Healthy Study Habits for Students

A #Reclaiming2020 Thread

School can be a lot for students under the best of circumstances, and this is equally as true for grad students as it is for kindergartners

Burnout, Screen Fatigue, and Other Anxieties

Mental health, establishing healthy study habits, and knowing how to find an appropriate balance is something we put a lot of focus on her at TNN.

Our students, especially in the US educational system, can oftentimes be put under extreme amounts of stress, and are very rarely given the tools to know how to deal with it. Even more so now during the age of COVID as classrooms shift into bedrooms and the lines between ‘study’ and ‘sleep’ become blurry at best.

Identifying the early stages of burnout (difficulty concentrating, poor sleep quality, irritability, eye strain, and more) is crucial to help curb it’s effects.

Knowing When to Walk Away

Burnout is something that is more often associated with high paying executive positions or even online content creators. But it is a common experience in all walks of life. Any time you expend more effort than you receive value from, you a prone to burnout. That could mean working at something for an hour and not making as much progress as you would have liked, or it could mean studying for months without feeling like there is no return.

To recognize if you are approaching or at risk of burnout, here are a few resources that can help.

The Tell-Tale Signs of Burnout from Psychology Today

Burnout Self Test from Mind Tools

Burnout Prevention and Treatment from Help Guide

Productive Procrastination

Procrastinating one activity by performing another is a trick as old as time. It’s why students who have a dreaded assignment suddenly find themselves with one thousand and one other little mindless things to do.

And while procrastinating something at all costs can easily develop into self-sabotage, there is a way to use that procrastination instinct for good.

If you are staring blankly at your screen, don’t know where to start, or just otherwise fighting tooth and nail to focused … stop fighting. Frustration and anxiety make focusing on a new subject even harder and that natural resistance you feel towards getting into a project can sometimes (not always) be your bodies way of telling you that you need a break.

So instead put on a ten-minute video, podcast, or music playlist, and use find a healthy use for that procrastination energy. Like;

By giving yourself an intentional ‘break’ that is still productive, you can start to create healthy habits around work-life balance and recognizing when you need to step away.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

As we mentioned before, with so many students performing some or all of their academic duties from home, the lines between ‘school’ and ‘no school’ can get kind of blurry. As anyone who has ever tried to work from home before can confirm, that is a sure fire recipe for burnout.

Creating physical or mental space where you can flick on and off in work/study mode is key to setting healthy boundaries, achieving a balanced lifestyle, and long term success. We all know the age old adage of the unhappy employee or executive who keeps bringing their work home with them. But what happens when the work starts at home with you as well?

There are a few ways to help deal with this but none quite so effective as creating a physically separate space for study time. Setting your desk against a wall or window so that you are less distracted by other stuff in your room, working in a separate office space, or working at the dining room table, assuming you have a supportive household, are all valid options.

It can also help to set time restrictions. Parents can enforce this by breaking up study time with schedule meal times, but also by putting a time limit on school stuff. If school work HAS to be done by 8pm, then it leaves students time to unwind and helps create that space. It also helps to include regularly scheduled breaks throughout the day. I find that I can rarely focus for more than 3 hours at a time, so I plan walks, kickboxing, or meal prep time around those gaps accordingly.

Limit Screen Time

By now we all know how bad starring into our screens for hours on end can be bad not just for your eyesight, but also for your circadian rhythm, your general physical well being, and even our mental health. This is even more true for younger kids whose brains are still developing.

In a classroom setting, teachers of younger students will routinely break up longer periods of sitting with short periods of movement. This same concept can be easily applied to screen time as well, serving a dual function here as screen time is typically relatively stationary.

Schedule regular intermissions to get up, walk away from the screen, maybe get a snack or go to the bathroom or even take a little walk (this is easier to enforce if you have pets). Do anything and everything that is not related to a screen (computer, cell phone, TV) for at least ten minutes in order to allow your eyes to rest and give you a break.

Print notes or use physical study guides when possible. Take notes on paper instead of in a tablet. Zoom your classes by connecting the computer to a TV screen or larger monitor but further away. And, whenever possible, choose options that are physical rather than digital. We will never be able to completely walk away from our screens, they are too valuable a resource. So limiting their influence where we can is a big help.


There is still a lot of the school year left, and much of the world is still in a constant state of change. As we adapt to different circumstances and try to build good habits, it is important to be kind to ourselves, listen to our bodies, and take steps to protect our mental and emotional health, particularly as students. Building good study habits and setting healthy boundaries is just a small part of that, but it is a part that we can all work on a little bit every day.


Check out this and more original content available every week at TheNerdyNanny.com by subscribing to us on Facebook or Instagram.

You can also check out Eve Daniels, author of The Nerdy Nanny books, on YouTube where she gives writing and academic advice as well as updating you on all of her latest and upcoming projects.

Free Resources for Students

I have been in Grad School for a grand total of about three months now, studying Experimental and Medical Bioscience here in Sweden. And if I said that the road to get here was a smooth one it would be a bald-faced lie.

I struggled as a student for many years in a lot of different areas. Mastering difficult concepts, general memorization and repetition, buckling down and concentrating for hours on end, trying to puzzle together new pieces of information- these are the woes of the modern student and they are things that do not come naturally to everyone.

But, thankfully, there are resources out there that help.

My Top Resources in Grad School

These are the programs, apps, extensions and websites that are queued up on my computer – right now. To say they are getting me through grad school is an understatement. These are things that I rely on and use, without fail, almost every single day.

Grammarly

This free program and plugin that you can either install to work automatically on your computer and programs of choice. Depending on your settings it automatically catches and corrects (you can turn the auto-correction feature off if you prefer) simple spelling and grammatical mistakes with much greater efficiency than the spellchecker on your computer.

But Grammarly also points out run on sentences, conflicting verb tenses, and a bunch of other things that your spellchecker doesn’t. For those of us writing a lot of long tedious papers, checking manually is a nightmare and it can be difficult to catch your own mistakes. Enter – Grammarly.

YouTube

In the beginning of my Masters program, I had a serious problem visualizing the microscopic interactions that I needed to understand in order to do well. Everything from Antibody – Antigen reactions to Flow Cytommetry. I was falling further and further behind because I just COULD NOT picture these tiny reactions.

Thankfully, other people, much smarter and more skilled in animation than I, can. Also thankfully, those people made YouTube videos about these concepts that I have been hoarding like a starved squirrel gathering nuts. If you want to get some idea of just what I’m studying you can take a look at that carefully cultivated hoard of videos HERE. YouTube is the second most powerful search engine in the world (behind Google), and as such, is an amazing resource for students.

OpenStax

OpenStax is an open source academic resource providing textbooks and reference material at zero cost. While this won’t replace your mandatory reading list anytime soon, when you get into upper level courses it is often up to you to seek, cultivate, and gather reference materials in your subject.

Plus, sometimes you just need to have something explained to you in a slightly different way for it to click. I have Biology and Chemistry textbooks stored on my computer for reference materials, but I flip through others depending on the area of interest pretty regularly as well.

OneNote

If you have Microsoft suite, you have probably seen that little purple square logo at the bottom of your screen before. OneNote is a comprehensive digital note-taking platform that offers you the convenience of organizing your note-taking into subjects, tabs, subcategories, and even separate notebooks. Plus, while you are connected to the internet at least, one-note backs up automatically.

I use One Note exclusively for my notes because I have too many different subcategories and cross-referenced material for it to make any kind of sense in a single categorie. I need those little tabbies darn it!

I call this one free because OneNote comes with most Microsoft packages and if you already needed to buy it for access to word or powerpoint, then it’s there. If you don’t have Microsoft suite there is a free alternative called Evernote which works about the same way, though I find it a little less visually appealing (personal preference). And if you prefer a Google system … don’t even bother with Keep – it’s just a series of post-it notes that are impossible to keep track of if you have more than 4 things going on at once.

$ Rosetta Stone $

Okay, this one I use everyday… but not exactly for school work. I’ve been trying to learn Swedish for AGES and, as I am currently living here, it seems now is as good a time as any. The modules are of varying length so I can do a couple of quickies or set aside time for a longer one depending on what unit is up next, and it used spaced repetition to revisit previously material based on a measurement of my performance and how long it’s been since I last logged in.

This is the one resource I am listing that is not completely free. There is a free trial version but with reduced capacity. If you are currently using or have ever looked into or used a free language learning app but quickly passed through the free version only to find the stuff you really needed to learn is hidden behind a paywall, I’d recommend giving Rosetta Stone a try.

Either way the trial is free and, if you were already looking at making a purchase, it’s definitely worth a shot.


Popular Study Aides for High School

Khan Academy

I have used this in the past as math is, unfortunately, not an area I excel in. Khan has full units for individual subjects from basic counting and shapes all the way up to statistics and calculus. It works in practice questions and active modules in between concept explanations, which is something that I find extremely useful, especially for subjects that require application.

Quizlet

Quizlet was unfortunately not around (or at least not popular) when I was younger, but the girls I tutored used quizlet constantly. It’s a free resource to make online flashcards, that you can cluster, repeat and set aside as you master the material. Really great for any subject that includes a lot of memorization (vocab), particularly if you apply spaced repetition. – alternatives include Tiny Cards & Study Stacks

Audio Books and Podcasts

As much as I wish it were true, not everyone loves to read. As an author, that is almost physically painful for me as a love of the written word is something I cherished as a kid. But as a tutor, part of my job is acknowledging that not everyone’s brain works the same way. And some people prefer to get their books in audio form. If you have a long reading list, a passive commute or some other chunk of time in which reading a book may not work but listening through headphones is totally possible, then supplementing or even replacing some of your reading material with audio might be a good call for you.

