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Learning is still in session
School's out, but that doesn't mean your children have to stop learning. They can even enjoy it.
By MICHELE MILLER
Published June 3, 2007
Lynda Ehrman is the parent involvement coordiantor for Title 1 Schools in the Pasco County School District. Some of Ehrman's favorite summer fun and learning activities involve bubbles, and the amusing and educational things children can do with them.
[Times photo: Brendan Fitterer]
[Times photo: Brendan Fitterer]
Lynda Ehrman, the parent involvement coordinator for the county's Title I schools, has an arm's-length list of ideas.
Bugs, socks, paper bags, egg cartons, books and bubbles - not store-bought, but the kind you make with dish detergent, water and corn syrup.
The local library, the beach, the park, the Internet, the kitchen, your back yard.
Most important: your time and attention.
Mix them all together and you have Lynda Ehrman's recipe for stopping the "brain drain, " that horrid summer phenomenon that, right this minute, is threatening to suck the gray matter out of your child's head.
School's been out for nearly two weeks, so now comes the summer slide that's hastened by all those hazy, lazy days of not being in school.
Studies show that students can lose two to three months or more of math and reading skills over summer break, said Ehrman, the parent involvement coordinator for Pasco's Title I schools -- schools that receive federal money to help large populations of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
Making matters worse, this summer is an extra two weeks long, thanks to a new state law that says classes can't start more than 14 days before Labor Day.
That could be bad for students and teachers who will likely spend some of next year's precious classroom time going over last year's lessons.
But it doesn't have to be, said Ehrman, who made the rounds at Title I schools throughout the county before classes let out. She shared a wealth of knowledge and resources she has collected as a schoolteacher, as a homeschooling mom and as a little girl who used to spend a couple of weeks each summer sleeping under the stars at her grandmother's house.
"She had navy blue wallpaper with silver stars pasted on the ceiling, " Ehrman recalled. "She'd be in bed with us telling us stories or she'd start a story and have us take turns finishing it. We had so much fun."
Ehrman, now a grandmother of three, offers more than 200 educational and fun ideas at her workshops - like the Car Bingo game you can download for free, the Summer Bridge workbooks she picks up at The Learning Station in Port Richey, or the giant bubble wands she learned to make with twine and PVC when she was homeschooling her three children.
"Not everything I have here will work for everyone, " she tells parents about the spread of handouts she offers in school media centers. "But if you only do two of these things, your child's teacher will love you."
First off, said Ehrman, have your children make a summer reading pledge to read a certain number of books of their choosing. Don't forget to check out the 2007-08 Sunshine State Young Readers selections for grades 3-5 and 6-8 at www.myssyra.org.
And while visits to places like the Kennedy Space Center or MOSI can certainly keep a young brain engaged, you don't have to go far or spend a lot of money.
A simple trip to the grocery store can be educational if you ask your child to compare prices to prod their math skills or read the nutritional values on the packages to teach them about the food pyramid. Check it out at www.mypyramid.gov.
"And it's amazing, " said Ehrman, "what you can do with things you have lying around the house."
She suggests that parents either choose a different theme each week or go with scheduled activities that children initiate themselves.
So, for instance, say your child is into creepy crawly things ...
- Declare "bug week" and trek to the park or back yard to look at bugs with a magnifying glass. Draw and write about what you see.
- Create wearable bug eyes using pipe cleaners, markers and discarded cardboard egg cartons.
- Make edible "bugs" such as spider cookies and ants on a log using recipes on the Internet. Try the Kid's Recipes at www.momsmenu.com/cgi-bin/sefer.cgi?Kid's:Recipes.
- Check out bug books at the library or go on the Internet to get information.
- Make a book about bugs using the pictures drawn earlier, citing the facts learned. Or have your child write or tell a fiction story about a special bug.
The same kind of activities can be done and expanded upon with studies about flowers, the oceans, whatever.
Just make sure the kids are having fun, too, and don't be afraid to let them be your guide.
"It shouldn't be kill and drill, " Ehrman said. "You can have a lot of fun just zeroing in on a child's curiosity. Just pick it up and go with it."
Michele Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or in west Pasco at 727 869-6251 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6251.
On the Web
Parents can go to any Internet search engine, punch in "summer activities" and get thousands of ideas. Here are some of Lynda Ehrman's favorite sites:
- Libraries throughout the county offer summer reading programs featuring reading incentives as well as a variety of events and fun activities. Children can also participate in the reading programs online. Contact the library of your choice for a brochure.
- Various churches offer Vacation Bible Schools throughout the summer.
- The county Parks and Recreation Department offers a variety of free programs and events.
At home summer learning activities
1. THEATER ACTIVITIES:
- Use errant socks, paper bags or tongue depressors to make puppets. Use markers or glue on buttons (for eyes) to make a face. Use yarn for the hair. Write or improvise a script. Turn a table on its side or crouch behind the living room sofa and put on a puppet show.
- Gather old clothing and create a dress-up box. Help your children create a script for a play and act it out in front of a sheet draped over a clothes line in the back yard. Children can also become little entrepreneurs by making and selling their own tickets for the show.
2. SORTING ACTIVITIES:
You'll need egg cartons, buttons, coins, beads. Use the egg cartons to sort coins to help youngsters learn money value, or different colored beads to help them learn their colors. Have them separate buttons or beads into groups of two's or five's to help them with math and multiplication skills.
3. 'I'M BORED' CAN
- You'll need a can with a plastic top. (Coffee or nut cans work great.) Decorate and fill with various ideas of fun and educational things to do. When your children say, "I'm bored, " have them pick an idea out of the can.