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Summer Ideas for Six to Twelve-Year-Olds
Categories: Montessori At Home / Summer Ideas

A Note from WMS: This is a great article by Donna Bryant Goertz. It’s especially great for any parents that are thinking, “Now what do we do?” during the first week of summer vacation!

Summer Ideas for Six to Twelve-Year-Olds
by Donna Bryant Goertz

Summer is coming!

It is time to think about who our elementary children are and how they go about becoming who they will be. It is time to plan ahead so that we adults can provide the best environment, activities, and relationships for the long summer months. We can count on our six- to twelve-year-olds to continue their great work of self-constructing and self-developing a human being no matter what the season. And no one has a bigger or more important work than our children have, but then no one is more relentlessly driven to do their work. So we can count on our children to relate dynamically with their environment, to take eagerly the materials around them, and to engage enthusiastically with the available adults. For this reason, they need to be taken seriously and given everything necessary to do their astonishing work of human construction.

What are our elementary children like?

Elementary children are developing their longer and longer legs so they can go out further and further to explore the world.  Month by month and year by year for the entire six elementary years, these children are self-developing and self-educating. Through their own efforts, using their reasoning minds and their imagination, they collaborate with friends and family to make elaborate plans for going out and exploring the world of nature and of civilization. Elementary children are hungry to reach the furthest realms of the past and the most distant regions of the present in our universe of time and space. Through their most tireless efforts of body and mind and spirit, they are eager to build their knowledge and expand their experiences as adventurers of the mind and travelers of the spirit. Elementary children are young philosophers with a passion for ethics. They care deeply and seek to understand and act on the principle of love for one another and the planet. 

What is our role?

Elementary children have plenty of drive and desire within themselves to have a fantastic summer. They desperately need us to both expand and limit their environment, their activities, and their relationships. Here are sold and detailed ideas for doing both. Share this with your six-to-twelve year old and let them select activities which appeal to them.

Creative Arts/Construction

  • Knit, crochet, spin, weave, sew, quilt, hook rugs, embroider, tie-dye, beadwork, paint, sculpt.
  • Work with knowledgeable adult to build a fence, a doghouse, a bike ramp, a bookcase, a bench, etc.
  • Find an adult who has a lot of tools and likes to build or repair things.  Learn the names of all the tools the adult has. Learn to write the names as well as say them. Learn what each tool is used for.
  • Learn photography—how to take a really good picture.
  • Learn how to operate a video camera. Make your own movies. Document a week in the life of your family using a camcorder or camera. Write a paragraph about each family member and what they will be doing for the summer.  Mail the package to your grandparents or some other relative or friend who would like to receive the update.
  • Practice your musical instrument or learn new songs to sing. If possible, take private music lessons on your musical instrument.
  • Learn a new song to teach the class in the fall. Bring a copy of the words when you teach it to us.
  • Learn to dance.

Language/Words/Literature

  • Schedule a weekly trip to the public library. Plan to spend at least an hour looking through books, looking up things in the catalog, reading magazines, etc. Consider joining a summer reading program at the public library.
  • Take regular trips to bookstores. Make a list of all the good bookstores in town and try to visit each one at least once so you can learn what sorts of books each store offers.
  • Write a description of a friend, a friend’s house, a pet, a favorite place, a vacation spot, etc.
  • Interview your family and relatives. Start a family newsletter.
  • Enter an essay, story or poetry contest. Submit your work to magazines that publish student work.
  • Practice telling stories. Have a read-aloud time. One person could read while the others clean up from dinner or do some other simple task. Family members take turns being the reader.
  • Have a family reading time. Everybody reads whatever he or she wants in the same room. Start small: perhaps for 15 minutes after dinner. Gradually increase the time.
  • Play great board games such as Scrabble, UpWords, Boggle, or Word Thief.
  • Write with your family. Start a family journal. In the journal, keep lists of things to do around the house, descriptions of special events such as hosting houseguests, notes about phone calls to family friends and relatives, anything you want to record from your everyday life. See Peter Stillman’s book Families Writing for more ideas and inspiration.
  • List to books on tape while driving around on errands or on vacation.
  • Read and write poetry. Memorize a poem a week.
  • Put on some calming music (Bach, Mozart, Satie, Gregorian chant are nice) and practice making the most beautiful cursive or italic letters you can.
  • Instead of phoning, write letters to your friends and relatives. Try starting a round robin letter to your friends or relatives. First, make up a list of 3-5 people and their addresses. The person you wrote to writes a letter and sends it, your original letter, and the list of addresses to the next person on the list, and so forth. Eventually, all the letters will come back to you!
  • If you want to practice spelling in a very structured way, check out the books at Neuhaus Educational Center website:  www.neuhause.org/Scientific_Spelling/SSample.htm

