It was a wonderful year! I had a great time with my classes this year, and I hope all of you have a wonderful and relaxing summer. I know that many of you have plans to travel, and that is great because travel is a lot of fun and provides tons of learning opportunities. I hope that you will approach each new place that you visit with great curiosity and a desire to discover the secrets of its people and geography and culture. One of the important things to remember about summer is to try and keep learning. I understand that students are probably tired of learning, and need a break. However, kids lose much of what they have learned during the summer. Parents, if you can’t review or add to what they have learned during the year, at least give them new learning experiences. Experts suggest incorporating a healthy dose of fun -- and a relaxed attitude -- into any summer academics. Focus on your student’s specific interest, too. Does he like the outdoors? Plant a vegetable garden, and use that as an opening to discuss nature. Is she into music? Encourage her to write original lyrics to a song, and then videotape her performing it. It's an excellent way to practice writing. There are lots of ideas for how to keep those bright young minds exploring and learning. Here are some Internet websites to check out: From All Things Frugal -- -Visit the library often, and take advantage of their activities. -Visit educational sites on the Internet. -Buy educational software. -Visit historical sites and monuments in your area. Teach the associated history. -Visit Museums. Talk about what you see, whether it is aviation, natural history, or art. -Visit a home construction site. Let your kids see for themselves what a house looks like under the sheetrock. Build something together at home. -Go to the zoo. Learn about each animal. Talk about what countries they live in. Review and add to their knowledge of geography. - -Put up a birdhouse, and learn what kind of birds are in your area. -Ride horses or ponies. -Take up a new hobby. Learn about rocks (and geography), stamps (countries and history), music, photography, scrapbook making, needlecraft, genealogy, cooking, baking, sewing or whatever resources are available to you. Share teaching skills with friends and neighbors, or take community classes. -Check out planned arts and craft classes in your area for children. -Go berry or fruit picking, then freeze, can or make jam. -Make homemade ice cream. From the Miami Herald Family Living site -- • Look for a special-interest camp that will appeal to your child. • Plan your summer trip with an educational theme. Headed for Disney World? Stop at the Kennedy Space Center. If you've already decided on a particular town, look up national parks nearby and take the kids on a ranger-led geological or historical tour. Have them read a book about where you're going before you leave. • From Harris Cooper, professor of psychology at Duke University: ``If you're still thinking about where to vacation, find out what your kids will be studying in the coming school year. For example, if the Constitution is in the curriculum, consider a trip to Philadelphia.'' • Recruit your child to help plan a vacation. Have her prepare a budget for spending money, and ask for help plotting the trip on a map and estimating miles using the map key. This is a built-in math lesson. • During the trip, play ''I Spy'' to search road signs for numbers, colors and geometric shapes. For older children, estimate and calculate the travel time to your destination. • Look for intellectually stimulating activities in your community that don't involve a classroom or workbook. Museums, zoos and other attractions usually offer educational programs as part of a tour or visit. Parks are also a great place for fun learning activities. Before spending time outdoors, a parent can encourage the family to learn about the area's wildlife. Use the Internet to look up native plants and animals, then check them off as you spot them during your visit. • Read, read, read. While most schools have a summer-reading requirement, educators and child experts say it's better to go beyond the two or three books typically required. Stop by a bookstore during story hour. Sign up for a summer book club. • Consider enrolling your child in an inexpensive continuing-education course at a local college. • Teach your child how to keep statistics for summer sporting events like baseball. Kids can compute ERA, RBI and other percentages. • Turn any activity at home into a teachable moment. For example, beading jewelry with a young child helps support pattern recognition and counting. • Think of the kitchen as a math lab. Ask your child to help you cook and bake. The extra mess is well worth the effort of applying such math concepts as measuring and figuring out fractions. Make it a game, too, by asking: How many pints in a quart? Cinnamon is which country's major export? Kitchens are filled with real-life math story problems. If the potatoes take an hour to cook but the chicken only takes 40 minutes, at what time do we need to put each in to get them done at the same time? For extra credit, let kids use measuring cups and spoons; fill beverage glasses 3/4 of the way full; and (for better or worse) calculate the total number of calories in the meal. • Turn your home into an international destination by using the Web. Research your family's heritage or a favorite foreign city. • Use a trip to the store to help a young child practice counting or the recognition of shapes. Ask an older child to bake a cake and change the ratio of ingredients, then shop in the supermarket for the extras. • Find a structured volunteer position for your older child in an area of interest. If, for instance, your high-school junior is considering law, ask an attorney friend if your teen can help out in the office (unpaid) several times a week. • For older children, check out the free courses offered by hundreds of universities online. While you might not expect a sixth grader to understand everything, he may find some subjects very interesting. Some courses you can even download to an iPod using iTunes U. Websites for these free courses: http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/home/home/index.htm www.youtube.com/edu http://academicearth.org/ www.apple.com/education/mobile-learning/ From the Education Magazine site – Get gaming. Remember that math is not just about numbers, especially at higher levels. Checkers promote thinking ahead and anticipating outcomes. The classic game Battleship encourages logical thinking, while Yahtzee works on grouping skills. Make it active. Get everyone in the house a pedometer or step counter. Record totals at day's end. Let children graph everyone's progress. The person with the highest total at week's end gets to pick the DVD for movie night. Dole out some cash. Let your child make price tags for toys to create a pretend store. Make play money and let them "shop.” Similarly, they can get more practice adding and subtracting money by playing restaurant. Have fun thinking up disgusting, overpriced items for the menu like $50 slug soup. Let your young waiter or waitress write the check and figure out a 10-20 percent tip. Turn your car into a math-mobile. Drive exactly one mile in your car to give kids a sense of distance. Then, let them predict how many miles it is from your house to popular summer destinations, such as the pool or day camp. Show them how close they came with the starting and ending numbers on the mileage counter. Who holds the record in your house for most miles traveled over the summer? Find out by keeping a running total on a calendar.