Each week parenting expert Annie Fox will share her wit and wisdom for teaching kids to be good people and strong learners.
Breaks from routine are a gift from the scheduling gods. Time away allows us the breather we need to step back, relax, try something different, have fun, and then return to our work with renewed interest and energy.
All students need breaks, especially older ones who are often loaded with homework. Hopefully your child’s teachers understand this and will give the kids a real holiday break with no assignments hanging overhead. That said, while the kids are on vacation, permitting them to veg out for days in front of one screen or another is as unhealthy as pressuring them into daily drill and practice. Please don’t do either. But please do encourage learning.
Let’s define terms. Learning is anything that exposes kids to new ideas and information, stretches the mind, promotes new ways of thinking, builds skills and knowledge, and/or encourages creativity. Winter break can be a wonderful time for all sorts of special learning experiences. And because most parents are also “on break” during parts of late December, families can be learning together.
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Here are a few tips for holiday learning:
1. Call a family meeting. Discuss special projects and activities the family can take on during the holidays. Let the kids take the lead but bring some ideas of your own by first checking the Events section of your local newspaper or search for “Holiday Family Activities (your city name).” Educational/cultural institutions are well aware that kids are on break and they’ve got plenty of offerings. Find out what’s out there and take part.
2. Be creative. Don’t let bad weather interfere with learning. Make arts and crafts. Make music and home videos. Make food and share the delicious goodies with your neighbors. When you do that, you’re teaching generosity.
3. Have an adventure. Don’t waste fair weather. Seize the day! I just saw The Hobbit. Watching Gandalf and company can tap into a child’s need for adventure. Unfortunately, many kids only satisfy this by playing computer games. How limiting! Real trails, parks, streams, trees, valleys, and shorelines are right outside waiting for young adventurers. Google “Hiking (your city name)” and discover nearby natural environments for your family to explore. Print out maps before you go and let the kids help navigate.
4. Borrow great books from the public library. (We remember books, don't we?) Ask a librarian for recommendations. Gather the family together each evening for a story or chapter or two. (Here are some free classic fairytales to get you and the kids in the mood.) Whatever you’re reading, talk about the use of language, the characters, the plot points. Rather tell stories than read them? Here are some storytelling tips from a master.
5. Watch classic films. Holiday themed or otherwise, a great film is a treasure trove of educational possibilities. Share some of your favorite films from childhood and let your kids choose their favorites. Discover new ones, including kid-friendly foreign films. Make popcorn! Critique the films! Snuggle! It’s all learning, as in learning what it feels like to be part of a loving family. (How else will your children be able to re-create this sense of “us-together” for their own kids some day?)
6. Celebrate family history by starting a family tree genealogy project. Use free online tools and get help from family members who live far away by having them send family photos and stories. Arrange Skype calls in which your kids interview their grandparents. This will help the younger generation understand and appreciate their family heritage. The project grows with the family and provides endless educational opportunities.
When we use vacation time to engage with our kids in creative, thoughtful activities, we strengthen family bonds and instill in them the love of learning.
Happy Holidays from my family to yours.
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These are solely the author's opinions and do not represent those of TakePart, LLC or its affiliates.
ANNIE FOX, M.Ed. is the award-winning author of eight books. An online advisor to teens and parents, she is also a respected character educator. Annie’s award-winning books include: Teaching Kids to Be Good People and the groundbreaking Middle School Confidential™ book and app series. Learn more about Annie at her website.