Undercover Education! It sounds like sneaky spies and special agents, right? Although some families choose to homeschool year-round, many of us do not. But at the same time, we don’t want our kids’ brains to turn into worthless mush over the summer. What to do? Check out these undercover education ideas to sneak some learning into your kids’ summer fun!
Undercover Education – Planting and Gardening
Planting and gardening are natural spring/summer activities. And no, it’s not too late to start a garden, although you may need to purchase plants instead of seeds for some plants. What can gardening add to your child’s education? Let me list the ways!
- Plant Biology – Stems, Leaves, Roots, Flowers, Basic items all plants need to grow
- Soil Chemistry – Different types of soil (soil test kits), Types of plants that grow best in different soil mixtures, How to amend your soil for desired results
- Plant Combinations – some plants grow better together than others do. Why is that, and which plants don’t get along together
- Plants and Insects – some insects are beneficial to plants, and others are not. Encourage the good ones, and get rid of the bad ones.
- Chemistry – fertilizers, reading labels, proper use and application, proper protection for use
- Journaling activities – What did you plant, and where did you plant it? Include garden diagrams, illustrate the growth and development of your garden, notate results, favorite plants, what causes plant stress, and why
- What makes a weed? Do your kids know the difference between a weed and a desired plant? What is the best way to get rid of weeds (or unwanted plants) in your garden? And what happens to your favored plants if you don’t keep the weeds under control?
Hey, your kids could be doing science all summer without realizing it with a garden! Get into the growing season!
Undercover Education – Nature Journals
Nature journals are another great way to enhance education during the summer. In a nature journal, your kids can record their observations of the world around them. Whether they study and notate those observations from a corner of your backyard or on nature walks, nature journaling can increase their awareness of their surroundings, improve their observation skills, enhance their notating efforts, and add to their curiosity about the world around them. So, how can you make this work?
Concentrate on a specific patch of ground.
Have your child choose a patch of ground to study and record observations each week. It could be a corner of the yard, your garden plot, a neighbor’s yard (with permission, of course!), a small park you regularly visit, or even a ditch. Have your child carefully observe the area for 10 – 15 minutes each week and record and illustrate what they see. What has changed in the last week? Why did it change? How has the weather affected the area? What is new in the area? New flowers? Insects? Mold or moss? Teach them to be keen observers!
Weekly nature walks and observations.
Have you explored all the different parks, forests, lakes, ponds, etc., around where you live? There is even surprising nature diversity in urban areas. Look for new parks, nature centers, forest preserves, and natural areas around you. Try to walk through a new site or park every week! You can even enlist your kids to search out new places to explore. (Thank you, Google, for easy access to maps and information!) You may be amazed at all the cool places your find to visit near where you live! Be adventurous and go exploring!
Explore different natural areas and note the differences between plant and animal life.
Expose your kids to different environments like deciduous forests, evergreen forests, swamps, ponds, beaches, desert areas, etc. Have your kids describe the different habitats in their nature journals. They can illustrate the locations, make notes about the plant life, the animal/insect life they see, draw pictures of different flowers, etc. Then, at the end of the spring or summer, your kids can create a comparison of the different environments they visited.
A nature journal can enhance writing skills, increase observation abilities, practice sitting still, exercise artistic efforts, and motivate curiosity. What’s not to like?
Undercover Education – Bird Watching
Another way to practice this undercover education is by birdwatching. How many different birds show up in your yard? Do you have any idea? What about your kids – do they ever watch the birds through your windows? Even in urban areas, you can still find many different types of birds. Can your kids identify all these birds? Do they know the different ways the birds sing? Here are some ideas for making birdwatching part of your kids’ summer “education”:
- Take pictures of different birds that show up in your yard. Use the photos to identify the birds you see. (Photography, Research Skills, Reasoning and Identification Skills, Detail Observations)
- Make a chart of the different birds you see. What time of day do these birds appear? Do they like certain flowers in your garden? If so, which birds like which plants?
- What are the natural foods of the different types of birds you see? And how can you increase these food sources for your birds?
- Set out (and resupply and keep clean!) a water supply for your neighborhood birds.
- Learn the different songs or calls of the birds.
- As you take walks in nature, look and listen for new birds. Add these birds to your lists or charts. How many different birds can your kids see and record throughout the summer?
Undercover Education – Sand and Water Play
Yes, play is an excellent way for undercover education to occur. And who doesn’t like playing in sand and water? Sure, sand and water play will get messy, but that seems to go with kids and play. And, no, you don’t have to be by a beach to participate in sand and water play. But, hey, a beach trip always sounds like a good idea!
Set up a sandbox in the backyard. If you add drainage holes in the bottom of the sandbox, adding water to the sand won’t be as big of an issue. Or find (or create) a sandbox with a divided area for water. Or use separate buckets of water. Bring out some toy cars and trucks, maybe a couple of toy boats, and your kids will be happy for hours! What will they learn?
- Creative play
- Physics (they won’t know it, but they will learn some basic principles!)
Take a beach trip!
A beach trip is like backyard sand and water play, but better! There is no need for fancy beach toys – some old plastic containers from your kitchen will do the trick! (And then you can throw them out at the end of the beach trip and not have to clean them to put back in your car!) Besides playing in the sand and water, what can your kids learn from a beach trip?
- Wave action
- Force of water
- Different birds
- Different plant life
- Seashell/sea creature identification
So much science learning – just from fun at the beach! And no, you don’t need to trek to the ocean for a beach. Check out different lakes and rivers near you to find a great beach area.
Undercover Education – Outdoor Games
Even standard, old-fashioned outdoor games can add to kids’ educational skills over the summer. You can use games to build math skills, work on large motor skills, enhance fine motor skills, foster teamwork, build athletic abilities, practice logic and reasoning, and increase aptitudes for following directions. Need some ideas? Check out these suggestions:
- Jump Rope
- Chinese Jump Rope
- Bocce Ball
- Lawn Darts
- Running Bases
So much learning, so much fun! So much better than a summer full of video games and television!
Undercover Education – Read Books!
Don’t forget about reading books throughout the summer! Hot, lazy summer afternoons are made for reading books. Maybe your kids are not into reading books. Here are some things you can try to spark their interest in book-reading:
- Participate in your library’s summer reading programs and contests.
- Read aloud to your kids.
- Invent your own summer reading games or competitions.
- Let your kids make tents in the backyard to read in.
- Or make tents or forts inside for reading.
- Set aside an assigned quiet reading time each day.
- Provide your kids with plenty of great books to read.
- It’s okay to let your kids read comic books sometimes.
- Visit garage sales or thrift stores and let your kids buy a book to read.
- Have your kids read to each other.
- Picture books can foster attention to detail and spark your kids’ imaginations.
Encourage your kids to read! Good reading skills will enhance your kids’ education! The better they can read and comprehend, the better they can learn anything that interests them. Please, don’t ignore reading throughout the summer.
So, did you grasp this idea of undercover education? There are so many fun ways to add to your kids’ education throughout the summer without realizing they are learning. But you, the master educational strategist that you are, have it all under control. This summer, instead of being the teacher, the master academic, you can be the top-notch secret agent of your child’s undercover education! And you can all have fun in the process.
These posts might give you some additional help or ideas: