IDEA #11: BUILD SOMETHING

Melanie Hexter extols the value of building projects as learning experiences. "Build something new for your yard," she suggests. "A swing set, playhouse or shed, deck, raised bed gardens, etc. Many home improvement stores offer courses and the Internet is chock full of plans."

IDEA #12: ACADEMIC DRILLS

This idea may not be a lot of fun, but you'll be glad when September rolls around that you put in the extra effort now to make sure your kids didn't forget everything from the previous year during the long weeks of summer. Maribeth Spangenberg writes, "If my children were weak in math, I'd have them do some speed drills or practice sheets. Even just a few problems a day for a short period of time can help to keep concepts fresh."

And here's another suggestion from Tamara Willey: "Find new and creative ways to learn the multiplication tables. Let the kids make up games or requirements for ordinary games that require answering drills to move forward, etc. This is indispensable to success in math for any and all ages--one can never do this enough!"

IDEA #13: NATURE STUDY

What better time to get out and study nature than during the summer? Everything from bird watching, to creating a bug collection, to studying microorganisms under a microscope--plus a thousand other activities--make for great summertime learning.

Melissa Pinkley points out that now is a great time to prepare for certain types of science fair projects--even if the fair itself won't be held until the school year. "If your children want to do a science fair project that involves worms, bugs, sun, or any environmental issues, then the summer is the best time to do them. Make sure to take exact notes while you are doing the project. The official paperwork can either be done during the summer or later. Doing the project during the summer also helps when the actual science fair time comes since the project is done and you just have to review and make a presentation board."
Susan Lemons adds, "We like to do special topics during the summer, like insects, water or the ocean. For older children, we have done an insect collection. We used a killing jar to kill the bugs, then pinned them to a special board, and identified them using a field guide. This year, we're going to spend some time studying the ocean, and make a mural of the ocean complete with 'seaweed,' fish, and so on. We'll also learn about water: solutions, its forms (liquid, vapor, ice), observe ice melting, see how long it takes water to evaporate, and talk about where it goes. We'll also do sink/float experiments: I'll gather a bunch of things together, have the children guess which will sink and which will float, and then see if we were right; we'll also experiment with how shape affects buoyancy, and perhaps try building our own boats out of Legos, or wood, etc."

Nature hikes are also a great way to do hands-on science during the summer. Go to the library and find some field guides that will help you identify birds, plants, trees, animals, and different types of rocks, minerals, etc. Take along a bag or other container and gather samples (if you're in a park or nature preserve that doesn't allow collecting samples, you can always take your camera along and snap pictures of what you find). Melissa Pinkley adds that if any of your kids are "artsy," then outdoor art sketching can add some fun to your outing. Let them try their hand at drawing or painting flowers, trees, landscapes, birds, or any other nature they see.

IDEA #14: ASTRONOMY

Do some research online to learn about the various astronomy "events" that are happening this summer. For example, in August, there will be the Perseids Meteor Shower, as well as a total lunar eclipse. These are great opportunities to learn more about the night sky, and can also serve as jumping off points to read about early astronomers such as Johannes Kepler.