Apps & Extensions to help you Focus while Studying

For me, as with many students, staying on task is a challenge. Particularly when the work is piling up or when it is crunch time and you want to do just about anything but study. Though knowing yourself and developing healthy study habits are ultimately the best recourse, here are a few things that can help cut through the noise.

Momentum

A google chrome extension that provides a clean, minimalist start page that tells you the time, the weather, allows for the plugin of different various features and focuses on your primary goal with a little built-in to-do list pop up feature in the corner. It seems like such a small thing, but opening up your computer to a clean slate rather than a messy notifications board or something like google or Facebook where it is so easy to get off track.

Crackbook & Parental Controls

Crack book is another extension that allows you the option of blocking problem websites after a fixed amount of use. For example, I have mine set so that I can click over to Facebook or Instagram for up to 20 minutes between noon and 8pm (my predetermined study hours). After that if I try to click over I will be met with a gray screen and an increasing time delay. This means that if I really do need to use Facebook for something I still have access, but I have to wait for increasingly long amounts of time, so I better make it worth it.

Forest App

This one that my friends use constantly. At $1.99 it’s not free, but there are free alternatives available. This is just the one that is most popular in my immediate circle. Essentially you start a timer within the app and it blocks out the use of your phone completely during that time. At the end you are rewarded with a cute little tree figure and, after enough ‘sprints’ your tree levels up into new cute characters and, better yet, the forest app actually helps sponsor the planting of trees in real life.


These are just a few of the resources I rely on, there are literally hundreds more out there. The trick is to find one that works for you and for your learning style and that you won’t get distracted by in and of itself.

If you have any resources that you love and rely on, please comment them below either here on TNN or on our Facebook page!


Check out this and more original content available every week at TheNerdyNanny.com by subscribing to us on Facebook or Instagram.

You can also check out Eve Daniels, author of The Nerdy Nanny books, on YouTube where she gives writing and academic advice as well as updating you on all of her latest and upcoming projects.

Distance Learning vs Virtual School vs Home Schooling

As we enter into a new school year, many of us are struggling with this strange new landscape that is Distance Learning. Still others are enrolling in virtual school or switching to an entirely homeschooled option.

Last year millions of parents struggled with balancing working at home (or not at all) with supervising their child’s education over the computer. So, before we head off back to the digital classroom, I thought it was a good idea to take a moment and get some advice from those who’ve been at it longer – Home School Parents.

But, before we get into that – home school, distance learning, virtual school? What exactly are they and what is even the difference?

Distance Learning

Distance Learning is when your child is still enrolled in the same school that they were in person. They still report to the same principle, they still organize their classes the same way, they still have the same teachers for the same subjects. The only difference is that those classes are now online.

The teachers are still 100% responsible for creating course material, giving assignments, proctoring tests, providing instruction, and grading. That does not mean your child will not ask you for in-person help, just as they would in normal circumstances with any homework they might bring home, but you are not the creator of their coursework.

These classes can be at a designated time, students can be required to attend virtual classes during particular windows, a certain number of days per week, a certain number of hours, or none of the above as long as their assignments are completed.

The individual scenario will be entirely dependent on your child’s school district, their school, their teachers and the particular subjects they are taking. For good or for bad there is no real uniform system for Distance Learning, which means that understanding your students systems and their individual requirements will ultimately be on an individual basis.

The biggest downside to distance learning is that it is, ultimately, at the discretion of your child’s school. If your state, school district, and the individual school say that they are opening for physical classes, then your child is expected to show up to class as if it were any other school year. If the number of new COVID cases increases or if your child’s school faces an outbreak, then you will likely face an emergency shut down and switch back to distance learning. You have no input and your child will be expected to attend regardless of the format.

For some students, the stress and uncertainly can be more disruptive than the actual online classes themselves. If that is the case, I recommend exploring a 100% virtual school option.

Virtual School

Many states, including Florida, have provided a 100% online school option for students completely free of charge for several years now. These operate in a very similar way to distance learning where a teacher, or several teachers, is responsible for creating your childs lesson plans.

These are, for the most part, privately owned and operated companies that contract with the state to create an independent digital ‘school’. With a virtual school option, your child will actually be transferring to a different school that operates entirely online. They will have new teachers and a new system to operate in, but largely similar classes.

The advantage of these systems is that, ideally, as they are entirely online schools they have more experience in helping students excel in an online environment. In practice, however, because these are privately owned and operated companies, they can often have their own flaws and foibles. As a general point of concern, schools owned by Connections Academy are often described as ‘point and click’ educators, with a lot of screen time and busywork and little focus on actual comprehension. Other virtual schools have minimal login requirements, which can be difficult for students who are natural procrastinators and may end up with all of their course work still not done by the end of the term.

There are many options and it would ultimately be up to you and your student to explore what option might be right for your family as each is suited for different learning styles. Additionally, because they are virtual they often do not have geographic restrictions, so you are not limited to schools in your county because… well, there are no ‘counties’ on the internet. Broward Virtual School is a great option for south Florida students.

There are also other online schools that are ‘private’ and require tuition. This can range anywhere from fifty to a hundred dollars per school year to several thousand per semester. Some offer scholarships, some don’t.

Check with your state education board for complete lists of both ‘public’ and ‘private’ virtual schools that operate in your state. You can also check out listings through Niche.com, an online educational review guide that is essentially the YELP of schools.

Home School

Home School is the most unique. It is the most demanding for parents but can also be the most beneficial for students in the right environment.

*NOTE – Some virtual school programs will market themselves as an Online Home School. This is not reflective of the actual program, and they are in fact still virtual schools. It is just a marketing tactic.

With true homeschooling, parents are responsible for creating a lesson plan within state guidelines. You need to find the materials, create a lesson plan, find or create test materials and assignments, and proctor all of the material. Parents are 80% in control (because they have to follow certain state guidelines) and 100% responsible.

The advantages of homeschooling are that because your child has one teacher, aka You, they are able to work as quickly or as slowly as they need in order to master the material. The teacher is not pausing to help 30 other students at the same time. This means students may spend as little as 1-2 hours per day working on class material to achieve the same results as a traditional classroom.

Parents who want to take on homeschooling should consider a few factors before they dive in. How well their child will respond to the parent taking on the role of teacher, child age and grade, learning style preferences, how many kids you have at home, whether or not you have to work during that period, and, in all brutal honesty, whether you can handle being a teacher (more on that available after 9/1 HERE).

If you are homeschooling a younger child and a teen you could do hands-on class time with the little in the morning and by the time the teenager is up at noon you are able to help them with their assignments if needed. Likewise, if you have a middle-school-age child but need to work at home, there is absolutely nothing that says school can’t be between 5 and 7 pm.

Additionally, with middle and high school age students, once coursework is assigned, students often will not need an adult to be directly involved the entire time. They could very easily get started on assignments at 2 and then have ‘teacher’ help them with anything they struggled with later in the evening.

Home School in a Pandemic

A NOTE OF CAUTION

I do NOT recommend homeschooling for parents who have not otherwise at least considered this option before. Not only can there be a lot of time commitment involved in setting up lesson plans and finding course materials but, to put it bluntly, not everyone is meant to teach.

Being able to explain complicated subjects in a way that students can easily understand.

Knowing what material is important to focus on as a foundation of future learning and what is not.

Understand the balance between ‘helping’ students and doing the work for them.

Being able to separate the rolls of ‘teacher’ from ‘parent’.

These are just some of the things that home school parents need to be able to juggle. It is a balancing act that home school parents have years to learn as their child grows older. Beyond learned skills, some personality types are just not a good match for teaching. If you lose your patience easily or are often in a rush, homeschooling will be more difficult. But there is one additional area that is especially important for parents of older children who are considering homeschooling –

How well do you understand the materials you are teaching?

I have said it once and I will say it again, confused teachers create confused students. If your high school sophomore is taking AP physics, unless you are an actual engineer, you will likely struggle to understand the class material, let alone being able to teach it. But even at a more basic level, if you struggle to remember the difference between an adverb and an adjective how well can you actually expect to be able to teach it?


Home Learning during a Pandemic

The abrupt transition from in-person to distance learning in the middle of the previous school year gave parents and students a glimpse at the virtual education experience. And while this means that this year parents will be better armed, or at least familiar with the programs at hand, the previous academic year was also filled with panic, last-minute patches, and the overall feeling that this entire situation was, ultimately, temporary.

This means that, for many, the lessons learned were soon forgotten. Both with course material, and course operation. Both for parents and students.

That is not inherently problematic. It is a completely natural and understood psychological phenomenon (Psychology Today). Educators have long since understood that stress inhibits learning (Strauss, 2011). Not only does that affect the amount of material our students manage to learn but, more importantly, it affects our ability to learn how to effectively navigate a new learning environment.

The stress of the initial switch combined with the tumultuous months since then, our brief brush with Distance Learning can feel as though it took place in another lifetime. Which makes our memories of how to navigate the digital learning environment somewhat blurry at best.

As the weeks turned to months and new COVID cases continue to rise, many of our students will be returning to the digital classrooms soon. And with only vague recollections of how to navigate this new landscape, It might be worth getting a few tips from those who have been through the distance and virtual schooling.

Coming Soon: Top Tips for Distance Learning Newbies from Home School Veterans


Check out this and more original content available every week at TheNerdyNanny.com by subscribing to us on Facebook or Instagram.

