For students and teachers, winter break is a time to relax, catch up with family and enjoy time away from the school year structure.
Taking a break from attending school doesn’t mean your children should completely take a break from learning. There are many ways you can take advantage of educational opportunities outside of the classroom.
“Focus on authentic learning experiences,” suggests Matthew Mattie, assistant director of instruction at Medina City Schools. “Go to museums or concerts and then have a conversation after those events and reflect on what they thought of the experience.”
While many teachers purposely do not assign homework over the holidays, most will ask students to take time out each day to read.
“As an English teacher, one of the first things that came to mind is having the family read a classic story together such as ‘A Christmas Carol’ or another holiday story that focuses on giving and gratitude,” suggests Lisa Walker, English teacher at Our Lady of the Elms School in Akron. “Read a chapter or a section a night together.”
In addition to reading, there are many ways to incorporate math into your child’s break.
“Most people do a lot of baking over the holidays so you can put those math skills to work,” says Diana Ross, a math and science teacher at Our Lady of the Elms. “Ask your child to double the recipe so they’re actually adding fractions.”
Another idea is to give kids a holiday shopping budget and have them look through ads for the best deals and coupons. Once their list is ready, take them out shopping to burn off some extra energy.
“Take the children to a mall or favorite store and let them go on a scavenger hunt and search for certain store signs, colors or products,” says Gina Kevern, director of the Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment at the Willoughby-Eastlake School District. “Calculate money saved with coupons, sales, etc. and provide them with a reward at the end. This helps with their observational skills as well as their academic skills.”
If you’re hitting the road during break, having your child help plan the itinerary gives them a great sense of responsibility while learning about new places.
“Have them research restaurants that you’re going to stop and eat at,” suggests David Chottiner, director of middle and intermediate schools at Old Trail School in Bath. Have them research the destination and tell you about it.”
“Before the trip, bust out an old map and teach them how to use the map scale. Look at the states you’ll be going through and get the ruler out and measure how many miles you’ll be going,” Ross adds.
Hosting family? Have your little budding journalist “interview” grandma and grandpa.
“Have them ask what they did when they were your child’s age,” suggests Luann Williams, primary school director at Old Trail School. “What toys did they have? What were the holidays like?”
Your child and older relatives might also love playing a classic board game together or working on a large puzzle.
“I think one of the important things is to remember that playing is learning,” Williams adds. “They’re thinking and they’re curious and they’re problem solving.”
In the spirit of the holiday season, taking a few hours to volunteer or engage in a philanthropic cause also is a learning experience.
“Whether it’s an animal shelter, soup kitchen, homeless shelter or a food bank, I think volunteering teaches some really great lessons and they get to meet some really great people,” says Jennifer Milam, director of curriculum and instructional innovation at Old Trail School.
Teachers add that students who have done something educational during the break are more energized when they come back to school and have an easier time getting back into their school routine.
Looking for more great ideas to keep kids learning during their break from school? Click here for winter break events and activities throughout the region.