Our Keepsake Journal is Here! 🎉

The year is dwindling down—summer vacation is right around that proverbial corner. What do we do with our kids all summer?

Fun fact: it’s a common misconception that the school calendar is based on a former agrarian economy in the United States. In agrarian areas school actually consisted of a short winter term and a short summer term, as farming needs increased in the spring and fall. In urban areas, the cities would become so hot that school would be suspended during summer months. Eventually there was a push for a standard academic calendar across the country, and the school calendar was born.

While summer break is a great time for both students and teachers to refresh, it can cause students to lose a lot of the momentum they’ve built up throughout the year. The entire first month of school in the younger grades is spent reviewing concepts kids mastered at the end of the previous year. However, if summer vacation is utilized properly it actually can enrich the school year rather than inhibit progress.

From a former teacher at a top-five private school in the country, here are some tips to keep those little minds active over the long summer break.

First, the best thing you can do for your kids this summer is to give them a break, especially if they’re in a particularly demanding academic program. They’ve worked hard all year and deserve some time to play. Play does not equal screen time, although a little downtime—screens included—is good for everyone, especially on a rainy day. After a little R&R, it’s time to head outside.

The benefits of outdoor play have been proven again and again. When children get to play outside they’re exercising their brains more than you’d imagine. Kids exploring an unstructured environment leads to curiosity and discovery that cannot be found in a book or on the TV. Running around outside provides a different stimulation than kids have received all year in the classroom.

After a couple of weeks of non-academic time, introduce the idea of a journal. Think about your family’s schedule, and decide what frequency works best for you. Maybe your child writes in it at the end of the day a few times a week, or on Monday mornings after the weekend. Allow your child to pick out the journal and decorate it so they feel more ownership over it.Let them write about anything. Maybe a journal even turns into a creative writing exercise. A few topic ideas:

  • baseball practice
  • a playdate
  • something found outside
  • an argument
  • something exciting (a birthday party, a sports event, going to the beach)
  • something worrisome (a doctor’s appointment, losing a tooth, a thunderstorm)

Many studies prove that journaling improves your IQ and is good for your mental health. Being able to discuss your thoughts and feelings, whether in person or on paper, helps you work through the ups and downs of life. A journal is an unbiased, nonjudgmental listener. When your child writes in a journal, he is not only refining his communication skills, but practicing sentence structure and command. 

You know your child best. Some kids thrive on workbooks and drills. If your child is one of them, take her cue and buy the workbooks. For many kids, however, workbooks and drills are monotonous and intimidating. If your child falls into this category, spend time asking real-life math questions. Use math to:

  • determine how much time it will take to get home (counting city blocks, using division to calculate MPH)
  • point out shapes and patterns found wherever you are (the grocery store, the sidewalk, a restaurant)
  • follow a recipe
  • plan out the day’s schedule

Journaling and using math in real life are both activities that boost critical thinking skills, which are key to success in school and in life. 

The last piece of the puzzle is to have your child read. Kids should be reading every single day. Set a time—like before bed—when it’s time to pull out a book. For kids who are oppositional to reading, help them find a series they love; it will make them more excited to finish a book and begin a new one. Graphic novels can be less intimidating than traditional books, as they are filled with pictures.

A week or two before school begins is the time to more formally review the concepts your child left off learning in the spring. Reviewing a few concepts from that last report card will give him a confidence boost when he enters the classroom. Learning isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Some kids learn better in a classroom, some kids flourish when the setting is less structured. All kids can benefit from a summer vacation put to good use.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Lilly Holland

I'm a writer and stay-at-home mom to Penny, 15 months. Prior to spending my days with my daughter I was an elementary school teacher. After teaching, writing and being a mother became my full-time job and I haven't looked back since. Follow me on my website or Twitter

Dear Graduate, I Love You Forever

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Kindergarten grad

I never imagined these days of preparing for graduation, senior prom, senior photos, and you actually moving out would come. A few weeks into your life, friends gifted you a 6-month sleeper. I remember the cuddly white footie pajamas well. But I swore you’d never get big enough to wear it. How could this 8-pound human grow to fit into 6-month clothes? Impossible. And then somehow they did fit, and then they didn’t anymore. Just like that. Everyone says the days are long but the years are short. Everyone, that is, who has had a lot of years. When I...

Keep Reading

Always Choose Adventure

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Two children looking at aquarium exhibit, color photo

Here’s the thing about traveling with little kids. Is it hard? Sometimes. Sometimes it looks like a whole carry-on dedicated solely to snacks, activities, and emergency treats. Sometimes it looks like buying a drink for the passenger next to you as a way of saying sorry and thank you all at the same time for the airplane kid chaos they endured. Sometimes it looks like altering your picture-perfect itinerary that you meticulously planned on account of missed naps finally catching up. Sometimes it looks like washing a car seat off in a hotel shower because your toddler got carsick, then...

