Simple ways to create a content-rich environment this summer (and why it matters)


Written by contributor Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy

At my house, we’ve decided to take a “summer break” this year—or at least that’s what we’re telling our kids. When they’re off their regular school schedule (you know, the one where they start their school days with math at 9:00 a.m.), it feels like summer vacation.

Here’s what they don’t know: my husband and I are very intentional about providing great content so they are learning all the time—even while they’re on “break.”

We stock our home with what they need to keep learning all summer long. School may technically be out of session, but that’s no reason to put their education on hold.

Here are our favorite tips and tricks for building a content-rich environment.

Stock your shelves.

Kids who have access to good books improve their reading skills over the summer months; kids with no access regress.

Fill your personal shelves with great books on a wide range of topics, being sure to include both easy and challenging reads.


Hit the library.

We adore our public library and visit it year-round. The summer is a great time to get familiar with your local branch.

Not sure what to check out once you’re there? Try this idea from Susan Wise Bauer.

When she was growing up, her mom required her to check out at least one book in these four categories during their weekly library visits:

  • a story
  • a book of poetry
  • a biography
  • a book about how to do something.

The kids weren’t required to read all their library books, but  Susan said that as the week wore on and she finished the books she was most excited about, she might actually read the poetry book just because it was there. 

Listening lessons.

My family loves audiobooks for lazy summer afternoons—or any time the kids want to hear a story but mom needs a break.

Our family keeps coming back to The Little House series (read by Cherry Jones) and Beverly Cleary’s Ramona collection, and we think we’re finally ready for Harry Potter and The Hobbit.

We’ve long been fans of Jim Weiss’s storytelling recordings on topics ranging from the Lewis and Clark exploration to Greek mythology to Shakespeare. I just found out a huge collection of his work is available on Spotify, for free.

I loaded up my phone with great stories (and Story of the World, also narrated by Weiss, and our Latin review), bought a $30 BlueTooth speaker, and told my kids our car trips are about to get more interesting.

I love to listen to audiobooks when I’m running, gardening, or doing the dishes—and I think it’s good for my kids to see their mom loves a good story, too.

Read out loud.

Audiobooks are great, but I prefer to read to my kids myself—especially when they’re in their pjs.

Find tons of great ideas here on Simple Homeschool, or turn to The Read-Aloud Handbook, my favorite book on the whys and hows of reading out loud to kids (even teens!)

Or for a change of pace at bedtime, try the appropriately named Bedtime Math, a free service that delivers delightfully wacky word problems straight to your inbox.


Play, play, play.

Kids learn through play, so make the most of it.

Summer’s a great time to explore science experiments, building projects, purposeful LEGO play, and other STEM-oriented toys, games, and books.

Be a great model.

Read to your kids—but let your kids catch you reading for your own sake.

Talk to them about what they’re learning. Take the family bookstore-browsing, just for fun. Show them you value learning.

They’ll notice. Kids are smart like that.

How do you plan to keep your kids learning this summer?

Originally posted on May 28, 2014

About Anne Bogel

Anne is a certified bookworm and homeschooling mom to 4 crazy kids. She loves Jane Austen, strong coffee, the social graces and social media. You can find her blogging at Modern Mrs Darcy.


  1. Great list! It looks pretty similar to our summer learning plans, although we will be working in some math and reading so we stay on track. My best learning-in-disguise trick is, as you mentioned, audio learning. This summer we’re hoping to listen to some American history. I got “This is Out Country” by H.E. Marshall on Audible and I just heard about “Hero Tales” by Henry Cabot Lodge and Teddy Roosevelt (!!!) on CD. I can’t wait to check ’em out! Happy Summer!
    Theresa@OrdinaryLovely’s latest post: The 10 *Best* Alphabet Apps for Toddlers

  2. We continue school through the summer (my kids are little so it is relatively easy to keep them learning), and reading is always at the top of the list. I have been putting audio books on for them during quiet time recently and they actually stay quiet! We do a lot of outside nature exploration as well. Summer is the perfect time to do that around where we live in Maine!
    Heather’s latest post: knitting reading and my big announcement!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing about Bedtime Math! For more Bedtime Math fun, join us on:


    Have a great day!
    Dana – Bedtime Math Community Manager’s latest post: The Truth about McDonald’s

  4. What a great list! Not just for summer, but for all the time. I really like the library book idea of having to choose different books, but not necessarily having to read them. Thanks!
    Amy’s latest post: Homeschooling with a toddler tugging on your leg

  5. HillRunner says:

    Our summers are so short that I prioritize outdoor activities over book learning. We still go to the library and read daily, but we pretty much “unschool”. We will have plenty of time for academics when winter weather makes it difficult to travel or do much outdoors.

  6. I have a preschooler and a toddler. This summer I am going to incorporate audiobooks into our days. I’m actually really excite about hearing some classics 🙂 We will also explore more messy play!
    Mel’s latest post: Choose Happiness

  7. Natasha says:

    Love this list! Thanks for the insight. Can you tell me more about the free collection on spotify? Apparently the website is not accessible in my country so I can’t check it out myself. Is the Jim Weiss collection live streaming or downloadable? Love any info, thanks in advance!

  8. It is amazing the joy in learning once a child learns to read. As a homeschool mom, waiting for my children to read has been the hardest lesson to learn. This summer as my oldest 2 read like crazy, I am all smiles all the time as they choose over and over to grab a book day after day.

    Thank you for the resources included in this post. I can’t wait to look up the audiobooks and I didn’t know Bedtime Math had a website/email list. Very cool.
    Cara Thompson’s latest post: Classical Education – Educational Theories Defined Part 5

  9. We’re playing Ralph, the Motorcycle Mouse on audiobook in our car these days. Perfect for my 5-year-old son 🙂 Though I admit I like it also!
    Maggie’s latest post: Check the Map

  10. I prefer to keep the same pace and same resources…..all year long, 7 days a week.
    HomeschoolDad’s latest post: Blasting Through Bangkok

  11. I have rising 3rd and 4th graders. Monday-Friday, they have to read independently for 30 minutes, write/journal for 15 minutes, practice piano for 20 minutes and they only get 1 hour of screen time a day. We also do read aloud, do Bedtime Math, and spend time outside.

Share Your Thoughts


CommentLuv badge


Give Your Child the World – on sale for only 99 CENTS! WOW!