Here is the current plan. I think it's pretty spiffy, even if I say so myself. I strove for a balance of fun and learning. I don't think it is good for rising first graders to have the summer off completely as they lose too many skills. I have come up with a plan, that I believe will stop the skill erosion but still feel more like summer than school.
- One hour of silent reading a day.
- Math games at least 3 times a week - I'm thinking of games such as Mythmatical Battles
- Writing, spelling and grammar in a fun way. Scroll down for details
- Swimming, swimming and more swimming
- Art, art and more art
- Start a nature journal
- Lots of board games
- Lots of read alouds from mom and dad
- Visiting their grandparents in Maryland
- Choir camp
- End summer with a 3 week visit from their South African grandparents
One Hour of Silent Reading a Day
I've put together a selection of books that I think the children will love reading. Ben and Shira thoroughly enjoy everything they read, but they are not at the stage yet where they pick up a book to read for pleasure. I'm hoping that our summer reading plans will help them start doing this. Shira said something very telling yesterday. She said that reading is tiring. I know it is not a vision problem because both children had their eyes checked not so long ago. I think it is just a factor of not reading enough.
We are currently using a reward chart for each child and we've added silent reading to the chart. It's been an incredible motivator. Both kids are picking up books every morning and reading without a reminder from me.
We're also going to do Barnes and Noble's summer reading program. children are rewarded with a free book for each 8 books they read. Ben and Shira love choosing books at the bookstore, so I think this will be a big motivator.
Our public library always has a great summer reading program. They have weekly incentives that require the children to total up the minutes they've spent reading, being read to and have listened to audiobooks each week. They then write this number on a cute card that gets stuck to a wall in the library. Once they have finished this they receive a tiny prize (think Oriental trading) I was very surprised last year to see how well this worked. Each week a child is randomly drawn to win a prize. At the end of the summer another child is drawn for a grand prize. Last summer Ben won a weekly prize and Shira the grand prize. Of course, both are itching to do the program again this year. One thing that surprises me though, is that the prizes are all toys and not something to do with books.
Math games at least 3 times a week
The children love math. They play with numbers all the time. Today they played a fun money game. They love it when I give them stacks of coins and ask them to tell me how much money it is, or when I give them two numbers to add, subtract or multiply. The tougher, the better. I think that they are now ready for Mythmatical Battles. It's a world where classic myths from diverse cultures combine with rock solid math to form a fun multiplication dueling card game. It's a world where the trading card craze meets education and tedious multiplication flashcards become exciting multiplication dueling cards. I'll also teach new math concepts as the children ask for them. They both want to learn about fractions so we'll do some of those soon. I think this is a good plan. They'll start to see the practicality of arithmetic, hone their skills and have a blast.
Writing, spelling and grammar in a fun way.
Ben and Shira love to write stories. I am going to encourage story writing this summer but with the caveat that spelling and grammar has to be correct. We've been working on the 29 spelling rules from Romalda Spalding. These two kids love rules. I find that the ability to organize things makes them less anxious. We'll continue learning the rules and will apply them to their writing. I plan on getting into sentence diagramming in the fall, but for now, we'll just work on basic punctuation and sentence structures.
One of the projects that I am planning is for them to make pop-up books. Ben is an avid paper engineer and is forever trying his hand at making pop-up cards. Shira loves making them as well, but as is her wont, she also makes them look very artistic.
I bought 3 books on how to make pop-ups. Two are by Joan Irvine - Easy to make Pop-ups and Super pop-ups. the last one is The Pop-Up Book by Paul Jackson. This last one is more adult oriented but I think the kids will enjoy it.
My plan is to spend a few evenings working through the books so that I become familiar with the techniques and then to teach them to Ben and Shira. Once I can see that they understand the basic concepts, I am going to give them the books, different types of paper stock, the tools and let them have a free reign.
Once they feel confident with their skills, I'm going to introduce the concept of making pop-up books. This is where the writing skills come in. It ties in so many of the children's loves, that I think they'll have a blast.
Shira is also mad about poetry - about reading and writing it. I bought Music of the Hemispheres by Michael Clay Thompson as a beginning poetry book.
This introduction to poetry emphasizes that poetry demands a whole-brain appreciation.
Among featured topics in this volume are:
- Sound in language
- Rhyme, end rhyme, rhyme scheme, internal rhyme, eye rhyme.
- Meter: the foot, iamb, trochee, anapest, dactyl.
- Stanza: sonnet, quatrain, couplet, ballad.
- Poetic techniques: simile and metaphor.
- Poets quoted include: Emily Dickinson, Robert Burns; William Shakespeare; Thomas Hardy, John Keats, William Wordsworth, Ralph Waldo Emerson.
We've already started working with the book and the children, especially Shira, are loving it. We've switched primarily to Michael Clay Thompson's language arts programs with great success. We're going to continue with them this fall and add in "Rex Barks" for sentence diagramming.
Swimming, swimming and more swimming
We've already started this endeavor.