Keep Reading

Love Beyond Words

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother hugging daughter

My daughter Lexi lost her words and some of her motor functioning when she was two years old. She was three when the silent intruder of Rett Syndrome made itself known through seizures. But here’s the heart of our story: even without words, Lexi and I have created our own language—a symphony of unspoken love. She may not call me “Mom” in the traditional sense, but her eyes, her laughter, and the unique sounds she makes speak volumes to my heart. Each day with Lexi is a dance—one where the steps aren’t always clear, and the rhythm can change in...

Keep Reading

Daddy, Am I Beautiful?

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood
Daddy holding preschool-aged daughter, color photo

“Daddy, do I look beautiful?” I heard my daughter ask my husband from the other room. I barely heard what she said as I was in the kitchen washing the dishes, but her words struck a chord in my heart. My sweet girl, all dressed to go out, asked for her Daddy’s assurance that she was beautiful, that she was admired and special. It hit me in that moment: this pure and built-in desire we all have to be loved, admired, and wanted. Just as my sweet girl wanted her Daddy’s approval and assurance of love, I so often cry...

Keep Reading

Sensitive Sons Are Strong Too

In: Kids, Motherhood
Boy pets kitten held by another older boy

My son has always been timid. When he was a baby, he cried when he lost his pacifier in his crib. If I laughed too loudly, he might burst into tears. Once, he was asleep in his bassinet as my husband and I turned on a movie. The MGM lion roared, and he woke in a panic that seemed to take forever to calm. Now, at five years old, my son wrestles, runs, fights, and screams at the television. He pretends to fight bad guys and save me and his twin sister. He thinks he is the king of the...

Keep Reading

Wrestle Like a Girl

In: Kids, Motherhood
Girls wrestling team huddling on the floor

I’m a wrestling mom, but I’m a new breed. I’m the kind with my little girl on the mat. Sure, I support our son out there, and I scream like a wild banshee with the rest of the crazy parents, and I’m in awe of the athletes these boys are. But then steps out our daughter. And it’s different. She decided to join her big bro at practice years ago when word was just starting to spread about the possible emergence of girls’ wrestling. She was only in kindergarten, but I think my husband might have already been thinking college....

Keep Reading

I’ll Hold on To Moments of Childhood with My Preteen as Long as I Can

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Smiling preteen and mother

This Christmas season, my husband took our laser light projector and aimed it at the Australian bottle tree in the front yard. It shone like a thousand red and green fairies dancing through the branches. The first time I saw it, I gasped with glee. Christmas came and went. Much to our 6-year-old’s disappointment, we took down the decorations and boxed them in the attic until next year. I noticed that my husband forgot to put away the light projector though. One Friday night, recovering from a stomach bug, we decided to watch Wonka and fold laundry. We bought into the...

Keep Reading

“Tell Me Another Story, Daddy?”

In: Kids
Man reading to young son

“Tell me another story, Daddy?” I had heard these words since we had finished supper. My 5-year-old son loves hearing stories. He loves to put himself in these stories. He doesn’t just watch Paw Patrol, he’s in Paw Patrol. He is a Kratt brother. And he loves hearing stories about his favorite adventurers with him saving the day alongside his animated heroes. While I absolutely love telling stories to my son, there are many days when I don’t feel like it. When I want to say, “No, Daddy is tired. Why don’t you go play with your toys while daddy...

Keep Reading

Getting Glasses Can be an Adjustment

In: Kids, Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Pre-teen wearing glasses

On their last break from school, my daughter and son happily enjoyed a nice week of catching up with friends and having a relaxed schedule. I was careful to avoid overloading our schedule so we had a nice balance of days out and days being at home. As can often happen on a school break, I used one day as our “appointments day.” We had our routine dental checks and eye exams booked. The morning went smoothly with the dentist, and then it was time to head home for lunch. Next, we popped back out to do the children’s eye...

Keep Reading

To the Fifth Grade Parents: Thank You

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
Arcade style photo machine, color photo

To the fifth-grade parents in my community: How are we here already? The end of fifth grade. The end of elementary school. It feels like yesterday we saw each other at kindergarten drop off, some of us through the tears of sending our first baby to school, some seasoned pros, and a small group of us with a touch of extra worry in our mama hearts—the special ed mamas. Among the many things I worried about sending my kindergarten son to school was how your children would treat him. Would they laugh at him like they did at his Montessori...

Keep Reading