Four ways to keep kids (and their parents) learning


The first few weeks of summer vacation, we do nothing but rest.

As a parent in a collaborative model of education, I carry a significant educational burden all school year—there’s a lot of listening to narrations, editing papers, and practicing recitations that happen weekly. So, we start summer vacation with rest.

But then the glorious possibilities of summer open wide in my imagination and the planning begins.

When I was a young mom, I made a conscious decision to spend my time and energy on my kids—to lavish upon them all the talents and skills I had been giving to the marketplace. I made being a mom my job. Many of you have done the same, and one of the most important job titles we carry as moms is “Chief Education Officer.”

Learning is a lifestyle and an atmosphere, says Charlotte Mason. And the Chief Education Officer is responsible for both. The lifestyle and atmosphere of our homes is largely determined by us—our husbands help, older children contribute—but someone must keep the blueprints in mind when the finished product is still just concrete forms and a wooden frame. Someone has to be there making sure the foundation is poured and the cabinets are installed.

How can we as moms make sure we have a good blueprint, and keep it “front and center”? We can regularly examine our attitudes about our children’s education, and evaluate the actions we are taking to support their schools. The bounty of summer provides time for both.

How to improve your blueprint this summer:

1.  Learn something new by yourself. Read a Great Book. Try a new recipe. Listen to a podcast. Through God’s grace, all men are capable of wonder. I am better able to cultivate wonder in my children when I am full of wonder myself.

2.  Learn something with your children—or even better, with one child in particular. I walk away from one-on-one time with any of my children much more invested in that particular relationship and much more aware of who that particular child is. I have watched documentaries, volleyball matches, and football games. Listened to new music and podcasts. Gone to performances and recitals. Even petted a domesticated skunk. Just because it was something that one of my children was interested in, I made an effort to be interested, too.

3.  Plan a “field trip” every week. I have found cheap or free museums (check out museum memberships that offer reciprocity with other museums or activities) or taken advantage of our local library’s free summer programming. We joined a recreation center with a water slide and went swimming every week.

4.  Read with your children. This is the best way I have found to improve my attitude about learning. One summer, each of my children picked a book from my curated list, we both read it, and then I took them out for frozen yogurt just to talk about the book. The young ones read picture books and my oldest read Hunger Games, which provided the opportunity to talk about everything from family loyalty to false dilemma.

Book lists and field trips require planning—a commitment to using our summers fruitfully—because the simplest, yet most difficult, way to support your child’s school is to embody its values at home.

When we intentionally commit to building a family culture that loves learning, values education, and engages ideas, our children become better students and a joy to their teachers.

The culture, the feeling, the mood of our homes is our responsibility, and learning—or true education—is an essential part of creating that culture. So use the luxurious bounty of time and the dramatic change of pace summer affords to build family culture. Summer is a break from school, but not a break from learning.


~Mandi Gerth teaches at Coram Deo Academy in Dallas, TX. She and her husband have labored for over twenty years to build a family culture for their five children that values books, baseball, museums, home-cooked meals, and conversation about ideas.