Math/Numbers/Geometry

  • Comparison shopping: figuring price per pound, calling various stores, etc. When you shop at the grocery store take along a pad and pencil; keep a running total of the cost of items you buy. Check your answer against the cash register receipt you get when you pay for your items.
  • Read The Number Devil by H. M. Enzensberger. This is an especially good book for people who have not yet learned to love math, but those who have will enjoy the book too. Every upper elementary student should read this  book.  
  • Keep statistics. Graph when you go to bed, how many pages you read each day, how far you walk each day, how many ounces of water you drink per day, how often you have friends over, how long it takes you to eat breakfast, how many meters per day you swim, how fast you can jog around the block, how many multiplication facts you can do in a minute, etc.
  • Measure things around the house and calculate their surface area and volume. Take trips to the park, etc., to measure things there.
  • Help with the family budget. Record the family expenditures for a week. Help your parents write the checks when they pay the bills (they’ll have to sign the checks).
  • Play good thinking games such as chess and go. Learn how to notate chess games. Learn to play chess by mail with your friends (that’s where you mail your moves back and forth on postcards or in letters).
  • Make up math problems for yourself to work. Consider making a Math Workout for yourself once a week. This will help keep your math skills strong and will allow you to spend your next school year on new, interesting math, instead of re-learning all the math you forgot over the summer!

Nature/Plants/Animals

  • Whenever you travel to a new city, visit the local zoo and aquarium or the local natural history museum.
  • Before you travel to another part of the country or to a different country, read about the biomes there. Read about their climate, animals, and plants. While you’re there, look for things you read about.
  • Go camping with your family or friends.
  • Make a botany map of your back yard. Place each plant in its place on the map and label each plant with its common name and scientific name. (You might need some help from a library book or a knowledgeable adult gardener.)
  • Go berry picking on a local.

History /Geography

  • Help plan the family vacation. Research the landmarks, geography, culture, special attractions of the area you’ll be visiting. Map out the route you will take.
  • Make a map of your house and gardens. Make a detailed map of your room.
  • Study world religions.
  • The website at http://killeenroos.com/link/anchist.htm links to hundreds of other sites on ancient civilizations.
  • Pick a continent you’d like to know more about. Using an atlas, make flash cards of all the countries in that continent. On one side of the card have the country’s name, on the other side, the country’s capital city. Memorize all the countries and capitals in that continent, and then do the same for another continent.
  • Interview someone from another country. Ask them about their country’s history, landmarks, cities, agriculture, industries, religions, festivals, form of government, famous scientists, famous artists, and writers, etc. Ask them for permission to tape the interview. From the tape, make notes. From the notes, write a summary of what you learned about the person’s country.

Science

  • At the library, look through the children’s books on science. Choose one that has experiments you can do at home, such as the books by Janice Van Cleave. Try some experiments at home with your parents.
  • Consider the books and kits available from Terrific Science (www.tsbkm.com).
  • Try some of the activities from the San Francisco Exploratorium website:  www.exploratorium.edu/explore/handson.html.
  • Explore the “Life on Earth” site at the University of California-Berkeley (www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/alllife/threedomains.html). This is pretty advanced stuff, but boy is it cool!

Sports/Exercise

  • Play on a team. Practice a sport or physical skill: hiking, biking, skating, swimming, walking, caving, climbing, canoeing, snorkeling, running, gymnastics, basketball, rock climbing.
  • Spend as much time outdoors as possible. If your body gets used to staying indoors in the air-conditioning all the time, you will be at risk for heat stroke if you do need to do something physical outdoors.
  • Work on developing the habit of drinking enough water each day. To find the minimum amount water your body needs to avoid dehydration, use the following formula: your body weight in pounds ÷ 10 x 2= minimum ounces of water you need each day.
  • You’ll need to drink more than that if you are exercising in the heat.
  • Download a free book of cooperative games (http://freechild.org/games-guide.pdf). Try these with your friends.

Community Service/Activism

  • Keep a scrapbook of newspaper articles on issues you care about in the community or world. Write letters to elected officials (congresspersons, senators, the president, city council representatives, etc.) expressing your opinions about issues you’ve read about.
  • Participate in an environmental clean-up. This might be as simple as going to the park with your family or friends and filling up a big trash back with all the trash you can pick up.  
  • Help younger children learn to do something they want to do.
  • Visit an elder. Look for opportunities to assist the elderly. Some children call out bingo at a retirement home every other week.
  • Volunteer at a local animal shelter or zoo.
  • Offer to help neighbors with pet sitting, picking up their newspaper when they’re out of town, etc.

Household Service

  • Help out more with the household chores since you have more time at home. Learn to do some new things such as washing clothes, ironing, folding laundry, polishing furniture, vacuuming. Work alongside another family member whenever possible.
  • Cook together with your family. It can be more fun than cooking by yourself.
  • Be responsible for one or two meals per week. Plan the menu with your parent(s). Make a shopping list. Do the shopping. Cook the meal with your parent(s). Try not to use the microwave when you cook!

The Most Important Thing You Can Do: Get Smarter & Stronger

  • Whenever you feel like turning on the TV or playing computer games, first come get this list of ideas and pick something from it to do before you spend any time in front of a screen. If you really want to get smarter and stronger, turn off the TV and computer for a month or for the entire summer.

Donna Bryant Goertz is the founder and director of Austin Montessori School.  She holds AMI diplomas at the A to I and elementary levels.

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