, tardiness is a reflection of one’s level of care and responsibility. Remind your teen that showing up late, even once without notice or a justifiable reason, is a very bad look.

Chronic Health Conditions and Summer Safety

Summer safety is an important topic for all families. However, children with chronic health conditions (CHC) may be more prone to certain accidents or medical emergencies, making summer safety a crucial area of concern. From the most common CHC, asthma, to diabetes, epilepsy and anemia, health concerns can potentially add a layer of complication to summer fun.

See tips, strategies, and considerations below to ensure that concerns about CHCs are covered over the summer months:

  • Since humidity, heat, and poor air quality can awaken asthma symptoms or increase the severity of an attack, parents should keep informed of weather reports, heat index, and air quality reports when families are planning to spend consecutive hours or days outside.
  • Activities such as camping, swimming, hiking, rock climbing, etc. can pose a more significant threat to young asthma sufferers because of the combination of outdoor allergens, heat, and heavy breathing brought on by cardio activities. Some research suggests that only 4 minutes of breathing in hot, humid air can present an onset of asthma symptoms.
  • Parents should make sure that inhalers are full and on hand if needed. Consult your pediatrician if the prescription is expired or dosages need to be adjusted. When growth spurts hit, parents should be especially sure that dosages are accurate for full effectiveness.
  • The pool is a great activity for keeping children cool; however, a lesser-known asthma culprit is chlorine. For some asthma sufferers, chlorine can bring about coughing, tightness of the chest, and other asthma symptoms.
  • Since heat and humidity increase perspiration, monitoring and maintaining blood sugar levels can become trickier in the summer months. Throw in exercise and outdoor activities—and blood sugar level instability increases even more. Parents should make sure that children are hydrating even more than they typically do, as dehydration can cause blood sugar to spike. Sugary, caffeinated drinks are additionally problematic and should be limited to maintain safe blood sugar levels.
  • Insulin storage is another consideration for parents of diabetics. If traveling, be sure to pack insulin in a cooler, but not directly on ice. Insulin should also be kept out of direct sunlight and excessive heat, as that can degrade it.
  • Light-headedness, fatigue, sweating, nausea, and vomiting are symptoms of heat stroke, but they could also be a sign of more. Parents should be sure to test their child’s blood sugar more frequently to ensure that mild signs of overheating are not actually symptoms of low blood sugar.
  • For children with seizure disorders like epilepsy, summer activities like swimming, attending sleep away camp, or traveling can bring about additional concerns. Parents should make sure that children are always supervised by an adult that is aware of the seizure condition when they are in or around a swimming pool or other body of water.
  • For children whose seizures are brought on by certain light sensitivities, parents should be especially aware of the threat that sunlight or glare can cause. Car rides when sunlight is flickering or light reflecting off surfaces of water can potentially trigger an episode. Pediatricians and ophthalmologists can direct patients to specially-tinted polarized lenses to help with light sensitivity issues.
  • In the summer months, eczema can become more than a nuisance for children—it can be downright unbearable. Parents can help children by providing cool towels, refrigerated gels and lotions, light cotton, loose-fitting clothing for outdoor activities, and plenty of water for hydrating throughout the day.
  • Removing sweaty clothing and rinsing sweat off of the body immediately can help keep rashes at bay.
  • Using hypoallergenic skin care products, including sunscreen, wet wipes, moisturizers, and insect repellant can help to skin flare-ups at bay as well.

Summer Slide, Part II

Incentivizing reading can be a great way to jumpstart young learners’ motivation during the summer. Of course, the larger goal is for children and teens to garner intrinsic motivation for reading and learning down the line, but until that point, parents can encourage the practice with small, consistent incentives.