You can also check out Eve Daniels, author of The Nerdy Nanny books, on YouTube where she gives writing and academic advice as well as updating you on all of her latest and upcoming projects.

Other Resources;

IACET

Personal Recomendations -Karen ‘High School Junior’

Jori Krulder, English teacher of 23 years

Rocket City Mom

The Tot

Parents.com

Houston Public Media

Real Clear Education

SimpleHomeSchool.Net

Confessions of a Homeschooler

My Perfect Planner – The Lazy BuJo

Do you resentfully like photos of perfectly designed and colorful Bullet Journals on Instagram? Are you desperately trying to get organized or keep on track with your plans and goals but every single system seems to inevitably fail? Did you read the title and laugh? Good Enough. Meet your new Planner.

Hi! Just in case you’re new here, I’m the crazy person who decided to launch her own independent publishing company, apply to grad school, create 10 kids books in two years, get into grad school, and then move halfway across the planet in the middle of a pandemic. There – now we’re all caught up.

And as crazy and insane as my life may sound, finding a scheduling system that works for me has always been a problem as over-complicated minute by minute planning a) never works and b) never works. While Bullet Journaling is an artistic and utterly customizable trend that would seem to solve this problem, I was less inclined to sit down for 20 minutes at the start of each month and draw out a million little perfectly illustrated boxes in different color-coded systems.

So with store-bought planners frustrating me, Grad School creeping up around the corner and neither the time nor inclination to hand draw a Bullet Journal, I found I had to create my own.

The end result was The Lazy Bujo.

Why this Planner is Different

It Never Expires

As in, there are no dates marked anywhere in this journal. This was such a small thing but I found it severly limited the usefullness of store bought planners for me.

As COVID has undoubtedly proven over the last few months, sometimes things don’t go to plan. I always wondered why academic planners bothered to include June and July, but likewise found that, for whatever reason, I would have random months or partial months that I just… didn’t use.

In a normal planner, it’s use it or loose it. With the lazy Bujo, it’s more use it … or don’t, it’ll still be here when you need it.

Monthly / Weekly / Daily

Each section starts with a monthly spread, again unmarked and undated so these planners never expire.

The weekly break down is a little different because a) the week is split into two parts and b) there is no Sunday. By splitting up the week into two parts I found there was enough room in each grid for daily planning without needing to carry a 365-page book around (yes, that’s how many days are in a year).

Another thing I hate about weekly planners is when they scrunch the weekends into smaller squares so they all fit on one page. I have PLANs for the weekend and kind of need that space. Also, some store-bought planners start their weeks on Sunday, and some start on Monday. My weeks, frequently, will switch between both. So with the Lazy Bujo, I left unmarked slots available on either page letting you move Sunday as you will and leaving an extra slot of weekly wrap-ups or planning ahead.

It’s Customizable

The grid system that makes BuJo’s so endlessly adaptable is part of what I used to create my planner. No, there are no dots, so it isn’t really a ‘Bullet’ Journal. But the boxes that you would normally draw in are marked out in an array that I find works for a variety of needs. And, again, these boxes are unlabeled other than weekly headers.

No predetermined uses for the boxed mean that I can use them however best work for me. And whatever works for me might be different on a Monday than on a Sunday. While time blocking may be useful on days when I have school, priority lists or categories may be better on weekends.

Other Features I like

I shoved in extra planning pages around the monthly calendars as a space for a brain dump, recap, planning ahead, or, quite honestly, a messy combination of the three that somehow always seems to involve also drawing a dragon somewhere.

Because the journal is black and white I’m still able to draw in some color doodle when my brain gets bored (again, lots of dragons) but I’m not required to put in any artistic time or effort before I can even start using it. I also find it’s easier for me to color code my notes or use highlighters in a blank planner as my needs change rather than being locked into a system.

The Lazy Bujo covers six months, which is further than I am willing to plan in any single instance but also means I don’t have reorder more than once a year. It also means I get a fresh start about halfway through the year, which is normally when my planners start to look a little rough around the edges.


Well, there you have it.

I made an ideal planner for me as I started into grad school and, after some gentle nudging, I’ve made it available for you too.

If you’re interested, I’m going to be doing a short video on different organization methods I’ve found over the years that may help you getting started on the right foot or getting back on track. Whether it’s with school, work, personal projects, my writing, or just remembering what day of the week it is, life is about balance. And, hopefully, this will help with that.


Check out this and more original content available every week at TheNerdyNanny.com by subscribing to us on Facebook or Instagram.

You can also check out Eve Daniels, author of The Nerdy Nanny books, on YouTube where she gives writing and academic advice as well as updating you on all of her latest and upcoming projects.

Top Streaming Picks for STEM & STEAM

Previously here at TNN we talked about incorporating streaming options as a way to encourage a general interest in STEM and Science in general. The general idea being that as screen time is already a part of our lives, using family viewing to explore new worlds.

Now that we’ve covered the basic types of programs, I have gone ahead and listed a few of my favorite shows from each of the big 4 streaming providers; Prime, Netflix, Hulu, and Disney +.

Prime Science

Prime STEM Jr. Science Shows (ages 5-10)

Animal Encyclopedia and Wild Kratts are always a go-to for me. Animal encyclopedia is a fun mix of different animals and ecosystems with enough science to call it educational but can be a little low energy for some kids. I was hooked on the original Wild Kratts as a kid but find that the new animated version to be just as endearing and manage to fit in even more information in this new format.

Sci Girls holds a place deep in my heart as female representation in science programming was always such a rarity as a kid. These days it is more common, but still not the norm. This show follows actual junior scientists as they work with mentors to develop some amazing stuff.

Whats up in Space is a pretty classic kids science program exploring space travel and our solar system. The content is nothing new or revolutionary, but it is a definite addition to your watch-list if you are looking for STEM content on Amazon Prime.

Brain Candy is what it says on the tin, this upbeat fun kids show sprinkles in trivia and science. The content is fun and upbeat without being too technical for younger viewers.

Prime Middle School Science (ages 11-13)

Annedroids is one of those picks that may have some parents squinting my way. While yes, the show is essentially science fiction the vast majority of the material is based on science fact. Additionally, the problem solving the kids use in the show is a valuable part of the scientific process and the shows more evenly balanced cast as far as gender and race are considered is a nice change of pace.

Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin is a smaller version of the nature documentaries you are likely to find on other streaming services. The series takes place at the Atlanta Aquarium, an AMAZING facility which gives the added advantage of having experts on hand and a broader variety of species available all in one place.

Design Squad is definitely the kind of program that I would have gotten all fired up about in middle school. Real-life teen designers and engineers are tasked with seemingly impossible challenges, from the perfect pancake flipper to wind-powered kinetic art. The thought process and trial and error are what make this show a must-see. Science doesn’t always get it right on the first go, and sometimes you have to figure out how to get things wrong before you can get them right.

Prime High School Science (14-18)

High School – Big Picture with Kal Penn, Science of Secrecy, Xploration animal science and Xploration Earth 2050.

For more STEM and STEAM or educational programming options on Amazon Prime you can check out resources from ‘We Are Teachers’ by clicking HERE.

STEM & STEAM on Netflix

Netflix – https://www.weareteachers.com/educational-netflix-shows/

Elementary STEM to Stream (3-10)

While interactive shows like Sid the Science kid may get old for parents, they are great for budding young scientists pre-k and younger.

Dino Hunt is a fantastic spin on the standard nature documentary which could only possibly be improved if it had been narrated by Sir David Attenborough. On that same vein is If I were an animal which has been a really cool way to explore the natural world in a different way from the normal point and shoot documentary.

The all-time favorite, for now, and forever, is and always will be Magic School Bus. I will follow Ms. Frizzle underneath a volcano, into the human body, and to pluto and back, even if it isn’t a planet anymore.

The InBESTigators is a really cute investigative science mystery series and nice pick for family watching as the awkward hijinks create enough laughs for even older kids (or nannies) to enjoy.

Middle STEM to STREAM (11-14)

Bill Nye, regardless of the decade, will always have my attention and my heart. I grew up watching Bill ride his bicycle (bike shorts and all) from the Sun to Pluto. I saw him have to explain, to fully grown adults, how detrimental an oil leak is to our ecosystem. Now I watch him explore everything from the basics of scientific theory to advancements in quantum computing. Bonus points – both old and new Bill are currently available on Netflix.

The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia is a phenomenal Netflix original featuring a female latinx super genius trying to navigate the world of teenagers and high school. Though the show is more family sitcom than science education, it touches on a lot of interesting topics and provides representation to a frequently under-served demographic at a pivotal age. For that and that alone I have included it in the recommendations for all three age groups (plus, it’s a really cute show).

Absurd Planet is hilarious and bizarre version of one of my high school recommendations, Our Planet. And Oh Yuck! covers all of the disgusting but still fascinating scientific concepts of things you’d probably rather not know about. Other recommendations include the live-action version of Carmen SanDiego, which is hilarious to watch as an adult, The Impossible Flight, 100 questions, and Magic for Humans, which features a lot of optical illusions and outside of the box thinking.

High School Science to Stream

As Netflix originals become more viral in nature, it is only natural for them to become more viral in their content. Explained views like those short animated explanations for things you see on your Facebook feed or in some TED Talks. They cover a huge variety of content in a completely bingeable format at sneaks information into your head and now have several different spin-offs including ‘The Mind’, ‘Coronavirus’, and ‘Sex’ Explained. All of which genuinely interesting for high schoolers and a great platform for bringing up topics of discussion.

