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I wanted to talk about Why our children do school work over summer break.   A while back,  I wrote a post where I shared my NO SCREENTIME UNTIL printable.  

It had rules about what the kids need to do BEFORE they are allowed to use electronics.  It was received by many as helpful and many as over-the-top.

To each their own, but I wanted to take a minute to explain the reasons behind children needing to still continue to learn (in fun ways) over the summer break.

Two girls standing in a field looking at a book.

You can read the printable here and then come back & read this post.

The main idea behind that no screentime printable was to give our kids something “else” to get “lost in”…

Sometimes kids just need a little motivation to get started (once our kids head outside to play, they forget about watching a movie or playing on the tablet).

Screen Time Can Consume Them

If I let them just sit & default to screen-time, it will consume as much time as I allow them to consume it.  

So, why not just encourage them to get out a book or head outside or make a creation… or do something ELSE first and see where THAT takes them?

I think that engaging our children’s minds is what we need to do to help our children and show them that we care enough to put the effort into them (trust me, I know that turning on a show is so much easier than planning a lesson, but it isn’t what is best for our family).  

Watching a bottle of soda explode because of a chemical reaction or examining what happens as a caterpillar turns into a butterfly is a much better use of our summer vacation.

I want our kids to work over the summer if only to give our children a chance to get lost in a great book without worrying about being tested on it… just learning to love books.

It’s Like Practicing A Sport

🏀 It’s kind of like practicing basketball. If you didn’t practice or play basketball at all for two months, would you be as good as you would have been if you were practicing daily?

Spending time on education is similar. We can improve with just a few minutes a day, or we can lose our skills if we don’t use them.

Daily Practice Makes Us Better



A silhouetted boy sitting in the grass reading a book with a sunset in the background.

Statistics to support why we do work in the summer:

1).  Two Months Of Learning Loss

Kids lose an average of TWO TO THREE MONTHS of learning in the summer.  As a teacher, I continually see this to be true.    It’s called the Summer Slide. 

It means that your kids are going to school September – June, but when they go back to school, it will be like they only went September- March.

I want to do the OPPOSITE. I want our kids to gain a month in the summer.    I want them to go back to school ready to learn, without struggling to “catch up” from the summer!  

– Instead of being confused about the new math problem that they will learn, they will be eager to move on and do it without struggling.  

Instead of trying to move up to the book level that they LEFT on (most kids drop a few book levels over the summer), I want them to go back ahead of where they ended.

Children sitting at a table looking at magazines together.

2).  The Reason Kids Have Summer Break

The reason that kids have summers off is that when kids used to help work on the farm, they needed the daylight to work longer. 

Summer gave them this chance to help. I’m pretty sure that most of our kids are not up at 6:00 working on the farm until 8:00 at night (some are, but most aren’t).  

Gathering hay, feeding animals, working hard for 14 hours a day just isn’t in the cards for most of us.

3). There is Academic Loss

According to Learning.Org, Higher-income families tend to have a slight gain in academic advancement.  

This is because the higher-income families are giving their children more academic opportunities over the summer (camps, tutors, etc…) but just working with your children at home will do this trick.   (source: summer


4). Their Physical Health Suffers 

Children gain more weight over the summer than any other time (at 2-3 times the normal rate), because they are spending more time watching TV or playing video games, instead of getting out and exploring  (a great little science lesson or math lesson a few times a day would be a great way to battle this weight gain!

Have your kids swim while you time them and then have them try to beat that time.  Find the difference.  Then, take it further and multiply that number to see how long it will take you to do it four times.  Make an educated guess and then test that theory!   There are so many fun ways to learn!

When I was a teacher, I passed out summer reading lists for my students.  I didn’t want them to stop learning, growing, and advancing when they had been doing so great! 

They worked so hard.  It wasn’t fair that they would have to re-learn just because they took time off.

5) Reading 20 Minutes a Day Matters 

20 Minutes a Day.  I want our children to read for at least 20 minutes a day. 

  • Students who scored 90% better than their peers on reading tests, read for more than 20 minutes a day – exposing them to 1.8 million words a year. Students who scored at fifty percentile, read on average only 4.6 minutes a day – exposing them to 282,000 words per year.  

