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Now that the spring semester and 20/21 school year are winding down, I suspect many parents have closed the “school” door and locked it shut, moving on to summer. That’s understandable, given how this school year has likely not provided the most ideal circumstances for learning and, well — life. As things are starting to open up after a long pause on all things typical, the anticipation of summer days that look much closer to normal than last summer is very welcome. Woo hoo! Let Summer 2021 begin.

Photo by Carly Rae Hobbins on Unsplash

Now I’m going to be the Debbie Downer who throws some beach sand in your face…

Don’t put the key to that locked door away just yet. You might want to keep the door cracked, even if just a smidgeon.

Some studies show that summer slide, when students move backward instead of forward during long academic breaks, is responsible for a loss of up to 20-27% in reading and math competency. While academic loss will vary based on the student and situation, it only makes sense that students might forget a little — or a lot — of what they were learning over the school year during a 3-month long break.

While some choose to homeschool school year-round, it isn’t for everyone, and going full-on school just won’t work for all. However, if your student tends to overindulge in video games, long naps, and other such activities during the summer months, it may be beneficial to incorporate some purposeful learning activities that will keep their skills sharp in the areas of reading and math.

Keep ‘Em Reading!

There should be no argument on the importance of continued reading during the summer months, but if you are not convinced, here is a long list of studies on the positive impact of summer reading.

So, what is the best way to tap into all this reading goodness without making your kids feel like they are “doing school” all summer?

Incentivize! Each summer various organizations offer free reading programs where students can earn free books, prizes, and even pizza! Both the Money Saving Mom and Hey, It’s Free websites have lists of programs for 2021, but below are a few available locally.

Barnes and Noble (Grades 1-6) Read any eight books and earn a free book!

Pizza Hut’s Camp Book It (Grades PreK-6) Students receive a free personal pizza each month by meeting reading goals. (Sorry adult pizza lovers, there isn’t a grown-up version of this program!)

Books-A-Millon Read any four books from their Summer Reading Adventure section and receive a free Because of Winn Dixie notepad. It’s not as exciting as pizza, perhaps, but kids may still appreciate the reward.

Be sure to check out what summer programs are being offered by your local library. Farmington Community Library, which is offering a free cone just for registering, has programs for kids through adults.

Photo by Mpumelelo Macu on Unsplash

Don’t forget about “ear reading,” or listening to audiobooks. While the use of audiobooks for struggling readers is highly recommended, listening to audiobooks has both mental and physical benefits for all, as shared in this audiobook overview by Audio Publishers Association.

Audiobooks are a great pairing with other summer activities, such as in the car when traveling or sitting out on the beach.

Sync offers free audiobooks each week to teens at least 13 years old.

Project Gutenberg and LibriVox offer free public domain audiobooks as does Spotify, though you won’t find more modern stories under copyright on these sites.

Audible is offering free titles for children for continued learning during the pandemic, but this offer ends on June 30, 2021.

Libby from Overdrive is a free app where you can borrow audiobooks from your public library. Speaking from experience, it is very easy to use.

AudioFile Magazine provides a curated list of audiobook reviews for kids and teens if you would like guidance on selecting a title.

While you’ll probably want to avoid too much screen time, especially during the summer months, there are lots of free internet resources and websites to boost reading skills, such as or FreeRice, to use in moderation.

Math – Use It, Don’t Lose It

Though there are many online math practice programs, there is something to be said for old-school paper and pencil practice. My students were never in a hurry to hit math work during the regular school year and the result was they often spent at least part of the summer completing their math curriculum. Knowing that a long pause on math wasn’t beneficial, I was okay with stretching our math work into the summer.  Many programs have extra practice sheets and supplemental materials you could use if you’ve already wrapped up your lessons for the year. If you are looking to change it up from your regular curriculum, free worksheets, such as those from, are readily available. Or, you can focus on a weak area. The Key To… math series has simple and inexpensive workbooks focusing on a single topic. No matter what direction you use, just 30 minutes a day or a few times a week will keep those math skills fresh.

How about a little stealth learning through board games? Some, such as Sum Swamp, which is a practice of addition and subtraction, or Equate, a scrabble type math equation game, are a little more obvious that there is math learning going on. However, there are plenty of games that are a bit more stealth learning. Logic and strategy board games, such as chess, Quirkle, Rummikub, and Ticket to Ride will keep those mathematical brains working through the summer. Implement a regular board game night and combine some great family time right along with learning. There are also single-player thinking games, such as Soduku, various card games, as well as puzzle games like Rush Hour that can be played solo during downtime.

Cooking, shopping, and summer building are all everyday summer activities with the potential for some very intentional math learning. Most kids know better than to come to parents saying they are bored, but why not have a few learning activities at the ready to suggest if they do?

Or, outright plan for some summer learning fun, whether it is baking cookies or something more involved like a lemonade stand (or both – sell the cookies too!). What kid doesn’t want to set up a summer lemonade stand? Here are some great ideas to turn this classic summer activity into full learning potential.

As with reading resources, the internet provides lots of free resources for practicing math skills. Aleks is a great subscription-based option to ensure you’ve got any gaps filled as it is a mastery-based, adaptive learning program. Some free options include  Khan Academy and Prodigy.

You Can Do It!

Learning doesn’t have to involve structured lessons and textbooks. It only takes a small intentional shift to avoid a summer academic slide and start-up struggles in the fall, leaving plenty of time for plain ‘ole summer fun. Make sure to carve out some relaxing time for you too; every homeschool mom needs and deserves that!

See you in the fall!

Do you have a great summer resource to share? Leave a comment on the  Renaissance Academy FB page and be sure to follow our page for updates and future blog posts.