While my brother is definitely more of a Dangerous Animals fan, I’m more comfortable watching Our Planet for the fourth time. Both are beautifully filmed nature documentaries with obviously different focuses and both will lead you into a slew of recommended nature documentaries and other similar content, but there were our favorites.

STEM & STEAM shows on Hulu

Hulu is one of my all-time favorite streaming providers right now. The slightly out of the box content mixed with a few family sitcoms make it a nice mix for me and a change-up from bingeing Netflix for too long. However, due to a large amount of HIGHLY inappropriate animated content that kids might accidentally click on, it is not one I recommend for families with young children. That being said;

Mythbusters was a science and engineering icon for a generation. For so many of us 90’s kids, Mythbusters was our introduction to science. It informed our understanding of physics and the scientific process and, maybe most importantly, confirmed within us the idea that even when you have everything planned out, things can still go wrong. Science is, at times, an exact science. And the rest of the time it’s a bunch of goons wandering around in the dark and hoping they won’t knock anything over. Mythbusters showed us the less pristine side of the process which often involves scaling projects up and down, taking questions apart to analyze their individual components, grease covered hands, errant explosions, getting things wrong, and starting over from scratch. The new Mythbusters Jr. series is just as much science-oriented but with more family-friendly and only slightly simpler concepts. The assembled crew of mini Mythbusters are brilliant creators, geniuses, and tinkerers in their own rights, and watching them tackle these problems directly is amazing.

Other favorites include the nature series What on Earth and Natures Strange Mysteries Solved, which both fit with Hulu’s kind of off and quirky branding and are a good fit for middle school and possibly younger teens. Vets Saving Pets is also a really cute series and a great way to introduce kids to the more medical side of animal science by luring them in with bunnies and puppies.

How it’s Made is a show that I routinely binge, but can be incredibly dry. Isolated episodes involving favorite candies or toys seem to hold interest, but beyond that, we mostly use the show as educational background noise. Superstructures Engineering Marvels is also a little dry, but very cool. Especially if you have kids who may be leaning more towards the engineering side of things, or just have a fondness for K’nex.

STEM & STEAM on Disney+

If you recently purchased Disney+ for access to either Star Wards or the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you may have also noticed it comes with quite a few other featured channels, two of which make this list considerately simpler.

Basically ANYTHING on National Geographic (special shout out to The World According to Jeff Goldblum, One Strange Rock, Secrets of Tampa zoo and Weird but True) or Disney Nature are well worth your time.

For younger kids, Forky Asks a Question is an adorable Pixar project with several shorts based on the newly created character from the last Toy Story.

Aliens of the Deep is a team-up between James Cameron (yes, Avatar, that James Cameron) and NASA (yes, that NASA) that bends the line between science and science fiction by exploring the underwater trenches of the world and imagining the possibilities they hold, both for the earth and for human civilization. With undeniably beautiful visuals, the imagery and concepts are probably going to be a better fit for kids ages ten and up.


As always, these are just my recommendations. You know your kids best and if one of these shows is not the right fit for your child, skip it. Likewise, if you aren’t sure, don’t be afraid to try introducing a show during family time and, if you child responds well, keep watching. Often times what kids are willing to watch alone or what they are willing to watch if it means spending time together are two very different things.

These are the listings available for each of these streaming services as of July 2020. What is offered on each of these services changes regularly, and as new shows are added old ones are removed.

What sorts of STEM or STEAM content do your kids like? Is there a particular favorite of your kids that I missed? What other science or generally nerdy activities do they, or you, enjoy?


Check out this and more original content available every week at TheNerdyNanny.com by subscribing to us on Facebook or Instagram.

You can also check out Eve Daniels, author of The Nerdy Nanny books, on YouTube where she gives writing and academic advice as well as updating you on all of her latest and upcoming projects.

Stream your Science – encouraging an interest in STEM & STEAM

Exploring STEM and STEAM, especially at an early age, is a great way to open kids up to the wonderful worlds of science and math and the future possibilities that come with them.

But trying to encourage an interest in science with textbooks and workbooks is like trying to encourage an interest in cooking with a blender manual.

I know the only way we managed to get the girls interested in the kitchen was not by stressing the importance of being able to feed yourself but by binge-watching The Great British Bake Off and Master Chef Junior.

Both science and cooking are best learned by doing, but this can be intimidating at first, especially if parents and guardians are uncertain where to start themselves. So to encourage interest in a fun and stress-free way, including a few STEM and STEAM-related TV shows and movie nights into the family routine, can be a great way to start.

If your family already has a TV or movie night routine, which we will talk about more next month, this can be a fairly simple step. In general, giving parents or guardians a ‘turn’ to pick or a vote in the selections process is generally better than dictating choices. And trying to find the right program for the entire family, if not to fall in love with then at least to tolerate, can be difficult depending on age gaps, interests and what streaming platforms you may or may not have access to.

Next week I will list specific shows on each of the four main streaming platforms (Netflix, Hulu, Prime, Disney+) for each age group but before we get into that let’s take a look at the different types of programs out there and who they might appeal to.

STEM and STEAM shows for Kids

Follow Along Educational Programs

Anyone who has a toddler has stood in the kitchen waiting patiently for Dora the Explorer to answer her own question while quietly mumbling the answer under their breath. Follow along or call and response programs are a common feature in early childhood programs for a reason. They engage the audience in a meaningful way which is important for development in younger viewers. Call and response programs shift the engagement from passive to active, which is a critical aspect of learning that I will go over in more detail in a series coming this fall.

As tedious and mind numbing as these shows can be for adults, they are a valuable resource for younger viewers. Older siblings will likely not appreciate their inclusion in ‘family time’ viewing though, so they may be better suited for mid afternoon viewing when your younger kids may be reluctant to nap, but still definitely need some time to chill out a little.

Science Fiction … for Science Fact

I understand that a lot of parents may be confused by my inclusion of ‘Fiction’ in educational programming. But remember, the goal of these programs is not to teach kids the wavelengths of the visible light spectrum but to get them curious about how things like how space ships work or how different diets affect animals.

You will often hear NASA scientists and astrophysicists alike arguing about their favorite seasons of Star Trek or whether or not we are actually close to developing beaming technology, the esteemed Neil deGrasse Tyson among them. These are icons in the scientific world and while yes, some of them may have ended up where they were with or without a certain USS Enterprise, the fact that so many of them are avid Sci-Fi viewers is definitely a positive indicator to my mind.

Cooking Shows teach Chemistry

Again, there will be parents questioning my sanity and recommendations here, but I want to remind you of my analogy in the beginning. Cooking and Science, at their core, share more in common than you might think at first glance. The best examples of this are ‘Salt, Acid, Fat, Heat’ and ‘Chef vs. Science’.

Cooking shows are a great way to get students used to terminology that they will need in future science classes; proteins, starch, fat, acid, boiling point, and even words like denatured, crystallized, and cell walls. These and so many other terms are used in every day cooking to explain the chemical and physical processes which our food undergoes as we prepare it.

If your kid happens to pick up a passion for cooking along the way, so much the better.

These programs, depending on the specific one you choose, are great to start with as early as late elementary school and continue through middle school. While less useful for science education in older kids, they are none the less a fun viewing option for teens as well, so make a good family pick.

Creator Series for Engineering

Now this – this is what people think about when they look at the words STEM and STEAM. Building, design, ingenuity. These are the things that come to mind, and they are absolutely the core of an engineering mindset, though some of my selections may surprise you.

While a documentary on how the NASA shuttles work would no doubt be fascinating to me, it will likely be lost on an 8 year old. Instead, I challenge parents and caregivers to consider series that they may have otherwise brushed aside as I repeat the mantra – the goal is not to teach, it is to inspire curiosity.

Take a look at the process used to make their favorite candy or crayons. Look at series where people make things with their hands, like glass blowing or tinkering. Try robot battles or treehouse builds, look at aquarium design, or tiny houses.

The building blocks of engineering are just that, building blocks. Your child can get more benefit from Lego and Tree houses than computer lessons and workbooks.

Documentaries that Ask Questions

Documentaries are meant to answer questions, right? But what about shows that ASK questions. It is a small differentiation, but more often than not viewers, and kids especially, will respond better to programs where the host learns along with them rather than dictates information. Exploring a new concept with someone, seeing how excited or confused or frustrated they are throughout the process, provides and emphatic connection to the material which, often times, can make them easier to remember.

I still mix up the Newton’s laws… or I did until I watched an air pressure spear gun nearly take out half the myth busters team when they forgot to bolt down the canister. The immediate exclamation (after a round robin of ‘is everyone okay?’) was ‘The NEWTON LAWS!’. Yes, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Which means that when you try to launch a grappling hook style spear gun without bolting it down, you’d better make sure you aren’t standing behind it…

These same concepts also apply to nature documentaries, cultural or travel shows, and so much more. It is why celebrities learning about things are more interesting to watch than an expert in the field explaining the same concept. When you can learn WITH someone, you are experiencing their emotional journey to at least some degree. This actually triggers different parts of your brain which, in our caveman days, was how we remembered not to poke a sleeping tiger.

Nature Documentaries – Exploring the Natural World

Often when considering STEM and STEAM, our minds are drawn to the engineering and math aspect. However, areas such as genetics or *cough cough Biomedical research I believe most people would easily recognize as STEM. Rarely does a geneticist start with a fascination in chromosomes, often their curiosity is sparked with something much simpler. For Gregor Mendel, it was the color and shape of pea plants. For your future scientist, it could be how puppies grow.

