How We Encouraged Summer Learning With Our Fifth Grader

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Summer 2018 has been a monumental summer for our little family.

We’ve celebrated our youngest daughter’s first birthday, taken a road trip to Disneyland (more on that soon), visited a waterpark several times, got a new van, and signed our girls up for library cards. It’s been a big summer of firsts in so many ways, and we’ve truly enjoyed every single second.

Since we had my step-daughter with us for three weeks this summer, we tried to pack in as much family time as we could. Due to her living most of the time with her mom, we try to do as much as we can when she is with us.

However, while we know that having fun as a family is important, we also try our best to have a positive impact on my step-daughter’s life while she is with us.

One of the biggest things that we try to teach her is that education and learning is important – even during summer vacation!

Each day, my step-daughter was expected to follow the below routine. Check it out below and let me know what you think in the comments! Do your kids do educational activities during summer break?

Read for 60 minutes

We started this summer out with my step-daughter only reading for 30 minutes per day, but (much to her chagrin) we upped it to a full hour. While we try to read to her at night as a family, or with our one-year-old, she was still required to read for 60 minutes on her own.

One way that we made this task more fun for her was by letting her choose the book she wanted to read, and making sure to give her as many choices as possible.

This summer we primarily used books that we already owned at home, but that she hadn’t read yet. However, we were able to get a library card a few days before she went home, so we will definitely be using that next summer!

In addition to using the library next summer for books, my step-daughter was super excited to find out that they host a summer reading program that you can get awards for completing goals. Since she is a somewhat reluctant reader, I think this program is going to be great for encouraging a healthy habit of reading next summer.

If you have a reluctant reader, definitely check out your local library and see if they offer a summer reading program! They are usually free to join and give the kids such a sense of accomplishment.

Do her workbook for 60 minutes

Each summer, we purchase my step-daughter a workbook that practices skills she’ll need for the coming grade. So, this year, she had a workbook that focused on skills that a fourth grader should have mastered going into fifth grade.

My step-daughter is way more into doing math than reading, so in general, we heard a lot less griping about doing her workbook than her reading.

We purchased the below workbook off of Amazon, and were super happy with the purchase. We have used other brands of workbooks in past years, but this one was my personal favorite. All of the pages were colorful and fun to look at, the pages were perforated if you wanted to remove them from the book, and best of all, there is an answer key in the back of the book, which made checking answers a breeze.

Please note that the following is an affiliate link.

While we encouraged my step-daughter to do the workbook on her own, both my husband and I were home and she would come to us with questions about the instructions, how to complete the exercises, etc.

It was great for her to practice skills that she was already comfortable with, but one of the best parts of seeing my step-daughter work through this workbook and checking her answers was that we could see if there were any areas that were a struggle for her.

Whenever we identified an area that caused her to struggle, we would work with her on that particular subject.

An invaluable tool that we used daily was our dry erase easel that lives in her room. We’d use the dry erase board to break down math problems from the book or to make up additional problems to check her understanding. We seriously used it every single day!

We purchased our easel at IKEA for a really reasonable price!

“Money” Practice with Play Bills and Coins

Early in the summer, we discovered that my step-daughter wasn’t used to using money out in the real world. (I think that is pretty common these days since we all use plastic 24/7.)

We noticed that money problems in her workbook were a little harder, especially with the differing values of coins. So, we turned to Amazon and BAM! two days later we had life-size bills and coins to use for instruction.

Please note that the following is an affiliate link.

To make the most of these instruction bills and coins, my husband would make up 5 to 10 different amounts and write them on my step-daughter’s whiteboard. Then, she would practice making those amounts with exact change (and with the least amount of coins possible) and then have us check her work.

We were amazed that after several days of making change with these hands-on tools that she was able to complete the task faster and faster. The practice really paid off!

Do Something Creative

My husband works from home, so my step-daughter was expected to do her reading, workbook and money practice while he was working. Then, if there was time, her and I tried to fit in a creative activity while our one-year-old napped.

This was a great time to bond with my step-daughter and to talk about the things that were happening in her life and what was important to her. It was a great time to talk about things she didn’t understand, things that bothered her or about really anything!

While this wasn’t “traditional” educational time, I genuinely think that we both learned from each other during our creative time. (9 year-olds are super smart, by the way.)

Here was our favorite creative activity of the summer. These small plastic beads were so much fun to put on the pegged plates and then iron into something she could take home!

I encouraged my step-daughter to follow patterns that I found on Pinterest because it encouraged planning ahead and counting on the plate to make sure she was making the correct pattern. (See? FUN learning!) I’m going to be keeping my eyes peeled to stock up more colors, more plates and more supplies for next summer when they go on sale!

Please note the following is an affiliate link.

A Note on Expectation Versus Reality

While I’d love to tell you that we were perfect at keeping this schedule every single day, I can’t. However, we tried to do all of these activities when we weren’t traveling, Monday through Friday.

When my husband was off work or something spontaneous came up, these activities sometimes took a backseat. But, summer is supposed to be spontaneous and fun, so we didn’t sweat it too much.

My point? Don’t stress too much if you don’t have the perfect schedule every single day of summer. It’s hard, but you’re kids are going to remember that you encouraged them to learn while making time for fun.

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