What's marvelous about summer vacation, whether it's spent at Gramma's, at the beach, or in some faraway city, is that it provides a break from the obligations and expectations that mark the vast majority of our day-to-day lives. It's good, no matter how much we love our homes and routines, to get away for a little while, and to see the world -- wherever the in the world we might find ourselves -- from new, refreshed perspectives. And while vacation, yes, is supposed to be a time of rest and relaxation, we can't help, when we're looking at the world from new perspectives, but learn some cool stuff in the midst of our travels. Vacation, regardless of where we spend it, is the very best kind of summer school, because the lessons learned while traveling and exploring are lessons that are learned authentically, lessons that will stick with our kids (and with us) for a lifetime. Want to make the most, learning-wise, of your vacation, without making the kids feel as if they're in the classroom? Following are your tickets, all expenses paid, to a vacation of summer learning.
Before you go, do your homework.
It never hurts, even if you're going somewhere you've been a hundred times before, to do a little research on the place where you'll be vacationing. Spend some time getting to know the history, the geography, the climate, the culture. Ask your kids what they'd like to know about your destination, and then hit the books or the internet.
Focus on your first "R" - Reading.
Try to find some good, age-appropriate books about the place that you'll be visiting. The books don't need to be non-fiction; in fact, high-quality fiction may paint an even more vivid picture of your vacation spot's people and customs. Then, once you've arrived at your destination, read and discuss the books with your child. Compare the author's descriptions of where you are to what you've gleaned from your own observations.
Focus on your second "R" - 'riting.
Capture some of your vacation's most funny and fascinating moments by jotting them down in a family journal. Or, if your child prefers more private reflection, encourage him to write in a journal of his own. And be sure to write and send lots of postcards, not only to keep in touch with friends and family, but also to give your child an excellent opportunity to practice his storytelling skills!
Focus on your third "R" - 'rithmetic.
Sure, your child is on vacation, but that's no reason to forgo the math. And math is fun (at least for kids) when it concerns money, so offer your child a little bit of cash and encourage her to devise a budget. She'll soon find stuff on which she'd like to blow her dough and, as long as she sticks to (or revises) her budget, just allow her to go to town. She'll enjoy the freedom of spending "her" money, and you'll delight in the knowledge that, once again, you've managed to make learning fun.
There's no need, just because you're on vacation, to take a break from summer learning, but that doesn't mean you should pack your child's suitcase with workbooks and flashcards and spelling drills. Instead of worrying about specific skills and lessons, focus on satisfying your child's curiosity about the places and people he's visiting. Set a course for your child's interests and imagination, grab some stamps and a map, and hit the road!
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