With the development of better and better cameras, everyone from NatGeo to Disney has been creating nature and wildlife documentaries. And these can cover everything from documenting the migrations of elephants across the savanna, looking at the most bizarre or most aggressive or most poisonous animals, or even documenting the first six months of a litter of puppies development. While you may or may not recognize this as ‘science’, it is a beginning curiosity and an avenue into exploring our natural world.

Because of the spread of potential programs in this genre, they can be suitable for kids as your as 3 or as old as 30.


Whether your kids are 5 or 15, encouraging a general interest in science is as much about demystifying the vocabulary and processes behind the sciences as it is about encouraging a general curiosity in the world around us.

Presenting science as Science, with a capital S, can be intimidating even to many adults. But encouraging questions and introducing new concepts and vocabulary in a way that kids find accessible is one of the most important things we can do when teaching.

The world today is changing so quickly, and science, research, and technology-related jobs are so much a part of that. Scarring kids away from science by thrusting overly complicated and boring manuals at them can cut them off from such a huge part of the job market but, beyond that, close them off to a wealth of opportunities for personal growth.

So, however you choose to incorporate your science, don’t forget to make it a part of your regular family routine. Ask questions, get excited, and explore new worlds. Your kids will want to come along for the ride.


Check out this and more original content available every week at TheNerdyNanny.com by subscribing to us on Facebook or Instagram.

You can also check out Eve Daniels, author of The Nerdy Nanny books, on YouTube where she gives writing and academic advice as well as updating you on all of her latest and upcoming projects.

Science, STEM, STEAM and Critical Thinking Skill for Summer

Over the last few weeks we have been exploring different ways to encourage kids to stay active, curious, and prevent the dreaded “Summer Slump”. While options for reading and math were pretty straight forward, I actually actively advised against pursuing science as a summer learning activity (at least if you are trying to do so from home).

Me. The Nerd. The girl who got super excited about the prospect of trying to make her own set of balance scales as a DIY. The person who took Organic Chemistry willingly.

But yes, I do advise against parents attempting to become science teachers on their own time over the summer.

Whether your child is going into fourth grade or tenth grade next year, their science class will vary drastically depending on the state, teacher, curriculum, and even the order in which they teach the material. If you spend most of the summer quizzing your child on types of rocks only for your child’s first subject of the year to be plants, it is easy to see how resentment might begin to build, especially if they were not especially excited with the subject to begin with.

The second reason is one I have already briefly touched on in other subjects

Confused Teachers Make for Confused Students

While most of us can recognize that higher-level subjects may be beyond our ability to teach, too many parents assume 4th-grade science is a breeze (I am using 4th grade here as it is a good metric for when subjects start really diverging) and attempt to start playing teacher. But the existence of the TV show “Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader” proves that this is not always a great idea.

I once spent an additional 30 minutes at babysitting reviewing the difference between ‘rotation’ and ‘revolution’ with the parents of a fifth-grader because they kept mixing them up when quizzing her for an upcoming science test.

When was the last time, as an adult, that you had to tell an igneous rock from a metamorphic rock? Do you know the different types of clouds? Can you tell me where transpiration takes place in the water cycle?

Most of these things are stepping stones your child will learn in early science classes but which most of us don’t use and therefore don’t recall into adulthood. Even if you think you know these things, you need to be able to communicate them effectively and consistently which, unless you are a teacher yourself, is easier said than done.

Science is one of those things best taught by people who know what they are doing. But this does not mean you can’t still enjoy it.

Starter Science for Tiny Humans

While new material is best taught by professionals, there are still a lot of ways to encourage a passive interest in science at home and keep kids curious without having to dive into new material.

Interactive activities for young kids are a great way to incorporate science in a non-instructional way. And they also happen to be a great chance to spend time together as a family.

Summer STEM & STEAM for Kids Ages 5-8

Kiwi Co.

Lately, there has been some chit chat in the nanny community about the interactive STEM and STEAM kits from Kiwi Co. The general consensus seems to be that these are fun, engaging ways to get kids building and observing the world around them in a way that is geared towards science or engineering. Having never purchased any of their products myself I cannot say definitively the education value of these products, but, as with any toy, if it occupies your child for a few hours at a time I would definitely call it a win.

K’NEX and Legos

The mortal enemy of bare feet for decades, Legos and K’NEX are actually a great way to introduce kids to a variety of scientific principals. From logical reasoning, critical thinking and active problem solving, to design, physics, and mechanics.

These sorts of toys are brilliant, especially if you are working with a basic kit. More complicated designer sets for things like fairy castles and Ferris wheels, aside from being more expensive, actually limit creative freedom. They are less about figuring and reasoning and more about following directions. Working with basic sets really tests what you are capable of coming up with on your own and challenges kids to think in new and different ways, which, of course, is the entire point.

Workbooks

Again, if you are looking to ‘teach’ your child science over the summer you are looking the wrong direction. However, if you are looking for something to keep them busy and maybe stop them forgetting quite so much before the following school year, there are worse options than summer workbooks. Theses usually cover a variety of subjects, though individual subject workbooks (math, writing, science) do exist and are easy to find online for a relatively low price. Workbooks can also be a good option if you have a younger child who is particularly routine-oriented as some kids do struggle with the structure to no-structure transition. Some of the best workbooks for younger kids are;

  • BrainQuest
  • TinkerActive
  • SummerBridge
  • Highlights
  • Kids Summer Academy

Some of these books are available in only science, others are compilation books covering a broader range of subjects. Many also tend to include live action experiments as science is best learned through an interactive process which may require adult assistance. Again, I would only use these if you had a routine oriented younger child for whom they are a good fit.

Family Science for Summer

You will often here science teachers saying that ‘Science is all around us’. The reason why – is because it is true.

Science, in general, is interactive. Between the weather patterns caused by different cloud formations, the water cycle and it’s the effect on plant growth, even down to the physics of a regular paper airplane. Science is all around us, which means there are a variety of fun family activities that you can engage in beyond a lesson book to help keep kids curious and engaged.

Gardening for Science

If you are looking for something a little more interactive, growing your own garden is a great way to begin introducing earth science concepts. Even a window box garden has loads of opportunities to talk about what makes plants grow, different types of soil and rocks, the different benefits of eating different foods, nutrition, even those cloud types we mentioned earlier if you are looking for rain.

This kind of activity is obviously more hands-on and requires a little learning yourself, but is a great way to spend time with the kiddos. I want to emphasize that this option is not a lecture hall, it is an opportunity to spend quality time together while maybe learning a little bit along the way. Plus, at the end of it all, you have your own strawberries to pick or snap peas to grow.

You can check out The Nerdy Nanny’s channel for fun videos on how to get started with your very own window garden!

Building for Science

Whether it is a K’NEX Ferris Wheel or a DIY Bat House, a Constellation Projector or a remote-controlled Airplane, there is a huge variety of build-able activities available to kids of all different age levels. They come in all different levels and price ranges depending on your child’s ability and are a great way to spend time as a family. And many of them are so much fun that the fact that they are a science-based learning experience is almost overlooked. Here are just a few of the possible activities below;

  • K’NEX – Ferris Wheel, Roller Coaster, Machines
  • DIY Bat House
  • Constellation Projector
  • Remote Controlled Airplane
  • Bottle Rocket Launcher
  • Newspaper Structures
  • Popsicle Stick Bridge
  • Rube Goldberg Machine

Cooking and Baking for Science

Do I secretly just want families to spend more time together in the kitchen? Yes. Do I also happen to think that baking and cooking together are great ways to incorporate everyday math, science, and reading concepts? Absolutely.

From the fractions of measuring cups to the ounces and grams of weighing out ingredients, math is an essential part of every recipe. Reading through ingredients and step by step instructions may not be the chapter books you thought your child needed, but the language used in most recipes is rarely simplified and needs to clearly understood. Real-life word problems at their best.

But where is the science?

Salt, acid, fat, heat Рbeyond being an awesome cookbook and successful Netflix show, are the binding agents of both cooking and chemistry. Maillard reactions (browning of meat), the denaturation of proteins (eggs turning white), nixtamalization of corn or other grains (making masa or tortillas) or comparing relative density (8 ounces of sugar is 1 cup but 8 ounces of flour is 2 cups). Science abounds in the kitchen, and it is delicious.

Family Science on the Big Screen

Going to have another article – best STEM and STEAM programming per streaming network. Having a family movie night or TV tradition is a good way to allow screen time while keeping it family time. Setting up a tradition where mom and dad get to pick the or show once or twice a week is a great way to introduce a little curiosity on the sly.

From Hidden Figures to Nature Documentaries to Mythbusters Junior, there are a wealth of fascinating TV shows and movies that kids of all ages will actually enjoy.

Recommended Summer Math by Grade

In a previous article, we went over some of the basic recommendations for ways to help prevent the “Summer Slump”. Reading and family activities are great ways to keep kids’ minds active and curious during the summer months. Math skills, however, require a slightly different approach.

Elementary Summer Math

There are about a thousand and games and apps available on your smartphone right now that are specifically designed to help your child with math. Choose programs for the grade they are currently leaving and only move up to the next grade if they finish with all of them or are obviously bored. Remember, you aren’t trying to teach new material, just prevent students from forgetting the concepts that they have already learned.

Aim for about an hour of play per week, which breaks down to about ten minutes a day plus a skip day for when they just don’t feel like it.

