Leslie Wyatt writes, "This year I'm hoping to do an informal unit on astronomy, this involving multiple nights sleeping under the stars pointing out constellations we learn during the days, maybe tying art into it by drawing/painting the constellations, etc., and some creative writing--coming up with our own names and stories for the star groups."

IDEA #15: STUDY AN EXTRACURRICULAR TOPIC

If there's a "non-essential" topic that you've wanted to study that you just haven't had time for during the school year, now is the time to dive in and get started! "My husband had been suggesting that I do some logic with the children," says Maribeth Spangenberg. "My school year was already packed full, so I saved it for the summer. There are some excellent logic books sold through Bright Minds Publishing (www.brightminds.us). I have also used the Mind Benders series and the Critical Thinking series, which only required about 20 minutes per day to do. I was pleased in how they challenged my children's thinking skills."

Whatever that "non-essential" subject might be for your family, now would be a great time to finally get around to it!

IDEA # 16: HAVE A LIBRARY SCAVENGER HUNT

This rather unique idea was shared by Suzanne Broadhurst. "These scavenger hunts can be planned or spontaneous," Suzanne writes. For one of the spontaneous variety, she suggests the following guidelines:

  • Go over social etiquette rules, then turn children loose in the library (see clarification below).
  • Set a timer for an appropriate time (10 minutes is good for younger kids, 30 minutes to an hour for older students).
  • Computer research not allowed--books only!
  • Non-fiction only.
  • Goal: Browse shelves until you find something of interest, jot down three facts (5–10 facts for older kids).
  • Bring home three resources (all one subject or different ones).
  • Share what you learned at the dinner table that night.

"Loose in the library doesn't mean no adult supervision," Suzanne shares. "It means, limit to children's area, teen area, or one aisle for 1 minute, then on to next aisle. We do this in the adult non-fiction, too (I'm banned from the cookbook aisle, though, until I start making some of the 100+ recipes I've already collected!)."

According to Suzanne, these unique visits to the library "open the library's wealth of information and variety of materials to the children in a way that might not happen if the trips focused on an assigned topic or an already-decided-upon interest."

IDEA #17: FAMILY JOBS

Why not earn some money, learn lessons in character, and build good family memories all at the same time? Do odd jobs as a family, and reap the rewards! There are plenty of possibilities if you look around. Tamara Willey says, "Possibilities could include mowing lawns, pet-sitting, house-sitting, childcare, household repair and maintenance, housekeeping (maid-service), newspaper routes, website maintenance or development, doing birthday parties for children, etc."

IDEA #18: ARTS & CRAFTS

The possibilities are almost endless! Maribeth Spangenberg has compiled the following list: "Candle kits, latch hook rugs, knitted scarves, stuffed pillows, painted lamp shades, stained glass, paint-by-number pictures, puzzles glued together and framed, prepackaged wooden projects, painting ceramic Christmas tree ornaments, assembling model cars, a model of the solar system, plastic models of the heart, lung, eye, or ear--are all very profitable learning activities."

Tamara Willey agrees, suggesting that families pursue worthwhile crafts that add to the family, such as "quilting, sewing clothes for the new year, landscaping or gardening, interior updating for beauty, etc. These are things we too often have to let slip for other things. But during the summer, when it gets too hot outside, they are indoor quiet things for mid-day."