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Charisse Tierney offers simple and inexpensive ideas for fostering your children's love of learning as you enjoy fun summer activities.

Another challenging school year is coming to a close. Maybe your children spent much of this year learning online, learning at home, or learning at school while wearing masks and social distancing. Summer time brings the opportunity to cast computer screens, masks, and the stress of tests and deadlines aside and reignite an enthusiasm for learning.

One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a lifelong love of learning. Reading a book about a topic that interests us, stopping to observe wildlife in their natural habitat, studying a musical instrument, learning a new cooking skill, or researching how to repair our own car are all habits that lead to growth and fulfillment.

An enthusiasm for learning increases our wonder and appreciation for all of God’s creation.

If learning has felt more stressful than joyful for you and your children during this last school year, here are some ideas to help you all rediscover how to love learning again.

Get outside!

My children are always happier after a nature excursion. Find a nature trail, a lake, a mountain--something slightly off the beaten path. Allow your children to explore. Occasionally prompt their observation skills by asking them to describe something they’ve seen or by asking them what they hear. But mostly, just stay out of their way and allow them to take their time. Linger in God’s creation and fill your souls with lessons from the Master Educator.


kids walking along a nature trail


Cook together.

Math, reading, attention to detail, and creativity all play a part in the cooking process. Accept the mess and allow your children to stir, pour, sprinkle, and learn from their mistakes. And enjoy their sense of accomplishment when you pull those beautiful and delicious muffins out of the oven!


little girl kneading bread dough


Listen to quality music.

Music stimulates the brain and awakens the emotions. Try some selections from the book Can You Hear It? by William Lach. And you can’t go wrong with works from the great composers like Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, or Brahms. Create a playlist and draw from it while your children are getting ready in the morning, eating lunch, or enjoying some down time in the afternoon. It may just be background music for another activity, but it will still refresh their minds and hearts.


kids gathered around a map of the USA


Place interesting visuals in your path.

Display works of art at your children’s eye level. Look for interesting coffee table books at thrift stores. Keep touchable and textured works of art where your younger children can experience them. Update baskets of books by visiting your local library frequently. Have a globe, atlas, or wall map readily available for finding new places or tracking your family vacation. And try to visit museums, zoos, and public gardens often. Visuals like these bring knowledge to life.


kids at butterfly garden


Watch a good documentary together.

While I like to try to stay away from screens as much as possible, sometimes a blisteringly hot summer afternoon is a good time to just stay inside and watch a movie. Look for documentaries that allow you to visit a place you’ve never seen before. One documentary that I viewed recently and plan to share with my children is My Octopus Teacher. This film tells the story of a filmmaker who develops a relationship with an octopus while diving in a kelp forest off the tip of South Africa. The visuals are stunning, and the message to slow down and savor the wonders of God’s creation is beautiful.


little girl reading book about dinosaurs


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Create opportunities for your children to pursue their passions this summer. #catholicmom

Most of all, observe your children and note what makes them come alive with excitement. What sparks their creativity and enlivens their imaginations? Create opportunities for them to pursue their passions this summer so that the upcoming school year will simply be another facet of a lifestyle of learning.


kids viewing the panorama from the top of a nature trail

Copyright 2021 Charisse Tierney
Images copyright 2021 Charisse Tierney, all rights reserved.