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Top summer learning activities for middle schoolers

Keep your sixth-, seventh-, or eighth-grader sharp all summer with fun brain boosters.

By Jacquie Goetz Bluethmann

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Revvin' up reading skills

Remember when you wanted your child to sleep in? Now your tween rises after morning’s come and gone. Ahh . . . the challenges of a middle schooler on summer break! But even though school’s out, the learning must go on. Why? Because summer learning loss can set a child back academically by as much as two months.

To keep your middle schooler’s hard-earned vocabulary from regressing, launch a word-of-the-day (check out SuperKids’) contest. Agree on a prize for learning a summer goal (say, 50 new words), then have your tween  write each day's words on a note card and tape it to the fridge, record himself saying it and make it his ringtone, even get an extra reward for working it (correctly) into conversation.

While "grammar lesson" reeks of boredom, Mad Libs are fun — and guess what? They’re a terrific way to reinforce parts of speech — and an even better way to pass the time on long car rides. The answers will make you all laugh, and you’ll be smiling on the inside as your child learns. For your child who’s "sick of books," try a new tack with a just-for-fun series perfect for this age range. Since we all know tube-time skyrockets during the summer, negotiate a sneaky learning element: Let your child watch a little extra — but only with the closed captioning (aka subtitles) turned on. That way, at least subconsciously, your child will read along as he watches. For fun, give him bonus minutes for each misspelling, grammar error, or otherwise incorrect caption he catches.

Jacquie Goetz Bluethmann is a freelance writer based in Detroit. She has written for  children's health and parenting magazines and blogs about both topics at Mom meets baby.

Comments from readers

"My kids read for 20 minutes (or more) every day. That is non-negotiable, and they do not get to use any electronic devises (computer/DS/phone games) until they've done so. I also go through their math workbooks that they bring home at the end of the year, and rip out any sheets that they haven't worked on. These become their 'homework' during the summer, at least twice a week for 15 minutes. I've seen that they really do forget math skills, and quickly. I think the key is that they don't have to do it every day, so it's not quite a burden. Our school has signed up for an online reading program, which we will check out, my daughter is signed up for a book club through the library, and we will visit the science museum at least twice over the summer. Combined with camp and a family vacation, it's a full summer. "
"There are many fun things that kids can be learning as well as enjoying. Travel, gardening, reading a fun book, creating whatever, using imagination. What I do not agree with is the summer homework packets. I agree with that burning out my children, as well as lacking feedback on the work during the summer. Maybe if the child only watches TV all summer, they would be 2 months behind. "
"you guys must be so out of touch. Has it ever happened to you by studing more of math, science ann other subject in summer time, kids will be burn and will not be intested to go back to school with their full energy in fall (another study shows that). how about life and trave education. who come up with that idea to study over summer time. "
"my twin will be on six grade this year. they passed and approved for 7th grade pre-algebra math. any suggestion."
"This is a great send off for our vacation drive. We do License Plate Math, multiplications, letters and words but this extra for the road is quite helpful. Thanks and Happy Summer !"