Use it or Lose it:


6 Ideas to Retain More This Summer

Are you worried about what your kids will lose over the summer?
They just spent nine to ten months strengthening reading skills, writing longer sentences, and practicing math that gets steadily more complex. Now they have an 8-12 week break in the regular application of those skills. What can you do over the summer to make sure they retain as much as possible? Here are 6 project ideas to keep their skills fresh and ready for next school year.

Write and publish an original story.

From a young age, we introduce children to the magic of reading. Many of them fall in love with stories and start making their own books. These handmade books might start with stapling together pictures and progress to writing, editing, and typing. To take this even further, learn to self-publish an original book using an on-demand print service. The process of writing and editing original stories and learning how to self-publish takes time. It’s a great way to emphasize skills learned in school, and to practice completing a large project with lots of steps.

Take a kid planned trip.

Ready to put some of those geography and math skills to work? Invite your child to plan a trip for the family to enjoy. Planning a trip can include exploring with a map, choosing a location, deciding on a budget, determining the best way to travel, and tracking expenses on the trip. Along the way other skills can be used too. You can use travel guides to decide what to do on your trip. Your kids can keep a journal of their experiences. They could even experiment with video on this trip. At the end of your trip, go over the miles traveled and review with your kids how well your family stuck to the budget.

Become an expert.

Is your kid interested in bugs? Bears? Beans? What would they love to get their hands into? Is it time to send away for a science kit to dissect your own frogs? Or is it perhaps an opportune season to put your kid in charge of planning and executing a garden? Have you got one obsessed with flight who would love to learn more about how a plane gets off the ground and into the air? To learn about anything, you can explore online, or visit your local library. Invite your child to learn about something new, to take notes on that something, and to create a display or report to share it. This might be the perfect time to learn a new software, such as PowerPoint or Keynotes or Prezi. How can they share what they’ve learned?

Engage in a service project.

This usually requires going outside of your general everyday routine. It can be as simple as helping the elderly woman across the street by weeding and maintaining her flower beds or as in depth as signing up for a local project with AmeriCorps or United Way for the summer. How would your child like to give back? Clean up trash in the park? Work with younger kids who need help learning to read? Service is a wonderful way to give back, as well as to practice the application of skills used in school.

Publish a blog or vlog (video based blog).

Maintaining a blog or vlog is a great way of practicing the skills needed for clearly communicating ideas. Blogs or vlogs can be topic based, where the publisher posts articles or videos on one specific topic, or they can be a public journal that shares the everyday adventures or observations of the creator’s life. Many are some of each. There are free sites that will help a young person start an original blog or vlog. Simply search for “free blog sites” to see several choices. By maintaining a blog or vlog, kids can practice writing, editing, and honing their message. With video this would also include speaking and using video recording equipment. This requires communication and technical skills, both of which are great to practice over the summer. You can even bring math into play by studying the analytics of a blog.

Make something to sell.

Do you have a budding entrepreneur in your midst? If so, consider what they can make to sell. I know an 11-year old girl who makes stuffed animals and sells them through a local retailer. She is learning about quality, buying supplies to make her product, charging enough to cover her cost and labor, and tracking her profits. What does your child make, or would they like to make, that they could make well enough to sell? This can be a practice in creativity that grows into real-life application of math skills.
What other ideas can you think of for a summer project? When you’re choosing a project for the summer, make sure to let your kids take ownership – and keep it fun! The more fun it is, the more likely they are to stick to it, and the more they’ll get out of the experience. By the time fall rolls around, they’ll be ready to jump into a new school year.

Sara Marchessault is a writer, journal designer, and teacher. Her latest book, Beyond Pen & Paper: 33 Experiments in Journaling, gives readers ideas for getting the benefits of journal writing beyond the habit of conventional journaling. Sara and her family moved twice in one year, keeping them all just a little busier than usual. Learn more about her work at


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