    Students in the ten percentile for reading, read less than 1 minute per day – exposing them to 8,000 words per year.  (It would take them one year to read as many words as what a good reader would read in two days.)” –  Statistics from

I want our children to enjoy reading.  If they aren’t practicing and learning to read, they will never learn to enjoy it.  

It is hard to enjoy something when you find that you are always struggling at it.  They need to practice reading so they will be better, so they will read more fluently, and so they will understand what they have read.  

These things together will instill a love of reading. 

A young boy lying on a bed reading a book.

6). Writing 

YES- I want our kids to write in the summer.   I want them to get creative and write about whatever they choose.
Pirates?  Sure.
Sharks?  That works!
Their plans for Disney?  Sounds good to me! 
Their directions to the treasure box that they buried in the backyard?  Yep.

We can then take it further and make a craft or do an experiment about their story.  This is so much fun for our family.

Last minute Mother's Day gift plant

7). Math Is Important, Too. 

Math shouldn’t be forgotten over the summer.  Math facts are easy and can be fun.  Learn new math facts songs, play flashcard games, let your kids quiz YOU, too!

To start, give your child one problem each morning.  Just leave it on the table before you go to bed.  It will take only a few minutes to complete and just keeps their minds working. 🙂

Remember, You can even use baking as a math lesson.   They don’t even realize that they are learning math as they measure, guess, add, subtract, cook and bake…

A women with a cup of coffee and a little girl making cookies.


8). Science Experiments 

Use the summer to plan fun science experiments.  Aim for one every day. (more science experiments here)

15 fun science experiments!

9). Bonding 

Working on school work doesn’t take long, but it is fun.  Your family can do it together… it is a great chance for bonding.
If we go on little field trips, they don’t know that we are doing anything other than having fun.

They go out and explore and play with their friends.
We take walks, ride bikes, swim, and even just find cool things in the backyard.

We spend about an hour a day on fun school work and then we just PLAY!   After all… some days are just meant for playing. 🙂

some days are just meant for playing - yourmodernfamily

10). Geography Together 

Summer is fun, but it is not a “get out of jail free” card.   It is a chance for us to learn together, grow together, have fun together.   We love to learn about a new place each week during our geography time!   We look it up on Youtube, study where it is on the globe, learn a few phrases in the native language and cook a meal from their country. 

Use Summer As a Time to CONNECT.

Summer gives you a chance to help your child in their academic career, but to also help your child bond with you.   You can connect, even with your teenager. 

Do You Want To See A Change This Summer? 

Use my SWAP CHORES FOR SCREENTIME CARDS to really jumpstart your summer break!   They work SO quickly!  A chore chart on a table.

Remember… You might be considered  a “mean” mom, but that’s ok 
a mean mother


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Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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  1. You are much nicer than we are. We make our kids work on actual curriculum from the school year during the summer, albeit at a much slower pace as well as reading, etc. They also get lots of extra time to play and we do lots of extra field trips. Screen time is the absolute last thing that is allowed and when it is it is usually educational. If people consider me mean then so be it. I don’t answer to them and have no reason to please them. I am doing what I consider best for my children.

  2. This is such an interesting post! I can’t believe that children put on weight over the summer. Of course I can, I mean, how sad! I love the summer for spending time with the kids. We do a bit of everything, including reading and writing which they love (OK, not all the time, but I buy fun activity books for them to do, including fun science experiments). Plus we have time to watch a bit of TV and heaps of time to go the beach. I know I’m lucky that I can spend time with the children but here in Spain, kids go to a ‘casall’ if their parents work and have lots of fun as well.

  3. I agree completely! To say that “making your kids learn” is mean assumes that learning is an awful experience. Like you’re tying them to chairs until they finish their math problems or something. But learning is supposed to be–and definitely can be–fun!

