How to Keep Kids Learning During the Summer With Easy Summer Academy Binders

Have you ever wondered if there is an easy way for how to keep kids learning during the summer? If there’s one thing I learned last summer, it’s that keeping kids learning during the summer isn’t always easy. I had ideas. I wanted them to read. I wanted them to keep learning. I wanted something to motivate my kids, but didn’t have an easy system in place and found myself punting more often than I would like to admit. “Mom can we play video games?” “Did you do your brain work?” “Um, no, what should I do?” GOOD QUESTION!!! I had bought some work books, but never figured out a clear plan for putting them into action and didn’t have a great way of keeping track of what had been completed or not. I didn’t always have time to sit down and figure out what needed done in the moments it needed doing. Although we did get some things accomplished, we weren’t nearly as efficient as I’d hoped. I needed a plan, something organized, easy, and effective. Something we could stick with and keep learning through the entire summer. So I created our Summer Academy. I’ve been trying to think of a system that might work for us and think I finally have came up with something. It’s designed so that it will only take a few minutes each weekend for me to prep for the entire work week. It’s also designed to be totally user friendly for my boys so that they know exactly what is expected of them, where everything is, and can grow their brains with as little stress as possible. Let me explain this all to you. Each of my kids has their own Summer Academy binder. Each binder has pocket pages inside. One for Monday through Friday, Work in Progress, and Summer Reading Program. I didn’t use sheet protectors because my kids have trouble sliding papers in and out of them and in order for this to work, I need my kids to be able to manipulate the system as independently as possible. Each weekend I will take a few minutes to slip daily brain work into each pocket. Each day will have a page from an activity book.

Have you ever seen the Summer Bridge Activity Books?

I hadn’t until a friend showed me them and they are super slick! They are divided into three sections, each with 20 activities. Which fits summertime perfectly – one section for each of the summer months and enough activities for the weekdays with weekends off so if you miss a day, you can always catch up pretty easy on the weekend without feeling overloaded. Each month is color coded and labeled Day 1, Day 2, and so on, and consists of one worksheet front and back. The skills are grade specific and they are spread out in a really very well rounded sort of way! I love them. You can use what ever you would like, other workbooks or even pages printed from the internet, but I think these books are a great way to streamline the process. These books give us a great foundation, but there are a few skills I want my kids to really hone in on. I don’t anticipate their worksheets will take but 5  maybe 10 minutes to complete so I think supplementing with something that will take another 10-15 minutes will be just fine. I used these cute blank cards from Tatertots and Jello’s Summertime Bucket List Project to create Brain Work Focus Cards.

You can make your own simply by printing them out and handwriting cards to fit your family’s needs or you can download them, open them with Adobe Photoshop and add text like I did. It doesn’t hurt to brainstorm for ideas with your kids to make sure there are some activities they are looking forward to.

Here’s some ideas to get you started:

1. practice writing your name
2. practice your personal information {birthday. address, phone number}
3. practice your ABC’s
4. practice skip counting {2’s, 5’s, 10’s}
5. write a letter
6. find a recipe and prepare it
7. write a story
8. make a craft
9. read a news article and summarize it
10. practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, division
11. practice instrument
12. research and list 10 facts about a place you’ve never been
13. find 10 new facts about an animal
14. put a puzzle together
15. play a card/board game
16. free choice

I also made 5 reading specific cards per child, one for each day of the week, because this is another component of our Summer Academy. I will slide two of these cards into each day’s pocket. One will list an age appropriate reading task and the other will list one of the Focus Tasks. Like this.

Some of these activities may take longer then 10-15 minutes which is why I included the Work in Progress pocket. That way they can store any unfinished stories or projects until next time. I plan on taking their schedules into account when assigning tasks. For example, Wednesday is our busy day so their Brain Work Focus Task will be kept shorter while Friday is our day at home. This is the day for more in depth tasks like find and prepare a recipe. Once their daily work is complete, they will earn a Brain Work Token for 30 minutes. They will store them a pencil pocket or sheet protector that is stored inside their binder. My kids will be able to trade them for video game time. Once they have done their Brain Work, they have earned 30 minutes and if they want more time they have to earn it by completing extra Brain Work Tasks (and maybe extra chores). Five minutes spent on multiplication five cards earns a five minute token. I made 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 minute tokens so there should be one to fit most activities. I love this because I now have an easy way to keep track of minutes earned! You can use what ever reward works to motivate your kids. You could even set it up so that they earn different rewards as they collect more and more minute points~ lunch out, trip for ice cream, family movie night, what ever works for you. I also used this free printable to create a customized summer activity calendar to slip it into the pocket on the back of their binders so that they know what camps and other activities are coming up. There are two other sections I should tell you about. The first is the chore chart. I added a printable chore chart, links below, to the front of my kids binders to remind them of the tasks they need to help with around the house. They can use a dry erase marker to check off completed tasks since their lists are in page protectors so all I have to do is wipe them off on the weekend and we are set to go for the next week. Easy! The other section is the Summer Reading Program pocket which has been included to house the packets they get from our library for their summer reading program. My kids receive a free book from their school for participating and since we are reading, we may was well participate. Keeping everything together in this binder keeps things organized and running smoothly. Feel free to use as much or little of this system as you want to. Tweak it so that it works for you. Maybe you order the Summer Bridge Workbooks and work directly from them. Maybe you decide you want to make some Brain Work Focus Cards and use them with the tokens and forget about everything else. Whatever you choose, hopefully you have found something that will help keep your kids learning this summer.

keep those kids learning through the summer

Here are the Free Printables That I Used to Create Our Summer Academy Binders

1. Summer Academy Binder Cover – Add your child/children’s name to the top, have them decorate theirs
2. Chore Charts  – I let my kids pick from these – Choice 1 and 2, Choice 3
3. Brain Work Focus Cards – Scroll down to download the blank cards
4. Brain Work Reward Tokens – Use a 2-inch circle punch to cut tokens out. I created a variety to cover different ages, activities, and rewards. Use whichever suit you. I plan on printing them on color coded card stock.
 5 Minute Tokens
10 Minute Tokens
15 Minute Tokens20 Minute Tokens
25 Minute Tokens
30 Minute Tokens
5. Summer Activity Calendar 

Other Materials

1. White binder with pockets on the outside
2. Pocket Dividers  – one pocket (mine were front and back) for Monday through Friday, Work in Progress, and Summer Reading Program
3. Sheet Protectors – one for a chore chart, one for my kids to store the Brain Work Tokens they have earned, and one to store the extra Brain Task Focus Cards
4. Workbook or other activity sheets. I love the Summer Bridge Activity Books. Purchase yours here or here.
5. Container to store Brain Work Tokens – tin bucket, plastic jar, envelope. This can be as simple or elaborate as you like. Tuck an envelope away in a drawer or set out a cute decorated container.

Boy that was a mouthful, thanks for hanging in there with me as I explained everything!!! I worked hard to create a system that is super easy to use after the initial set up, otherwise I knew we wouldn’t ever stick with it once we were in the thick of summer. If you have any questions, let me know. I would love to hear your ideas for summer learning and if you have any activities to add to my Brain Work Focus Activity List please leave them in the comments. Let’s keep those kids learning this summer :)!

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