Math Apps for Elementary Students

In all honesty, with the wide variety of free math app games available for download the most important thing is to find an app or game that your child likes and wants to play on their own. Some of the ones that I have found to be most engaging that were also teacher approved are;

  • Splash Math
  • Komodo Math
  • Rocket Math
  • IXL Math
  • Prodigy
  • Math Bakery
  • Math Learning Center
  • 4th Grade Learning Games (RosiMosiLLC – they have other grades as well)

Download three or four games for their level and put them in a folder on your phone or iPad. Let your kids choose which games they enjoy playing and, every week or so, delete any games they are not interested in and replace them with a new one. Some of the apps track gameplay within themselves, but you can easily use the ‘Screen Time’ feature in your phone to track usage in the games. About an hour per week is plenty for retention. Depending on how much screen time your child is getting from other sources you could go up to three hours per week (about 25 minutes per day) without it being excessive.

Desktop Math for Elementary Students

Computer usage is a little trickier to track, but the resources are generally more reliable (and have fewer adds). For really little kids I recommend checking out games available at PBS. For older kids, MathGames.com, MathPlayGround.com, or SplashLearn are all great options. You can also find a more comprehensive list of free online math games HERE.

Math Workbooks for Elementary Students

Some kids, and parents, just do better with good old pen and paper. Aside from contributing to less screen time overall, it is also easier to track a child’s progress in a physical workbook. And while these are not exactly free and not quite as much fun, they are generally pretty affordable. I’d recommend ordering one from Brain Quest, Highlights or School Zone.

There are a lot of other options out there, but these are the ones that are generally approved of by the schools and therefore likely to be consistent with their teaching methods.

Middle-Grade Summer Math

By middle school, most math classes begin to segregate depending on your child’s level of performance and the options offered at your school. Again, attempting to teach your child math independently over the summer is not something I can advise against strongly enough unless you are a licensed educator or working closely with one (i.e. private camps, online classes, summer school).

The idea of doing a little math over the summer is not to learn new material, but to keep kids engaged and help prevent them from losing what they have already learned. Work in the grade level or math subject that they just completed and don’t even consider moving on to take a peek at next year’s subject materials unless they are bored stiff, specifically ask you to, or a teacher recommends it.

That having been said, there are a couple of different resources and platforms that you can use to review the math that your student has already learned.

Online Resources for Middle Grade Math

Fun apps and math games obviously become fewer and farther between as the math increases in difficulty, but there are a few.

Prodigy, in particular, is a good resource for fun and engaging games. It is particularly useful as you may have noticed it on the list for elementary school level games as well. That is because this app actually ages up with kids from grades 1-8. It is fun and a little bit silly. There are a lot of in-game options for character customization so just looking at screen time is less helpful, but you can easily track progress within the app itself.

12 a Dozen all access is another app with multiple levels of games, puzzles, math exercises, and critical thinking. It provides a wide range of content and different types of games, but is geared towards older learners so it a little less cutesy than the Prodigy app.

The best resource for actual serious but easy to understand review, hands down, is Khan Academy. The caveat I will put here is that occasionally Khan Academy will teach math concepts differently than the teachers, which can cause some confusion when covering new materials. As a tool for reviewing over the summer, however, it is hands down the simplest and most straightforward option. Content is arranged by category with corresponding lessons and practice/review activities. If your student is familiar with the material, they will likely be able to skip to the lessons and go straight to the practice problems and assessments. This is a great way to coast through the material, jogging the memory, and only skipping back to review lessons if you are stuck or need a little reminder.

Workbooks and Study Guides for Middle Grade Math

Workbooks are possible to find but should be verified with your child’s school or math teacher if possible. Again, teaching methods and specific subjects covered matter here.

There is, however, one physical resource that I cannot recommend highly enough, but it is not a workbook.

“Everything You Need to Ace Math” is a reference book and study guide that you might have seen sitting in big piles if you happen to have a Costco membership. The book was created by the same people responsible for the BrainQuest workbooks and is a HUGE resource for middle school-age students. They have one for each of five subjects which, in theory, cover just about everything you need to know in middle school.

Between the two, the “Everything You Need” book combined with a little practical application practice online, an hour a week of review is more than enough to help students retain what they have learned in the previous year and be in a good place when fall rolls around.

High School Summer Math

At the high school level, math is highly differentiated by topic, and, again, unless you ARE a trigonometry teacher, it is really not something you should be trying to teach at home. For those determined to pursue summer mathematics, however, there are two main options.

Online Learning and Summer School

Summer School

Did you child fail math the previous school year and needs to repeat a grade level or subject?

Summer School.

Is your child exceptionally gifted in mathematics and can easily push through to the next grade level and WANTS to do so?

Summer School.

Does your child have a unique academic circumstance or opportunity which absolutely requires their advancement in math beyond the academic year?

Summer School.

Summer School as you knew it, the terrifying construct that only bad or nerdy kids were sent to and locked them in school buildings all summer long, no longer exists. Beyond a few exceptions, the vast majority of summer programs have long since shifted online. Students login either on a regular schedule or at regular intervals to cover material and complete predetermined assignments. Some programs want you to login every day at 10 am, most require you to login at least once every three days at whatever time you want. Some programs are entirely virtual, with email as the only way to communicate with an instructor. Others offer face to face digital lessons and interaction with a real live teacher.

What programs you have available to you will depend on your school and geographic area, your child’s grade level and performance, but mostly it will depend on what state you live in. Most educational legislation is controlled at the state level, so while some states have broad reaching summer advancement programs available free of charge for students, others will only have nominal programs available for students who are struggling. While I cannot speak to every state, Florida has a vast array of online options available but are best navigated by actively working with your school.

Khan Academy

If your state or school does not have an online curriculum option available to you, Khan Academy does offer math online by subject up through college. As before, the methods taught may be slightly different but should be cover the same materials. If your school does not have an online curriculum option during summer, it may still be possible to “test-out” of some math classes come fall.

Other Options for High School Summer Math

If your child did not fail math, does not intend to skip a grade, or does not have otherwise extenuating circumstances, the best recommendation I have for how to review for math over the summer is very simple –

Don’t.

High school is exhausting. Summer is short. They only have a few precious months each year to put algebra homework behind them. Encourage them to explore the world around them in other areas. Get a summer job, volunteer, check out computer programming, or painting, or creative writing, or any one of a million other things other than High School Trig.

Unless your child needs (and note, this is about their needs, not your wants) additional academic support when it comes to math, let them have their summer. If they do need that support seek guidance from a professional math service in your area. i.e. Online courses or private tutoring that gives them the support they need without endless amounts of busywork.

Summer Reading Recommendations

The summer months are upon us and, as always, parents and educators are searching for a way to keep kids engaged and prevent them from losing what they have learned during the previous school year over the coming weeks and months.

With an additional three month gap added to the academic calendar due to COVID-19, this is more important than ever. And one of the activities proven most effective at helping kids retain learning also happens to be one of my favorite pass times – Reading.

As much as I wish it were so, reading may not be your child’s favorite recreational activity. Incorporating reading into a regular weekly or daily routine, and showing your child how much you enjoy reading yourself can be incredibly useful. But finding a book that your child resonates with and is actually interested in, even if it is at a lower reading level.

With that in mind, I have pulled together a diverse list of books in different age ranges, subjects, and genres. If you happen to have an avid reader at home, you can always check out last year’s list HERE. But hopefully, this list should at least give you a few good reads to start with

Early Readers (K-2)

At this age range, most books are best enjoyed sitting in the lap of an adult who carefully sounds out the words, makes silly voices, and occasionally, just occasionally, asks them if they recognize a word.

Hair Love by Mathew A. Cherry is an adorable story that has recently been made into a Pixar Short. Readers can follow along between the animated feature, which uses no words or text, and the beautifully written poetry in the story itself. Being able to entice kids with a follow-along video is something that has been proven to help encourage reluctant readers.

Lullaby by Langston Hughes is a beautifully illustrated night time tale about the love between a mother and her child. Great for bedtime and soothing tiny minds, it is perfect for reading over and over and over again.

Sulwe by Vashti Harrison is visually stunning with an important message. The story centers on self-love and learning to appreciate your own qualities while hitting on bullying, colorism, and the importance of family.

I am Loved by Ashlee Bryan is a collection of short poems with bright and vibrant illustrations that are sure to catch kids’ eyes. The poems themselves all center on parents’ love for their child but are reminiscent of some poems and books by Shel Silverstein, who we mentioned in last years reading list.

Hidden Figures by Margaret Lee Shetterly is another great picture book inspired by a movie and, ultimately, real-life events, that gives women a strong voice in the Science and Engineering fields at a time when they really were expected to have none at all.

Elementary Readers (2-4)

The following list includes mostly more text-dependent picture books as well as lower-level chapter books better suited for kids between 2nd and 4th grade depending on proficiency. Again, your kid will let you know when a book is too difficult for them. But don’t be afraid of letting them ready ‘easy’ books that are below their level or ‘hard’ books that they might get stuck on. As long as they are interested and curious there is no such thing as a book at the ‘wrong level’.

I can be anything, Don’t tell me I can’t by Diane Dillon is a personal favorite of mine as it echoes a lot of the same themes I use in my own kids books (The Girl and Her Stars in particular). Particularly the inclusion of STEM and STEAM options for little girls. This is an inspiring book and a definite add to the collection.

