As summer winds down, there are many ways to help your child brush up on academic skills so they don’t get rusty.

Teaching good citizenship, understanding history, getting close to nature and getting involved in a variety of projects are ways you can help.


Bill Cirone

In terms of good citizenship, check the newspaper for volunteer activities. Make a weekly visit, for instance, to an elderly person in a nursing home. Visit the animal shelter, the fire station or a hospital to show children what goes on at these institutions.

When it comes to understanding history, your own family is a good place to start. If possible, collect photos of grandparents and great-grandparents. Have children write their names and birthdates on the back of the photos. Tell stories about the family.

Discuss the meaning of holidays with children. Most newspapers print background material. If you take a trip, visit the historical sites along the way. Save the information brochures as you go. Check out library books or videos to reinforce new learning from the trip.

Visit a cemetery. Find the oldest stone. Read the inscriptions and talk about the past with your children.

It can be fun and educational to give children a garden plot in the yard or a window box or planter on a balcony. Be sure the child has full responsibility for the plants.

Read the daily newspapers’ weather map. Let children figure out what the weather is where friends and relatives live.

Camp out for a night on the balcony, your yard or at the state campgrounds. These experiences add to children’s sense of perspective, self worth and their place in relation to the environment and to other people. Every experience can be a learning experience, and summertime is the perfect time to explore some of the alternatives that are not always available at other times of year.

It also can help to “get organized.” Have children start a collection, be it rocks, stamps, baseball cards, bottle caps, labels, marbles, leaves or bugs. Arrange them by categories, by color or alphabetically.

Suggest that children swap paperbacks, comics or magazines with extended family and friends. The local library might help organize a swap.

It‘s also a good time to help your child develop a sense of responsibility. Ask children to take charge of family recycling. Teach boys and girls how to take care of their clothes, sort and fold laundry, use the washer and dryer or help at the laundromat, sew on buttons, iron or polish shoes.

Summer is still a good time to bolster the three Rs. Recommend that children keep a diary — a journal of their activities. Take time every day for the family to read by individually or together. Even 10 or 15 minutes is fine. Allow children to choose reading materials. Have them follow a favorite newspaper comic strip. Have them write letters or send postcards to cousins, grandparents and friends.

Have them review cash register receipts. Children can check them for accuracy when you’re unloading groceries. Adding the prices up each week will keep math skills sharp. Parents also can teach youngsters to compute gas mileage.

All of these suggestions can help keep academic skills sharp.

Bill Cirone is Santa Barbara County’s superintendent of schools.