If you have extra time at home with the family or are on vacation, I have some suggestions for dads to do to keep your kids sharp over the summer and even on vacation to help them at every level to get academically ready.
For grammar students, the most important skill you can teach your children is reading. Take time to read to them while things are relaxed and the pace is slower. Reading to your children makes their lives rich and beautiful and gives them a foundation upon which to relate to the world. Good stories are the way that people sort out truth and understand virtue. It gives them heroes to emulate. This practice gives them time with dad and helps them to see what he loves, so that they can love it too. We have a suggested summer reading list on our website.
Observation is another important skill that we can cultivate in our children and is especially fun in the summer time. Observation is a skill that helps people gather information and sort it. If children are going to think logically later, they must learn to categorize. Twenty questions, a great game to play while riding in the car on a trip, is when one person thinks of some object, any object in the word, and the other players try to figure out what that object is by process of elimination. They are only allowed to ask yes or no questions. Remember “Animal, vegetable, mineral?” and “Is it bigger than a breadbox?”? Those questions go well in this game. If they are going to categorize, they must learn to observe. A great way to teach this is camping because there are so many things to observe in nature—a hawk perched in a tree, a bee on a flower, a squirrel, constellations at night, etc. Dads should make the effort to take their kids camping, even if it is just backyard camping. Camping out of state is a must for Floridians in summer! Another good option to spend time in nature observing is the beach. Have your kids keep a journal and share it with you. “What did you see today?”
At the next stage, the dialectic stage, we should be encouraging and developing logical thinking skills. From about 12 or 13 to about 15 or 16, we should help our kids to think critically and Biblically. We should teach them how to measure each area of life against the Scriptures. Ask your kids questions. This will show them that you are interested in them, and it will also teach them how to ask questions. Sometimes I ask them questions to get to know them better like what their favorite foods, colors, or games are. Ask them questions to make them think. Play mind challenges or brain teasers with them, and these are great on vacation. The next line of questions will be, “What does the Bible teach about that?” If you don’t know, perhaps researching this together is another way to spend quality time in the summer. Other good games to teach logical thinking that dads should play with their kids while in a hotel room or cabin are Clue, Mastermind, and chess, the ultimate board game.
Older children should learn how to express themselves well; this is the rhetoric stage of development. These teens should be asked their opinions about politics, philosophy, and faith and given opportunity to express themselves and be heard. After they assert an idea, follow up with a question like, “How do you know that’s true?” or “Where did you get that information?” This trains them to think critically and express themselves well. Talk with them. A lot.
Dads are to be the ones who move their children along and encourage growth using the Trivium, and summer is a great time to do this with purpose. Use the extra time to foster growth at whatever developmental level your child is. Rejoice at the opportunity to influence their lives .
By Headmaster, Rich Cali