Avoid the Summer Learning Slump

My kids have anxiously been counting down the days until the end of school, and today they are spending their first of many summer days with Grandma. My youngest, a third grader, keeps talking about how he can’t wait to have a “break” and “relax.” My older two children know better; in our house summer is one of the busiest times of the year. In fact, one look at my calendar tells me that lazy days of relaxation will be few and far between. Just yesterday, one was marching with the band at four different parades, one was working the 4-H bake sale, one was selling BBQ chicken with the boy scouts, and they all spent an afternoon working their horses to get ready for next weekend's 4-H horse show.

Three kids are more than enough to keep this working mom hopping over the summer months with all kids of fabulous and fun educational programs and experiences.

Three kids are more than enough to keep this working mom hopping over the summer months with all kids of fabulous and fun educational programs and experiences.

From 4-H activities to camps to fun (but educational) day trips, I think there is even more opportunity for kids to grow, learn and experience valuable lessons in the summer than during the school year – and one of the best parts of summer learning is that as a parent, I get the opportunity to make sure those summer learning experiences focus on subjects that are important to me and our family values. For my family, that means my kids are going to spend a lot of time outside, learning about agriculture, the outdoors, and independence.

My oldest son spends his summers learning the value of hard work sorting cattle for my family's rodeo stock contracting company. He thinks he's earning money; I think he's learning the value of hard work and a sense of accomplishment.

My oldest son spends his summers learning the value of hard work sorting cattle for my family's rodeo stock contracting company. He thinks he's earning money; I think he's learning the value of hard work and a sense of accomplishment.

Summer is the perfect time to engage kids in the kinds of hands-on educational experiences that just are not always readily available in the classroom. In my mind, few learning experiences are more impactful than raising and showing livestock through FFA and 4-H and exhibiting and/or selling those animals at the county fair. From the character-building responsibility of caring for livestock on a daily basis to the basic biology of nutrition, growth and reproduction, the potential for education is limitless. That potential stretches even more when you look at the math and economic skills of tracking expenses and income. Take that even farther by having the kids calculate their income based on market prices instead of elevated fair sale prices, and they get an even bigger appreciation for agriculture and the amount of work invested by farmers compared to their income.

Here's my oldest showing her ewe lamb Mabel at the county fair last year. She just owns one ewe herself, but she took both of that ewe's lambs to the county fair last year as a ewe lamb and a market lamb. She may not have won her classes, but she placed well and had a huge sense of accomplishment on raising the lambs herself.

Here's my oldest showing her ewe lamb Mabel at the county fair last year. She just owns one ewe herself, but she took both of that ewe's lambs to the county fair last year as a ewe lamb and a market lamb. She may not have won her classes, but she placed well and had a huge sense of accomplishment on raising the lambs herself.

And it’s important to remember, youth organizations like FFA and 4-H offer a vast array of learning opportunities beyond livestock production. Don’t be afraid to explore new structured learning experiences as a family, whether it be a 4-H life skill project focusing on Ohio birds, fishing, shooting sports or trapping or a scout merit badge on archery, animal science, or canoeing.

My youngest sometimes struggles with both fine and gross motor skills, but what could be more fun than becoming an archery master in training?

My youngest sometimes struggles with both fine and gross motor skills, but what could be more fun than becoming an archery master in training?

Day camps and resident camps are another amazing learning opportunity. Day camps about with themes ranging from science to archery and from fishing to LEGOs – and each of those offers unique opportunities for kids to boost their knowledge areas they have a specific interest in, and most of the time that learning takes place without kids even realizing it.

My youngest recently attended a Cubs & Bugs camp where he learned all about insects and agriculture and got to try his hand at fishing, too. And the learning didn't end there: 2 painted lady caterpillar cocoons can currently be found in our kitchen window as he patiently waits for them to hatch out while he learns about metamorphosis. 

My youngest recently attended a Cubs & Bugs camp where he learned all about insects and agriculture and got to try his hand at fishing, too. And the learning didn't end there: 2 painted lady caterpillar cocoons can currently be found in our kitchen window as he patiently waits for them to hatch out while he learns about metamorphosis. 

Almost any resident camp is going to not only foster self-reliance and independence, but also an appreciation for nature and the great outdoors. There’s something about camping that is good for the soul, whether it be a week spent at 4-H for FFA camp in cabins, roughing it in tents at scout camp, or even a weekend family get away to one of the fabulous camping locations in our area.

This year, for the first time, all three of my kidders will be heading off to 4-H Camp Ohio together! And you know what? They are excited and confident they can happily survive for a week without mom and dad!

This year, for the first time, all three of my kidders will be heading off to 4-H Camp Ohio together! And you know what? They are excited and confident they can happily survive for a week without mom and dad!

None of those ideas trip your trigger? Check out area events at local state parks, businesses, or with community groups. A little research can go a long way in finding plenty of fun, local activities kids are sure to enjoy so much they won’t even realize they’re actually learning. From Birds of Prey programming at Mohican State Park Lodge to Family Farm Field Day in Holmes County, our area is home to innumerable exceptional learning experiences for the summer.  That’s the good news. The bad news is, you have no excuse for letting your kids experience a summer slump when it comes to learning.


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JANE HOUIN, FISCAL & EDUCATION SPECIALIST

A Holmes County native, Jane joined the Holmes SWCD staff in 2015 after spending 16 years in public relations for a land-grant university. She holds a BS with distinction in agricultural communication from Purdue University and her master's program in mass communication at Purdue focused on science and risk communication. Jane has a passion for education youth about the science of conservation and agriculture and is an active volunteer in local 4-H and Scout programs. She is excited to bring that passion back to Holmes County where she manages educational outreach programs, social media, and fiscal administration for the district. Jane raises horses and sheep on the family farm where she was raised south of Nashville along with her husband Craig and her three children: Aubree, Garrett & Tristan. You can reach Jane at 330-674-2811 or jhouin@co.holmes.oh.us