    1. Thanks, Brittany! I agree- it can be so fun… most people think that it is just sitting/writing/reading, but learning can/should be taking place all of the time. 🙂

  4. I’m sorry there are people out there who feel the need to make other people feel bad.. Why people feel the need to put others down is beyond me. But I think it’s great to motivate children to find other places to let their minds drift. I know my 2 year old would love nothing more than to just run through the grass and chase birds all day, and I know that one day I’ll have to encourage him more to get out there and explore. I thought your way to help motivate your children to keep their minds active was the opposite of “mean”, but encouraging, motivating, and loving. Kids want nothing more to please their parents, and providing them with multiple outlets to do so is fantastic. It’s not saying “no to tv” but “yes to more fun”.

  5. Do you have a summer time paragraph and math problem webs that you use for kids? mine are 13 and 15…

  6. I am glad you take the time to teach your children. I am sorry that there are people who think they are “authorities” on what kids should or shouldn’t do during the summer. It’s crazy. I am planning on teaching my kids this summer. I have been lazy the summers before, but I have finally said enough and want to help my kids. I saw how much my oldest struggled in his first yr in middle school and think that if I had done something over the summer, he might not have struggled as much.

    I’m sorry you think you have to explain, but thank you. You just helped me confirm my reasoning for doing it myself. Glad your kids have a “mean mom.”

  7. Bravo! I am a reading teacher and the summer slide is brutal. When kids don’t read we have so much catch up to do in September.

    One of my favorite memories of childhood was laying on the couch of my parents front porch reading….all the time, with an occasional nap in there. It was the best! My boys love to read, well, not the little one as much, but he is getting there and summer is the best time to go to the library and discover new characters and adventures.

    So you keep on, keepin’ on and don’t worry what the nay-sayers say. They aren’t worth your time.

  8. Bleh, sorry mommy shaming continues to rear it’s head. I too am a “mean mom” and my mom was a mean mom who made my sisters & I do worksheets over the summer. Wasn’t my favorite thing to do but looking back I think it helped me. Keep doing your thing & know it works for your family 🙂

  9. Mean? Really? omg, I grew up (wwwaaaay) back and was never a book lover. Therefore I tried really hard to engage both my kids in reading (reading to them every night)…and it worked, both of them (one btw with Downs) both love to read. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. But the other night, on a walk with the dog, I was asked (again, as this has occurred before) if we could go to the bookstore to get a book (sadly it was closed but this is a regular thing). One of them (at least) is hooked. We battle constantly with the screen though. I have read everything possible on how to move away from it and we do our best to expose them to many things, but like you said, if we left them to their own devises…dawn to dusk would be computer. And I’m not exaggerating. Not everyone may have this issue, but it is ours. And in the summer, they go to summer school…their brains go to mush in the summer if we don’t. There was a teachers strike one summer that lead into the fall and it was horrendous. (therefore no summer school and they were bored out of their skulls…I can’t get the summer off)…they enjoy it too, they like the regularity…so, to you I say…way to go for promoting this!

  10. Your children’s teachers will thank you! Upon returning to the classroom teachers often spend the first month reviewing material the students learned in the spring. Learning is not a punishment! Teaching children to explore their world, to learn for the sake of learning rather than saving “learning” for the classroom is a gift. Allowing children to spend their summers in front of electronics is lazy parenting. You don’t even have to spend money to create opportunities for your children – go outside & explore!

  11. Anyone who insulted you for that previous post is EXACTLY what is wrong with people today. Bravo to you!

  12. I wouldn’t blame everything on computer and TV though. Since I was in place where first grade school was kind of bad, I was better than most of kids in everything. You know what did the trick? I just met with children 1-2 times in a month until I was 6. I hated to get tired so I almost never moved. So all of my free time was for my brain only. Computer taught me to read and count, because I needed it to play games – strategy games, because dad had a lot of them. Computer taught me English, because I needed it to play – most of early games we had were not in my native language. My parents giving me books and kids “science” magazines and not having much time for me made me read it over and over again. We didn’t have kid’s channel in TV, so my favourite shows were history or nature documents – even when we would go to relative with more channels I would insist on watching Animal Planet. Also, I was always teachers favourite, even when not doing my homework. I was only around grownups, so I got them and likem them.

