Monday, July 18, 2016

Summer Camp at Home

Summer Camp at Home: A Solution to the Teacher-Mom Struggle

Tell me I’m not the only one who feels pressured to practice what I preach? At the end of each school year, we send home packets of ideas with our students so that they don’t succumb to the horrifying "SUMMER SLIDE.” 

It’s like the "SUMMER SLIDE” is a monster that is lurking around the corner waiting to pounce the very second you don’t do something educational with your child.  

Now, don’t get me wrong.  My boys and I are enjoying many moments this summer with our feet up, learning through play and imagination, as well as taking many family outings.  And to be honest, I don’t want to coordinate each and every minute of their day.  After all, I spend all school year doing that in my classroom.  I need a break. And my boys need to be able to amuse themselves.  It’s good for all involved.

However, as a teacher AND a mom I know how important it is for children to practice the skills they learned, so they are better prepared to start a new school year.  

Enter the guilt.  Enter the conversation in my head that goes a little something like this:  

“Okay Melanie, you should really stop watching Netflix until 1 a.m every night and take a little time to plan some activities for the boys.  They really need to practice math fact fluency.  We aren’t reading enough either.  Oh, and I should also plan something FUN to practice their writing skills.”  

Can any of you teacher-moms out there relate?  

The truth is...I’m MOM.  I’m not their classroom teacher.  They don’t always respond to me and my “great ideas” the way I anticipate.  Especially my oldest one.  He really challenges me to think outside of the box.  To find ways to bring lessons to life.  He actually makes me a better teacher (and sometimes makes me want to pull my hair out...not gonna lie).   

So this summer, I had one of those "great ideas."  I decided to do SUMMER CAMP AT HOME.  I had my boys agree on four themes that interested them, and then we would spend one week learning about each topic.  It was the perfect way to integrate (ahem...SNEAK IN) those math facts, extra reading practice, and writing skills.  They had buy-in because they chose the themes. And I could squelch the guilt and quiet that internal dialogue I mentioned earlier.   

I began by making this calendar and assigning a theme for each week.  Then I printed it out and filled in each box with the activities that we would be doing that day.  Just like a lesson plan book.  

I have to say that Space Week was my favorite, so here are a few of the Pinterest-inspired activities that we did.

We began with the sun, because after all, it is the center of the universe.  The boys and I discussed how the sun is not a solid, but that it is actually a ball of swirling gases.  We  used oil and colored water to create the sun in a bottle.  (Don’t forget to hot glue the cap!)

We discussed the order of the planets and used words such as orbit and rotation.  We discussed the different sizes of the planets and threw in a little measurement lesson.  Their favorite part was when I timed them to see how fast they could put the planets on their correct orbit.  

The next day, we went outside for a quick gravity lesson.  The boys brought along their “moon rocks” and climbed to the top of their swing set.  In an attempt to simulate the surface of the moon, I placed a pan of flour covered in cocoa powder below them on the ground.  The boys tried to predict if the bigger rocks would fall faster or slower than the smaller rocks.  They had so much fun examining the “moon craters” we made in the pan below.  

It seemed appropriate that after learning about gravity, we should try to defy gravity just as a space shuttle does.  We made our own little space shuttles and taped them to a large straw.  We inserted a skinnier straw inside, pointed it to the sky, blew as hard as we could, and off they flew!

I didn’t forget about math!  I simply cut out little paper squares to make rocket ships (nothing fancy).  For my four year old, I quickly wrote numbers or letters on each square.  He practiced number recognition and ordering as well as letter recognition.  For my 7 year old, he assembled his rocket ship by practicing skip counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s as well as place value.

We even squeezed in a little reading with some space books we had around the house.  It was fun to see the boys rediscover these books and read them with a whole new purpose.  The best part was when we took a trip to our local library.  They searched high and low for all the space books they could find.  And to my surprise, the boys were actually excited to write about all of their space discoveries in their very own journals!  

As you can see, the activities that we did weren’t fancy.  They weren’t even time consuming and required very little prep work.  It was just enough to keep their attention and to squeeze in a little learning as well.

For the grand finale, we went on a field trip to the Kennedy Space Center.  We just happened to be there on a day when they had a real rocket launch.  I know not everybody lives here in Florida, so one idea is to schedule a day trip to visit your local planetarium. 

In the end, I just may have gotten more out of SUMMER CAMP AT HOME than my boys did.  
  • It reminded me that not all learning has to be paper and pencil, or even on the computer.  
  • It gave me the opportunity to try out some new lessons and activities to use with my students.
  • Most importantly:  It inspired me to want to create more learning opportunities outside of the classroom this coming school year. 
If you would like some more ideas on how to create your own SUMMER CAMP AT HOME, I’ve already gathered some great ideas on this Pinterest board:  

Click here to get some more ideas!
And now...I'm going to grab a cup of tea and get back to my Netflix.  It is summertime after all!  

Snips, Snails, & Teacher Tales


  1. I LOVED this post Melanie! Sounds like so much fun! Your boys are so LUCKY to have a fun momma like you!!

  2. This is so AWESOME!! Sounds like they have had a blast!

  3. Way to go Mom!!! Summer Camp is the perfect time to review concepts and skills and the kids don't even know they are doing it! Good old FUN, just how learning is suppose to be!!