Here are a few examples to get you started with incentivizing young learners this summer:

  • Set up a tally or sticker chart to track that your child reads something every day. Whatever that “something” might be could vary from child to child. Perhaps it’s the comics in the morning paper, or a cupcake recipe for an upcoming family reunion, or the closed captioning or subtitles of their favorite TV show. Whatever the stipulations may be, holding children accountable for tracking their reading is a good way to begin combatting the summer slide.
  • Camouflage research skills by asking for your child’s help. Depending on age, the research questions can begin very simply, such as, “What is the weather going to look like later tonight during your baseball game?” Or, “What are the showtimes for the movie that you want to see this weekend? Are there better options for showtimes at a different theater nearby?” For older learners, parents can encourage middle and high schoolers to research places to visit, local attractions, events, or summer festivals, or even long-weekend options for a mini-family vacation. Guide their research by providing some critical guiding questions and reputable websites for perusal.
  • Research free educational events, activities, or programs in the area over the summer. In addition to many school-sponsored events and resources, the internet has a plethora of free educational websites that allow students to access digital games, tools, and practices from their living room. School and local library websites are great places to start when combing through reputable online educational resources. Many sites, like Scholastic, Flocabulary, NewsELA, ReadWriteThink, and Edutopia allow students to filter the materials based on interests, grade level, Lexile level, text length, etc. Virtual field trips also provide students with opportunities to see and experience locations that may otherwise be inaccessible.
  • Take learning outdoors to utilize the summer weather and natural surroundings. Simple activities such as planting flowers or herbs, visiting a state park or zoo, or starting a neighborhood initiative is a great way to show children that learning takes place everywhere—not just within the classroom. This also allows learners to take an active role in their learning, instead of the typical passive learning that we often see in schools. For older children and teens, parents can encourage financial competency and budgeting by helping middle and high schoolers begin a neighborhood dog walking, lawn mowing, yard sale, or recycling project. In doing this, children a practicing essential skills and strategies, while gaining a sense of independence and responsibility as well. The cash flow is always a great incentive, too!
  • Encourage literacy skills by providing your child with a photo journal for summer activities and travels. Children might use a smartphone or Polaroid camera to capture important memories or events over the summer. Then they can provide written captions, reflections, and other personal insights to accompany the photos. The photo journal also acts as a great memento for looking back on summer memories.

Summer Slide

For those who are not immersed in the educational realm on a daily basis, the term “summer slide” may conjure up nostalgic memories of sunny afternoons at the pool. For academia, however, summer slide is a dreaded termone that is not associated with a relaxing pool day at all. Instead, summer slide refers to the loss of academic skills and knowledge over the course of the summer months when students are not in school.

Statistically, summer slide poses a greater threat to students of lower socioeconomic standing, or those considered “at-risk” and most adversely affected by the achievement gap. While research suggests that summer slide is a larger factor for students who may not have access to educational experiences, materials, and books over the summer, the grim truth is that regardless of a family’s income, any student is susceptible to the loss of knowledge and skills while being out of school for the summer months. With some research indicating that summer slide could mean a loss of 20-30% of information gained over the previous school year, summer slide is valid concern for educators and parents to consider.

Fortunately, there are many ways to combat summer slide. For children and teens, summer reading packets, math booklets, and the like are most often met with groans. Summer is supposed to be a time of freedom from stress; it’s a time for adventure and exploration! So, if parents truly want to sell a child on schoolwork during the summer, they really must package it appropriately.

  • Provide an ample amount of what teachers call “student choice.” Children are much more likely to invest their time and attention in a book or learning activity if it involves an aspect of interest. Additionally, a sense of agency and independence comes with children and teens having a say in what they would like to read or participate in.

  • Parents of reluctant readers will want to provide multiple modes of texts as well. Consider purchasing the audiobook or ebook so that your child can listen while following along. If lengthy chapter books bring dread, expand literature options to graphic novels, magazines, or adapted versions of the classics. Again, the more a young reader has to choose from, the more likely he or she is to land on something pleasurable.

  • Plan for activities that relate to or expand upon parts of the curriculum from that previous school year. Children are always surprised when topics or facts from the classroom suddenly apply in “real life.” Parents can check the school district’s website for curriculum materials or email the child’s teachers to review the major concepts, novels, or skill sets that students were to have mastered that year. Then, with that knowledge, parents can select materials or push children in the direction of texts and activities that incorporate those skills. For example, if parents know that their middle schooler read The Diary of Anne Frank over the winter term, they may want to select from sub-genres involving WWII, Holocaust survival stories, or other autobiographical works that feature a strong, young narrator.

