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Learning never takes a vacation! Tips for the holiday season.

Posted by: Commissioner Deborah A. Gist on 12/16/2013

Students and teachers alike are anticipating a wonderful holiday season, and across our state schools are humming with activity as learning continues right up to the holiday vacation. Of course, while families prepare to celebrate the holidays, it’s important to remember that “learning never takes a vacation.” Our children learn in school of course, but they also learn from their parents, family members, friends, and community members. Why not use some time during the holiday break to engage in some fun learning experiences with one another?

The U.S. Department of Education recently published some suggestions for “learning during the holidays.” Here’s their list of ideas, along with some of my own notes:

Ask your child’s teacher or search online for projects. This a great idea because teachers will have a strong sense of what each child needs – maybe a little extra work in an area of weakness, or maybe some advanced project through which they can explore a special interest or passion.

Have your child read to you. Yes, of course – and join in with the reading yourself. Maybe there’s a play you can read as a family, with everyone taking a part. A trip to a local library might lead you to discover some books that everyone will enjoy reading together.

Strengthen your child’s vocabulary through a “treasure chest of words.” It’s great to encourage children to look up the definition of words they come across and to try to use new words in a sentence or story. It could be fun to find words to look up that appear in familiar material: nursery rhymes, popular songs, famous documents such as the Declaration of Independence or the Gettysburg Address. You might also enjoy watching some great education video, many of which are available for free on streaming-video services such as Netflix Academy.

Attend free (or low-cost) events such as concerts, plays, museums, or galleries. This is another good suggestion that can apply year-round. If you go to a museum, maybe pick up some post cards or educational materials that you can look at together after the visit. Maybe you could visit a nature preserve, such as the Rhode Island Audubon Society Environmental Education Center, or just go for a winter walk – but be sure to bundle up! Or check local listings for kid-friendly community events, such as the (daytime) Happy New Year celebration, on December 31, at the Rhode Island Children’s Museum.

Give a book or educational gift. A book, a recording, a science kit, or a challenging game can be a great way to excite children about learning and to introduce children to new concepts and experiences. If you give a gift certificate, it can be fun to choose the perfect gift together.

I hope you and your family members enjoy a wonderful and safe holiday season and that, in the new year, your children will continue to enjoy a terrific year of teaching and learning!

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