Art, art and more art
This is where the fun really starts. Neither child can get enough of art, so this summer is chock full of art classes and arty projects.
- This Friday Shira starts with four sessions of private drawing classes. We're impatiently waiting for the next Monart session, but until then, a Portsmouth artist has offered to teach Shira. Shira feels very grown up about it all.
- On Sunday, Ben and Shira start the first of two watercolor classes being offered by The Hermitage Foundation. This class will be on how to paint water and seascapes.
- They'll be doing 2 of the 3 lesson art classes held by the City of Norfolk Visual Arts Center. Shara Wertz is an art educator of note. The kids would do classes with her weekly if she offered them that often. Shira can't wait to be 8 as that is when she'll be old enough to do Shara's "Pottery on the wheel" class
- The Portsmouth Children's Museum offers a Time Travellers 3 day, 3 hours a day camp. We're going to give it a bash. I was distinctly unimpressed with their classes for 2-6 year olds as I felt they were basically cookie cutter craft classes. However, I have heard that these are different, so we're going to give them a bash. I like that they are only 3 hours a day. We don't like to do full day things. This way the kids get to do something in the morning and then we get to spend the afternoon swimming.
- On June 12, the children start a once a week art class at Olde Towne Art in Portsmouth. The children are going to learn how to draw dinosaurs and then how to paint them. We've been very happy with all the classes we've taken at Old Towne Art, so we have high hopes for this class. I just wish there was a comfy, air conditioned coffee shop nearby. However, it's isn't a bad drive to come home for the two hours they are in class.
The beauty of this location and the Portsmouth Children's Museum classes is that they are both across the road from 2 great museums. The children's museum and the Sports Hall of Fame. I suspect that we'll be spending a fair bit of time at those museums this summer.
- To round out all the art classes, I am running two summer art camps for my twins and their friends called, "The Ooey, Gooey, Messy Summer Art Camp". The camps will run for 2 hours a day for four days. I am really stoked about these camps. I've spent hours pouring over MaryAnn Kohl's books and think I have come up with a camp that will be very messy and a boat load of fun. On the last day of camp I want to have the children make their own face and body paints (recipe from MaryAnn Kohl), then they will paint each other. Wearing masks from the day we make masks will be optional. We'll end the day by making our own parade through our neighborhood, completely with noise makers, till we reach the pool. Then showers for everyone and an afternoon spent swimming.
Start a nature journal
I freely admit that I am nature challenged. I think that hermetically sealed houses with air conditioning and heating are good things. I don't like bugs, sweating and getting dirty. However, I realize that children need to be in nature a lot. Luckily Shira belongs to a girl's club that meets most Saturdays and the mom in charge does all sorts of wonderful nature things with the girls. Ben is very jealous and wants something as well.
I discovered a great book, Nature in a Nutshell for Kids by Jean Potter.
Make bubbles that bounce! Stir up a tornado in a jar! Make elastic from a dandelion! Predict weather from cloud formations! Discover the beauty and wonder of nature all year round with these quick, easy experiments and activities from Jean Potter. You can complete each activity in ten fun-filled minutes or less, and the clear step-by-step instructions and illustrations help you get it right every time. The projects are organized by season and help you learn about everything from why grass is green to how seals stay warm in icy arctic waters. You will find most of the materials already in your home, backyard, or neighborhood. The 112 activities in this book cover every aspect of the natural world, including plant and animal life, weather, ecology, rocks and minerals, the senses, the stars, and much more. You’ll build a mountain the same way the earth does, find out whether your neighborhood ants prefer sugar or artificial sweetener, discover why maple seeds act like tiny helicopters, and explore the effects of acid rain on plants—all with the help of a leading educator.
I've just finished reading the book and am psyched about dealing with nature and my kids for the first time. It breaks things down into bite sized pieces. We're going to make up nature journals and start working through the book. I suspect that I am going to have very happy children as all the experiments and activities are the kinds of things that my twins consider fun. The learning will be a happy, but incidental by product.
Lots of board games
Ben's a Monopoly fiend. I particularly dislike this game. It bored me to tears as a child and as an adult I am sure it is going to bore me to death. However, it makes him very happy when I play it with him, so this is what I plan to do this summer. Today I had our babysitter play with him. She loves the game as much as he does.
The Virginia Children's Chorus Choir Camp
This is the one summer activity that has me a tad nervous. Shira is a member of the Virginia Children's Chorus training choir and she begged to be allowed to do this camp. Ben joined the begging so I signed them both up. The problem is that the camp runs for 5 days from 9:30a.m.-3:30p.m.. I know that I am going to have over cooked and frazzled children by day 3. I know they will have a good time and figure that if they become too over cooked, they don't have to finish the camp.
It sounds like a busy summer, but most of the organized activities only last 1 to 2 hours and those activities are all activities that are near and dear to my kids' hearts. They'll be energizing, not draining. The rest of the time will be devoted to playing and swimming.