Imani’s Moon by Janay Brown-Wood is a beautiful story about a little girl with big dreams and her journey to pursue them. The story is backed by myths and cultural stories rooted in legends among the stars and. This is a wonderful transition book from picture to chapter as it is longer and has more text than many traditional picture books, but is still a step below a chapter book. 550L

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe recounts an African legend with beautiful illustrations. The story highlights the value of kindness and a good heart over pettiness and vanity and is a wonderful story for young girls especially but holds value for everyone.

Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson is another text heavy picture book for intermediate readers. It is a retelling of the events of the Civil Rights Movement from a much younger perspective and offers readers a unique look at those events.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats was a recommendation from a friend. A whimsical retelling of the first snowfall of the season, the experience is something I can’t really relate to (again, I am from Florida) but have been dutifully informed that the book is a perfect cozy winter afternoon tale.

Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate from Farm to Family by Elizabeth Zunon piqued my interest not just because of its cute pictures, but because of the underlying messages of family history, sustainability, family, and exploring your roots.

My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete is an absolute must-read for families with children of special needs but is an amazing story that would benefit all children. Told from the point of view of Charlie’s sister as the family goes through the process of realizing and diagnosing Charlie as Autistic, the story paints a childlike view and explanation of many of the different ways in which spectrum disorder can affect a child’s behavior, but never once diminishes the families love for Charlie or his love for them.

Early Middle Grade (4-6)

By fourth grade, most readers have moved onto at least early chapter books, which is reflected in the following selections. These books are still a relatively easy read and many offer in chapter illustrations, but are longer and more story driven than the picture books that came before.

Miami Jackson Gets It Straight by Patricia and Frederick McKissack focuses on the misadventures of Miami Jackson as he enters his final five days of third grade. The perfect transition book from picture to chapter, this illustrated story of full of silly moments and wacky hijacks as well as a few thoughtful insights.

The Watsons Go To Birmingham was written by Christopher Paul Curtis, the author of children’s classic ‘Bud, not Buddy’. This equally heartfelt classic captures the story of a loving family tossed into tragic circumstances as the entire family is driving down to Birmingham. First published in 1963, the book has remained a favored classic for almost 60 years for a reason.

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston is a recounting of the real-life efforts of Arturo Schomburg, who collected the songs, stories, music, and literature from his culture and fought to preserve them for future generations. His work would eventually become one of the most visited halls in the New York Public Library.

Celeste’s Harlem Renaissance by Eleanora E. Tate is honestly the kind of early chapter book that I would have gravitated towards personally in elementary school. Following the quite bookish Celeste, as she moves from her safe and comfortable surroundings in North Carolina to live with her big movie star aunt in Harlem. She is in for a whirlwind of scary intimidating buildings, unfamiliar sights and sounds, and a whole world of new experiences as she discovers the heartbeat of Harlem.

Middle Grade 5-8

As kids transition into middle school, the books they read will increase in difficulty. This means both in terms of the language used and the topics discussed. While children’s books can touch on sadder moments, they rarely linger there. Good Middle-Grade fiction should be able to dive headfirst into the overwhelming tangle of emotions and real-world problems that preteens will face. The list below embraces that.

Blended by Sharon M. Draper is an excellent transition book between elementary and middle grade fiction. Centering on 11 year old Isabella as she is torn between the split household of divorced parents from different backgrounds. As each of those households begin building new lives with new families, Isabella struggles with understanding where she belongs.

Love Like Sky by Leslie C. Youngblood is difficult to capture in words. This story, which focuses on a young girl trying to find her place in a blended family, waxes almost lyrical in it’s writing. Our main character must balance searching for the approval of her new step sister and her relationship with her younger sister. It truly is one of a kind.

New Kid by Jerry Craft is a graphic novel that is a great way to transition more reluctant readers from picture books to fully fledged chapter books. A classic coming of age story, New Kid follows, as perhaps you may have guessed, new kid Jordan Banks as he struggles to fit into his new school when he really wants to do nothing but draw comics.

The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley is a quirky, almost wayside story kind of tale drawing from multiple points of view woven together by a dark mystery. All these dissonant characters must come together if they want to solve the mystery and save their neighborhood. Imagine The Goonies meets West Side Story. With heart, compassion, and more realism than you would expect, Natasha Tarpley is a master storyteller in her art.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks is, in the world of books, a relative infant. Published only this past January (2020) this quirky book wraps heart and family dynamics around a compelling mystery. Zoe Washington must unravel the case of a father she never knew in an effort to prove his innocence. Between cracking the case and struggling with figuring out how to interact with a parent figure she’s never had, I would be very much surprised if we didn’t see this fast-paced book as a Disney movie within the next two years.

Some Places More than Others by Renee Watson, published just last year, managed to win both the Newbery Honor- and Coretta Scott King Author Award. The book follows a middle-grade girl as she looks at the places and people that impact us and understanding how the places we call home can help us understand ourselves.

Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callendar would have been EXACTLY the kind of book I would have snatched up and devoured in a single afternoon as a middle schooler. The book combines superstition and magic with preteen drama and family struggles as Caroline, who was born during a Hurricane (a sign of bad luck in MANY cultures) must endure teasing from her classmates, free her island from the spirit that is stalking it, and deal with her feelings for the new girl at school.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander was awarded as being one of the best books to inspire reluctant readers. Twelve-year-old Josh Bell excels at two things; basketball and music. But as he and his twin brother Jordan race up and down the court, the brothers begin to get pulled apart with the arrival of a new girl in the neighborhood and Josh’s rising love for the beat. Think High School Musical meats verse but with fewer musical numbers and montages.

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee is the kind of book your middle schooler needs to read. As preteens, kids are exposed to more and more of the real world, and a lot of that is filtered through the lens of an adult. Reading about characters their same age dealing with these tumultuous times can give kids a better understanding and a place to vent emotionally. After all, Shayla just wants to manage 7th grade by staying out of trouble, focusing on her schoolwork, dealing with her relationships with her friends, and without her stupid giant forehead getting in her way. But when something happens, she needs to reassess. And maybe, just maybe, some things are worth getting into trouble.

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste is, again, the kind of book that I would have immediately reached for. Elements of mystery and fantasy and magic woven through the real world and real-world problems, that’s kind of my jam. Because jumbies are just fairy tales, right? And Corinne has no time for silly stories of tricksters between dealing with school and the boys who tease her. Until of course she winds up in the Forbidden Forest and it is a Jumbie that follows her home with plans to take over the Island.

High School and YA Reading

By high school most teenagers, unless it’s an assigned book for class, are reading YA. Now YA can fall into a lot of tropes and patterns which, while cliche for adults, are the lifeblood of teenage readers everywhere. The list below tries to offer a few suggestions outside the typical teenage norm but if your teen devours were wolf romance books, let them enjoy their fandom and just be happy they’re reading of their own free will.

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in The Sky by Kwame Mbalia is actually a recent Rick Riordan Presents publication. Yes, that Rick Riordan, Greek gods, Olympians and Norse mythology Rick Riordan. The Author of the Percy Jackson series has been highlighting phenomenal authors of other cultures and backgrounds so that their voices are the ones who can bring you these incredible adventures. A perfect bridge between middle grade and YA, this easy read grabs readers by the shoulders and holds on for 248 pages.

‚ÄčEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon has recently been made into a feature-length film. While the book and the film differ, they share enough commonalities that I would strongly recommend reading the book before watching the movie. For teenage Maddie, who is literally allergic to everything, life in a hypoallergenic container is the norm. Enter Olly, the free-spirited boy next door who starts to make her question whether a life lived in a bubble is really a life lived at all.

The Opposite of Always by Justin A Reynolds is a hilarious and razor-sharp read perfect for the John Green fans out there but with a mysterious edge. Without giving too much away, there is a boy, then there is a girl, then a tragedy, but… then there isn’t? If this is time travel Jack isn’t going to ask any questions, as long as he can save her this time.

When You Were Everything by Ashlee Woodfolk is the heartfelt, friendship imploding, grief-stricken book I wish I’d had in my early twenties. While many teen and YA books commiserate over the loss of a romantic relationship, there is no bond so devastatingly broken as that of a true best friend. But even though they will never be what they were, that doesn’t mean Cleo can so easily erase the memories of her friendship with Layla, especially not when she is assigned to be her tutor. Heartfelt, stunning, and breathtakingly beautiful.

The Voice in My Head by Dana L Davis is sure to hit home with fans of ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. When Indigo Phillips perfect twin sister Violet is terminally ill, Indigo somehow convinces their entire crazy wacky grief-stricken family to pile into an old bus and drive into the desert where she is convinced she will find a way to save her sister. But why is she so sure, you may ask? Oh, only the little voice inside her head claiming to be God.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi is a YA like you didn’t know existed. Steeping in magic and danger and roots. Between run magic thrumming through the soil into their blood, runaway princesses, elemental magic burning and turning tides, reapers gathering souls, and a monarchy to overthrow… this is a must-read for high fantasy fans.

I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest is the classic tale of a teenager pursuing a lifelong dream and going against expectations parental wishes to do so. In this case, it is Chloe Pierce’s dream to apply to a prestigious dance academy, and she is determined to apply even though her mother forbids it. Enter a wild plan for an epic 200-mile road trip, a reluctantly allowed tag along with the neighbor boy and his dog, and experiences to last a lifetime.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone is a gripping story centered around Justyce McAllister, the straight-A student who, despite leaving his old neighborhood behind, can’t seem to leave behind the prejudices and preconceptions of others, especially not of the cop who is putting him in handcuffs. Justyce begins writing letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Junior throughout this process, exploring race and prejudice with a brutal honesty that many YA books routinely gloss over.

Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud would be an absolute cliche if it were not so brilliantly written. A girl is admitted to a prestigious summer program, intent on focusing on her studies and the academic opportunities, she ends up catching the eye of a Prince. Yes, and honest to goodness prince. Think Cinderella meets the library scene from Beauty and the Beast. Again, if not for the way in which this book is written I would have written it off on the premise alone, but trust me- this is very much worth the read.

Watch us Rise by Renee Watson & Ellen Hagan reads like the set up to an offbeat Hulu series… potentially involving Kat Dennings. When two best friends get sick of how women are treated they start their schools first Women’s Rights Club at their progressive NYC high school. When their collective works of poetry, responses to microaggressions, and essays in video form go viral, they become the target of real-life trolls. As things escalate and the Principal shuts the club down, the friends discover what they are willing to risk in the absence of silence.

Monday is Not Coming by Tiffany D Jackson was recommended to me by a fellow author tuber who described her reading experience as ‘brutal and shattering’. “When Claudia’s best friend, Monday, goes missing, it feels like she’s the only one who’s noticed she’s gone. Everyone tells her to mind her own business, to stop snooping around. But she knows something is wrong. When she finally finds someone to help her investigate Monday’s disappearance, she unearths some painful, shocking secrets about her best friend’s life.”

Legend Born by Tracy Deonn- okay okay okay, technically this one isn’t out yet. But the info bumf looked so incredibly amazing I just had to include it! And you can bet I will be tearing through this book just as soon as it is published! Between a dark history surrounding her mother’s murder, hidden powerful magic, chilling creatures stalking the campus, and a secret cult of magic wielders at her new school Bree Mathews has got a lot on her plate. “A modern-day twist on a classic legend and a lot of Southern Black Girl Magic.”

Avoid the ‘Summer Slump’ -Study Recommendations

Summer is upon well us. And with it comes hot summer days, long endless afternoons and two months of absolute freedom… though it is a little difficult to differentiate between ‘in school’ and ‘out of school’ with the world still in partial lockdown.

Typically around this time of year parents and students alike will be more than ready for the school year to come to an end. The end of homework, the end of tests and stress, the end of daily commutes… but this year, for much of the world anyways, those things ended months ago.

As Covid-19 continued to spread various lock-down measures and restrictions went into effect, including distance mode for schools and universities. As students transitioned online, all the previous rules went out the window. Gone were the regular classroom hours, the daily commutes, the piles of homework and, for many, the end of year tests and exams. So even if students were still occasionally logging in to digital classrooms to watch the occasional video and take a quick quiz, it is easy to feel like summer already began.

Because of the less than structured end of the school year, educators across the country are concerned about the impact this years unique situation may have in exacerbating the dreaded “Summer Slump”.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, “Summer Slump” is generally used to describe the slow rotting of student’s brains into an inconsequential goo that will eventually dribble out of their ears during the over two months of summer vacation. Or, in less poetic terms, the loss of information and comprehension skill students typically experience over a long absence. Aka – students tend to forget a bunch of stuff they learned during the previous school year over the summer break.

The general rule of thumb is a 2 to 1 ratio. As in, for every two weeks off from school, students loose one week of curriculum. Although this is obviously dependent on grade level and individual students. Parents and teachers have been trying to find a way to counteract these effects for years with everything from summer reading lists, educational camps, to online classes.

While specific programs and camps or classes tailored to your child’s needs are obviously going to be more effective, many are beyond the average family budget and, even if they are affordable, will likely be closed or shifting online over the summer. Thankfully there are some more general steps you can take to help your kids stay active, curious, and prevent the dreaded “Summer Slump”.

Recommended Reading to Prevent the Summer Slump

One of the easiest and most sure-fire ways to prevent the summer slump is by encouraging good reading habits.

As an avid childhood reader myself I am often surprised when students don’t immediately want to grab the newest Margaret Peterson Haddix or Rick Riordan book. But obviously everyone has different interests and, for some kids, reading can be more chore than a choice. If you have students who are struggling with reading I ask that you encourage, but not mandate, them to find things, anything, that they enjoy reading. Whether that is a book you feel may be beyond their reading level, below their reading level, or even comic books.

By encouraging and interest in independent reading, regardless of the subject, you are promoting healthy reading habits. Readers go from books that were too hard to too easy and vice versa, simply because they enjoyed the subject, which is as it should be. Think about, as an adult, when was the last time you checked the reading level of something before you brought it home? While, yes, sometimes daunting books can put kids off, it is more often the pressure than the actual reading itself. Let your kids choose what they like to read and encourage this as much as possible without becoming overbearing.

As a general rule of thumb, the amount of recommended daily reading is your childs grade level times one hundred.

First Grade = 100 Fourth Grade = 400 Eighth Grade = 800

… and so on and so forth. Again, for prolific readers this will feel like nothing and for reluctant readers this may be a bit of a chore. So try and stretch the numbers in one direction or another based on your child’s individual needs and interests.

I will be doing an updated ‘Summer Reading List’ sometime in early June, but until then you can always check out last year’s list HERE. The lists are organized by grade and, as always, check in with your child school, teacher, or even the local librarian for additional recommendations. Often times with older students there will be required reading which should be tackled early or alternated with other books if not interesting enough.

A little Math each day keeps the Summer Slump at bay

Math is, by far, one of the most difficult subjects to gauge independently and encourage on your own. Aside from just trying to find the right resources that suite your child’s learning style, you also need to know what level they are at in what subject and make sure that whatever program or resource you are using is not teaching a method that contradicts their teachers. Switching back and forth between carrying ones and common core causes even more confusion, especially in younger students. For older students, as much as I love Khan academy myself when I am stuck, their methods often deviate from the ones used by teachers which, when showing your work is a typically required step, can cause issues.

Finding a program, even if it is not a perfect fit, that allows them to keep using the math that they already know while brushing up on some of the areas where they struggled can be hugely beneficial. But try not to be tempted into ‘teaching’ them new material.

Encouraging Summer Science, STEM, and Critical Thinking

I am going to make a bit of a controversial statement here and, as a huge science nerd myself, recommend that you NOT try to teach your child science over the summer. There a few different reasons why I say this.

Science is highly subject dependent. From Biology to Engineering, from Geology to Chemistry, each year your student will discover new topics, revisit old ones, and continue to build on a continuously expanding foundation of knowledge. This is just as true in fifth grade as it will be in 11th. Encouraging your child spend hours studying earth science only for their first quiz to be on the parts of a cell is a very quick and easy way to get them to resent the time spent on that subject and, by extension, the subject itself.

The second reason is that as well-intentioned as you may be, trying to teach in a subject that you are unfamiliar with is an excellent way confuse students

There are ways to maintain an interest in science and encourage critical thinking which I will go into at a later date without becoming an impromptu home teacher.

Prevent Summer Slump by learning a Second Language

After reading and writing, learning another language is one of those skills that can prove endlessly valuable in a person’s life. It is also one of those subject areas where, regardless of your child’s current skill level or even your own proficiency,it is relatively easy to advance. Especially for younger children (12 and under) whose language centers are still developing and are capable of picking up new languages so much faster than they can as adults.

We live in a global age, and though English is the most universally common second language, being able to communicate with a larger portion of the world is something that many seek to gain value in. Because of this there are an endless supply of apps, online learning options, free websites, and interactive computer programs available. I will go through my programs and options by age in the coming weeks.

Whether your child is entering kindergarten or their senior year of high school, whether they know two words of Spanish or speak three languages fluently, learning another language is something that is endlessly buildable. It is also something where, unlike with math, you do not need to worry so much about contradictory teaching methods. Learning another language is a skill that can, quite literally, open them up to whole new worlds.

Encouraging Other Interests

Whether that is coding, gardening, creative writing or even baking. If your child has shown an interest in anything, anything at all over the last year, now is the time to explore it.

During the school year students are so bogged down with assignments and after school activities that it can often be difficult to explore new interests. Taking the time to do that now is a way to open up new worlds, keep them active and engaged, and find a new potential interest to pursue during the following school year.

There are online courses, YouTube tutorials, and all kinds of options available in a variety of subjects; Coding, Creative Writing, Drawing, Painting, Design, Engineering, Cooking, Baking, Gardening, Animal Care, and even Health and Nutrition. The options are about as limitless as the internet though younger kids will probably need some help selecting appropriate and reliable resources.


Summer is upon us, states and counties are still phasing in and out of lock-down, and the world is still a little bit upside down at the moment. We have a long few months ahead of us and it can be tempting to pile on the workload to students who have (effectively) already been out of school for a few months now.

Learning activities to slow down the loss of the previous school years learning and keep kids curious, engaged, and away from candy crush for a little bit are a great idea. But do not become invested in the idea that your child will be ‘learning’ new material over the summer. The best activities keep kids curious and engaged, not add on homework to what is supposed to be their summer break.

The summer slump is a very real problem, but, before anything else, students are still kids. They are children and preteens and young adults and they deserve the chance to be just that. Engaging in regular activities to help their brains stay active and prevent backslide is a great goal, but trying to teach kids actual curriculum and new material during the summer has the potential to majorly backfire as students begin to resent the constant stress and pressure. Give your kids a chance to let their brains recover, even if that does mean an hour straight of Roblox. And then, when the screens become too much, pull out a book or go for a bike ride or a swim and just spend some time with them. They only get to be kids once.