Zionsville Times Sentinel

Commentary

July 10, 2013

Encourage learning all summer long

The crowd gathered at Sam’s was a dead giveaway. Parents searched for curriculum to keep their children busy during summer and the learning going.

“I’m worried about him losing math,” said one mom, as another poured over reading books. Several just grabbed the giant I-can-do-it-all workbook and dumped it in their cart. While the parents’ commitment to their children’s education is encouraging, they are missing some of the best actual learning opportunities available.

The best learning happens with hands-on activities, not workbooks. To be sure, many educators and parents love workbooks — for one reason. Workbooks are easy to measure. In five minutes a parent can check to see if their child is “getting it” or whether they need another worksheet.

However, worksheets seldom lead to real learning. While a child can complete the sheet, they often cannot transfer those skills to the real world. More often, the sheets kill a child’s desire to learn at all. If those same parents took advantage of summer’s break in books and provided more hands-on opportunities, they would see their children’s academic abilities grow — and they might just see a love of learning grow as well.

For math — do a project. Plant a garden, build a tree house or bird house, or create a budget for the family vacation. Then, let the kids do the math.

A worksheet asking for square feet elicits groans. Figuring the square footage for the dream tree house creates its own incentive for getting the answer right. When parents include children in planning the trip budget, they not only educate their children about how to make smart financial decisions, they increase their children’s appreciation for all that goes into making this special time possible. Older children can get online to research deals on hotels and tickets. Their internet savvy may actually pay off for parents. Even younger children can add meal prices to make sure everyone stays in budget.

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