Summer’s carefree days are drawing to a rapid close, and students will be loading their book bags with fresh school supplies soon. If your children are like mine, they’ve probably been doing more playing than studying. Here are a few simple ways to get your child back on track for a new school year.

Read Together

Even if your child is an upper elementary or middle school student, read-alouds still provide valuable comprehension and vocabulary practice. Choose a book that is a level or two above your student’s reading ability and share it. I read Misty of Chincoteague to my rising third grader and kindergartener this summer. They both asked many questions about the vocabulary because the writer expresses herself in a more old-fashioned manner. We had great talks about the language. Children need words! Exposure to challenging vocabulary will develop your reader exponentially.

Give your child plenty of opportunities to make predictions about future events in the story, then have them confirm or clarify their thoughts based on what you read. Since my children had no real knowledge of the pony round-up on Chincoteague yet, they had to stretch to visualize what was happening so they could sequence the events logically.

Inferential thinking can be a sticking point for developing readers of all ages. Ask “why” questions because this type of inquiry helps children search for deeper meaning. In our case, asking those questions helped me gauge my children’s understanding of the story. Any discussion generated by a read-aloud helps build comprehension.

Bump Up Math Fact Acquisition. Forgetting addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts can make the summer slide more like an avalanche. Since few children are going to back-flip over flashcard practice, make it fun. Get out your old playing cards and teach your child a new version of War. Throw down two cards. The first person to add, subtract, multiply, or divide them gets to keep them. The winner is the person with the most cards.

Create a Scrapbook of Your Summer Adventures. You don’t have to be “scrappy” or “crafty” to carry this one out—let the kids do the journaling!  You can print your pictures, buy an inexpensive album with acid free picture sleeves, and have your child caption the pictures on index or note cards. Challenge them to describe certain pictures in six words or less. For others, have them write a paragraph with a good topic sentence.

If you would like to take this project to the next creative level, Becky Higgins’s inexpensive “Project Life” app lets you drag and drop pictures from your phone into simple layouts and add text. Coolibah is another free app with layouts and text options as well. I’ve used both and printed out my pages on an inkjet printer at home and at the local photo place. The next time your child asks for your phone to watch YouTube videos, have them use it to scrapbook instead. Not only will they be practicing their writing, they will also be matching shapes and making patterns.

Be Creative With Your Child. Cooking, baking, and crafting together help your child practice a multitude of skills. Reading recipes and craft tutorials not only develop literacy skills, but also help children apply their math principals in the everyday world. The next time your child asks why they have to learn fractions, bake a cake together. If you can sew, let your child measure the fabric for you. Before you cut a piece of wood for that neat Pinterest project, allow your child to “double check” the length. These practical applications will improve your child’s understanding of more complex mathematical concepts in the coming year.

Let Your Child Navigate Your Next Trip. Naturally, you have your GPS as back-up, but help your child develop geographical understanding by handing them a map. They can track your progress to the beach or the grocery store using an app on your phone. Have them read the names of upcoming streets and compare them to the actual signs. Give your child a chance to estimate mileage. This way, you won’t have to hear “Are we there yet?” repeatedly. They’ll know exactly when you’ll get there because they figured out the time it will take based on your speed to get there!

These tips will help keep your child’s academic skills fresh for the new school year. Don’t stop using these ideas just because the semester has started, though. Keep these practices up throughout the year to keep your child excited, motivated, and confident in school. Happy learning!

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