  • Getting the whole family involved in summer learning can help to motivate children and teens as well. Consider starting a weekly family book club, in which each member reads the assigned pages and then participates in an informal chat about their thoughts on the chapter or events so far. The key to keeping the momentum and enthusiasm going is to ensure that the book talk remains as informal as possible. Throw pillows and blankets around the living room, set out snacks or use the night as an excuse to have a pizza party while discussing the book. Since a movie night can be a great incentive for children, think about choosing a book that also has its own film adaptation.

  • Connect the reading material to real life experiences. For instance, if a child is starting middle school next year, provide her with YA book options that feature a preteen navigating through middle school. If soccer camp is on the agenda for the summer, find reading materialsnonfiction, fiction, or biographicalthat center around soccer, soccer players, or the history of the sport. The secret to keeping kids reading is to keep the material fresh and relevant.

How to Plan for Summer Learning Opportunities—Middle School

Here we arewe find ourselves in the middle of spring, with summer just around the corner! As the school year begins to wind down, summer learning opportunities are likely to be the last thing on a middle school student’s mind. As much as preteens and teens would prefer to set aside the school work for a while, the truth is, summer learning opportunities enrich students’ academics and prevent the typical learning gaps that summer can bring. That said, now is the perfect time to begin to look at options for educational summer plans. Whether debating between formal summer school options, camps, or groups, or if you are looking at less structured options for learning, there are a plethora of options for engaging your middle schooler in some summer learning opportunities!

For students entering middle school, the summer after 5th grade can be the perfect opportunity for students to begin accruing their SSL (Student Service Learning) hours toward their 75hour graduation requirement. Volunteer work, even outside of fulfilling the SSL graduation requirement, allows families to investigate certain needs in their community and reach out to those organizations by volunteering their time. The first step when helping your middle schooler decide how to proceed with their SSL hours is to discuss and identify specific community needs and the service options available to meet those needs. For instance, if your teen is particularly interested in “going green” projects, help him or her explore the local organizations devoted to preservation, recycling, or other green initiatives. Beyond working toward a graduation requirement, through service, middle schoolers begin to develop a sense of independence, responsibility, advocacy, self-worth, cooperation, strategizing, and goal-setting. The service opportunities, especially in our area so close to D.C., are truly limitless.

For some outofthebox learning opportunities for your middle schooler, check out Montgomery County Recreation and Parks Summer Guide for 2018. There you will find summer camps for all ages and interests. For children on the younger side of middle school with a culinary interest, options such as Baking Boot Camp, Cook Offs, and Food & Fitness are great programs to get them learning all about their culinary talents. For older middle schoolers with a tech savvy spark, MoCo offers camps for robotics, game development, filmmaking, lego engineering, Youtubing, and a long list of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) camps. For your active middle schooler always on the go, check out the many sports and outdoor camps, which offer everything from kayaking, lacrosse, karate, and flag football, to horseback riding, archaeology, and ultimate frisbee.    

If you are in need of activities that are even more subtle in terms of instruction, below are a few options and ideas that are less structured than camps or courses, but still allow for some learning in disguise.

When planning a vacation or long weekend over the summer, allow your middle schooler to complete a little research of the location. Depending on what they are able to find, perhaps have them plan an activity or select a “hot spot” for the family to check out during the trip. This subtle activity allows middle schoolers to put their research skills to the test for a real-world purpose.

Provide tokens or incentives for middle schoolers to try out new chores or ways of helping around the house. For instance, teach your teen how to mow the lawn and monitor his lawn mowing skills until he’s mastered the routine. Challenge your child to a laundry competition, in which you race to sort or fold laundry. Plan a sibling versus sibling cook-off, with each parent acting as the sous chef or supervisor of the cooking battle. Subtle challenges such as these allow preteens and teens to attempt new skills or tasks without the pressure of outright school work.

Select a series of movies versus books to read and binge watch together during the rainy summer days/nights. Read and watch together as a family, then discuss which version was better and why. Talk about how the characters either did or did not represent what each person had imagined in their head. Were there any glaring differences between the book and the movie?