    The downsides? I had my first real friend when I was 14-15. Nobody liked me until then. Nobody likes teacher favourite with no people skills. I still hate people my age and like kids and older people – as I see them they tend to not to be ignorant idiots and have some interest other than pop stars, tv and online games. Due to only liking swimming, archery and dancing that could not be done at home or on my own I used to be slightly overweight. Lately I gained lot of weight because of a sickness and I have no idea how to lose it – i still find sports mind-dumbingly boring. Due to not having to work for first 10 years of my education (listening during classes was enough) I never learned to work hard and… how to learn, actually. Since I’m used to constant information stream I use my reading or playing time for easy games that tell banal story or reading short articles on the internets – I was used to process everything for fun so I waste my time on useless stuff. Actually, the internet was my downfall. Too much easy content, for a kid with concentration problems and used to easy “gratification”.

    Now I’m a lazy person who hates people, hates work, hates learning, and just take care of home and reads internets. I have lots of social, health and emotional problems and hate my life. I’m probably the person nobody wants their children to become. I still have lots of knowledge, but I remember less and less with every passing day and my only friends are people who have died about century ago. I think that I would be better of just being uneducated, drinking until blackout with many dumb friends and working from dawn to dusk – but I saw better and want better.

    What I want to tell with this whinning comment is: make your kid love hard work and other people – and how to make other people love them . And always have time for them so you can steer them when the time is right. First and last I can see you doing, but remember the second. I strongly believe that it was my lack of social skills and understanding of people my age that made me so miserable since I went to school untill now. It’s almost 16 years of hating my life and wishing to die by now, and there will be more, since my good qualities deteriorated with time.

  13. Wow! That is good they comply. I have one that absolutely loves to read and do other work.. Math and writing. My son on the other hand struggles and no matter what I do or say I have a very diificult time getting him to engage.. It’s unfortunate their is no “our children” it is “my children” I don’t have that extra reinforcement behind me, which is difficult for me. My son is 12 and never has been interested in school work just the social part of school. It breaks my heart because he is very smart. My kids are out side any and every chance there is. Luckily I don’t have to time or monitor any screen time because they would rather play with friends. Most days they don’t even pick up their tablets at all. They usually just settle down at the end of the day with a movie. I wish I had some magic potion to turn my son around. I have bought him all types of books that go with his interest, even got him a subscription to SI Kids.. Still not interested. Love the .. Pick a chore from the bowl idea! ?

  14. I think you are incorrect in requiring formal studying in the summer. My Grandchildren are 7 and 10 and they learn more practical knowledge in the week and 1/2 that we have them in the summer on Cape Cod than they ever will in books. Please don’t misunderstand… my husband and I are professional people and fully understand the need for reading perhaps 20 minutes a day for young children as well as formal math, English, science, etc., and we truly enjoy reading, enriching ourselves as well. We totally enjoy the time we spend with our grandchildren in their discovering new things and the world, but I truly believe young parents are more interested in how their children will perform in comparison to their peers than to the real knowledge that they learn through experience and life. Do not push your children so hard. They need time to relax and regenerate as well as we, as adults, do. They will be better able to apply their “school year” education much better if they have time to recreate and renew their childhood imagination in the summer.

    1. Well said, I would suggest that children and young people are designed to learn, sadly the “curriculum” stifles this to some degree. Simply because it assumes that all will a) be able to learn the content, at their current development stage and b) want to learn the content. It leaves little room for the child or young person to discover and learn through inquiry, but rather, are force fed information, by what essentially is an education system designed for the industrial revolution. So, with regards to a ‘summer curriculum’, this should be very informal and led by the learner, in this way they are sure to retain the learning they seek.
      I’d say further, that if children “lose ground” over the summer, it possibly proves that the so-called learning never took place in the first instance. I do think if teachers are allowed the space to exercise their true skill, “to engage” rather than deliver a block of government requirements, decided by civil servants, and not teachers, maybe more diverse learning would take place, as deserved by every individual.

  15. This is an amazing article!We really do need our children to have fun in the summer ,but in a more productive way that will develop their brain and make them successful.
    Because ,honestly kids these days are too preoccupied with TV ,phones,social media..that will definitely shut off their brain.
    The activities you mentioned are very useful!!