Jun 042012

With long summer vacations it is easy for the kids to forget what they have learned during the school year, so every year I make a plan for how to keep my kids ready for back-to-school start in August. This year the plan is a bit more elaborate than the previous years, because the state of Florida has changed a lot of things around, and due to practicing for the FCAT a lot of things have been skipped or rushed. The goal for my kids’ summer learning plan is always the same though: To have lots of fun – but to keep learning as well. Last year the main focus was on reading, and while the kids will still be reading a lot, this year’s focus is on writing. I am by no means a homeschool parent, and I never will be because of my lack of patience. Still, for the summer months, I am determined to stick to the plan, and I have equipped myself with kids workbooks, grammar books for kids, a typing program and much much more.

Unfortunately the Florida educational system is now focused mainly on passing the FCATs, which means that a lot of things are just touched upon enough to get the kids to get a passing FCAT grade. This means that things like grammar, writing cursive and doing experiments, in-dept reports and presentations are severely lacking in elementary school, and I am hoping to use the summer to make up for this.

My nine-year-old son loves doing projects, and he has actually requested to do voluntary presentations in the classroom this year, so this is one area that I will utilize for his learning program. He was also very upset about missing the one class they had on writing cursive, because he had to go to speech therapy, so I have promised I will teach him over the summer. Now that the FCATs are over, I have also started teaching my third grader grammar, but I am starting from the very beginning. As a writer I know how important grammar is, and I will admit that I have been able to write myself out of quite a few topics I did not understand in college. If you know how to write, everything else becomes so much easier in school, because no matter if it is a history report or an English essay, it will pull you down if it is full of grammatical errors.

My six-year-old son had a great year in kindergarten, and he is doing really well at reading. A lot of the kindergarten work was way too easy for him though, so I am just going to let him set the pace. He will be doing a lot of my oldest son’s educational computer games at the second and third grade level, and I will challenge him with workbooks, writing sentences and more advanced reading books. My hope is to have him reading so well at the end of the summer that he can read more complicated books about the ocean, sharks and more. My six-year-old is very focused on becoming a shark scientist, and I will admit that I am getting a bit tired of reading about sharks…

My youngest son is turning three this year, and he will just continue to learn about numbers, the alphabet, and more. He will be doing a lot of puzzles, playing memory games and much much more. My hope is that he will be able to spell and write his name by the end of the summer, but since he is home with me every day, I am not going to do anything different than what I usually do.

When it comes to math both of my oldest boys will continue with their work on Kahn Academy, a fantastic free math resource, which has helped both of them tremendously these past few months.

This year I implemented a rule of no television on school days until after dinner for my oldest boys, and this has worked great. The only exception to the rule has been, when I let them choose an educational DVD from my big educationla DVD collection. The Rock ‘N Learn DVDs are great for this purpose, but I also have quite a few science DVDs, which the kids can choose from.

Last year we visited St. Augustine, Florida, where I went to high school myself. This was a great opportunity to teach the kids about Florida’s history. This year we will continue to learn about Florida’s history, although our vacation will not be as fantastic as the trip to St. Augustine.

My kids will each have reading lists, where they will have to finish a certain number of books. Besides doing the local library book program, the Barnes and Noble book program and more, we will also have our own book program. Once the kids finish their reading lists, each child will get a special summer vacation reward. Last year it was a trip to a water park).

This year the back-to-school readiness plan includes:


  • Trips to historical sites and nature sites
  • Reading lists
  • Workbooks
  • Typing lessons
  • Presentations about topics of their choice
  • Brief book reports
  • Memory Games
  • Puzzles
  • Grammar lessons
  • Vocabulary Practice
  • Learning DVDs
  • Leapster Learning Games

To start out, I have a lot of free educational websites that I use to help keep kids learning, inspired and having fun:

I also use the local thriftstore for a frugal option, and I have been able to get some awesome books for as low as $0.75 each at half.com with free shipping.


One of the ways I reward my kids for reading, is by rewarding them a certain amount of money per book read ($0.10 – $0.25 per book). However, the money they earn from reading needs to be spent on reading, so I give my kids a choice. They can either go to the bookstore to buy 1 or 2 books for their book reward money, or they can go to the thift store to buy 5 – 15 books for the same amount of money. We have a local thrift store, which has a lot of books for kids of all ages, and the price per book is 58 cents.


I already have a lot of great workbooks from Dollar Tree and the Dollar Spot at Target, but when looking for more in-dept learning tools and kids workbooks I have turned to Amazon. Some of the tools that we already have include:


Workbooks and more:
Math Made Easy: Fourth Grade Workbook (Math Made Easy)
4th Grade Writing Practice (Practice (Scholastic))
240 Vocabulary Words 4th Grade Kids Need To Know: 24 Ready-to-Reproduce Packets That Make Vocabulary Building Fun & Effective
Scholastic Success With Reading Tests, Grade 3 (Scholastic Success with Workbooks: Tests Reading)
1st Grade Writing Practice (Practice (Scholastic))

Beginning Cursive Handwriting, Grade 3 (Homework Helper)


Vocabulary Practice:


Third Grade Vocabulary Flashcards



Typing Instructor For Kids Platinum (Windows/Mac)



The price of Leapsters have dropped significantly, and my youngest son is getting one for his birthday, so that all three boys have their own Leapster for road trips. I have also found some great deals on Leapster games, and this year I have been able to get several Leapster games for as low as $4.

LeapFrog® Leapster® Learning Game: 1st Grade
LeapFrog Leapster Learning Game Star Wars – Jedi Math
LeapFrog Leapster Learning Game Up


How do you keep your kids learning throughout their summer? 

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