Summer Learnin’

“Mom, when you get done teaching those kids in your school how to read and to write, can you teach me?  You know, when your school is done and it’s summer?”

This is the question Eddie asked me a couple weeks before school let out in May.

I think any momma’s heart would flutter with pride knowing her almost four-year-old wanted to learn to read, but my English Teacher Momma Heart almost burst.

“OF COURSE!” I told him.

Because of course.


It was then that I took to the Pinterest, the Facebook, the Twitter, and hounding asking my friends who do daycare or are active with their kids’ schools/education to give me some pointers.  I mean, if he asked me to read and discuss anything from Hemingway’s writing catalog, we would be all set, but I don’t usually teach reading from square one.

Actually, the VERY first thing I did was send an email to my awesome sister-in-law, MacKenzie because she is a first grade teacher and she is amazing and I knew she could give me some pointers.

She did not let me down. She sent me a pdf of sight words already all ready to print, cut, and use.

My next step was to talk to one of my friend, Trisha, who decided to do some summer school stuff with her two boys (5 and 7). She told me how she lesson plans out their hour and talked about all the cool ways she found to incorporate math, science, reading, and writing along with art projects into their daily hour of “school”.

People.  I am a lesson planner by nature and she blew me away.

I also decided that Eddie and I needed to not be that strict about “school” since he was just four.

So armed with all the advice, I headed to Barnes and Noble for some workbooks on basic PreSchool/Kinder skills.

It was then that I started pinning ideas for crafts and experiments and other “learning” things that I knew he would be interested in.

I decided this summer, my objectives are this:

  1. Eddie will know the days of the week.
  2. Eddie will count to 100.
  3. Eddie will be able to do some very simple adding and subtracting.
  4. Eddie will be able to draw basic shapes.
  5. Eddie will be able to read some sight words.
  6. Eddie will understand how plants grow.
  7. Eddie will learn about how weather works.
  8. Eddie will write his name on his own.

How we are working toward these objectives:

1. The first thing I did was use some printables I found on Pinterest for the Days of the Week.  We put them on the slider door with an arrow for what day it is.  He recognizes most of the days by sight at this point (about four weeks in).  We also put what we are looking forward to each day of the week on Post-it’s after each day.  Eddie likes checking this out at each meal (his seat is right by the slider door) and talking about what we will do each day.

2. We have been counting since he was born. He can count to 30 already, and if pushed, can go higher.  Thirty has been as high as we have gone so far because that is how far we count when we put a temporary tattoo on.  But we have been baking and I tell him certain things need 60 stirs, so we count those together too.  He already recognizes numerals to 100.

3. So far, we do more subtracting than adding, and he’s getting pretty good at it without having to count what is left. We do this mostly at dinner. He counts how many bites of something he starts with and then I’ll ask how many he will have if he puts two bites in his mouth. He used to have to count what was left, but he can do it by sight now.

4. Eddie has known his shapes since he was very small (his first real word was “octagon”.  Not momma. OCTAGON. Sigh), but he has always had an aversion to writing.  Part of one of the workbooks I got him has him tracing and writing straight up-and-down lines, diagonal lines, horizontal lines, etc. I can tell he is getting more confident with them, because he will randomly practice his lines when he has “free draw” time in his notebook. Eventually I hope to help him make complete shapes (and numbers and letters, but shapes I think will be easy to start with).

5. I started by printing about 25 of the sight words MacKenzie sent me. So far he has eight down pat and we are working on six more.  We do them for about a week or more…until I am confident he can read them out of context of being on the wall…and then I add more. We hang the sight words on the slider door as well.  He loves reading them for everyone who comes over. When I announce it’s “Test Time” for words, he gets an m&m for each one he doesn’t need any help with.  I didn’t set a number of sight words I want him to learn because I honestly don’t know. I want to go at his pace.

6. Eddie really wanted to have a garden this summer, and so because he has been so interested in it, we are not just growing one, but talking about HOW it grows. We talked about the seeds and how they sprout, and then a couple weeks ago he asked me how plants drink. Of course we did the celery in food-colored water trick. But this was our conversation before he put the celery in the water:

Me: Eddie, take a drink of your apple juice. (he does). How did you drink?

Eddie: Through my mouth and down my throat and into my tummy.  Oh! And later it will come out my penis.

Me: Right. So um, look at this celery. It’s a plant, right?

Eddie: Right!

Me: Does it have a mouth?

Eddie:  (giggling at me) No, mom.

Me: Does it have a throat or a tummy?

Eddie: NO! And it SURE doesn’t have a penis!

Me: Right. So how does the water get in?

Eddie: Maybe through a tube?

Me: Feel the celery. What does it feel like?

Eddie: It has bumps.

Me: What do you think those bumps are? Think about how you said it might drink.

Eddie: bumpy tubes?

Me: Shall we see?  Put the celery in the blue water and we will check back tomorrow.

Obviously the celery “drank” the water through the tubes and we talked about how our plants in the garden have roots and when it rains or when we water the garden, it sucks it up through the roots and into the tubes (stems) to get the water. We also read a book about worms from the library and how they make the tunnels for the water to get to the plant roots.

7. Eddie is obsessed with weather right now, so that is going to be our next science/art project stuff.

8. Home Sluice totally laid this awesomeness on me yesterday:

2013-07-08 16.36.59

Of course we are also doing lots of reading; we hit the library about once a week for 10 more new books. Eddie’s thirst for reading is insatiable. It’s awesome.

I’m really just going with Eddie’s pace right now.  We don’t do “school” every day, just when he wants to (and when Charlie is sleeping because that child wants to crawl ON THE TABLE).  When we do school, though, Eddie calls me “Teacher” even when I told him he can just call me Mom.  He said he likes it.

Silly kid.

I do love his love of learning though.

He’s definitely my favorite student of all time.


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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. Aw, I love reading this, Katie.
    Also that he calls you Teacher during school time. So cute.
    Pinning this for when my boy is ready!

    • Eddie makes up his own rules as we go along too. He TELLS me how to teach him. The Bossy is strong with this one. Future teacher, maybe?

  2. Z is 4 in September. We’ve been lazy this summer, but then, I really only have evenings with him. My husband does a bit of sight words and counting during the day but it’s very relaxed. I want him to read so badly. I’m not sure why (but I was like this with the girls too and that neither of them was reading by kindergarten made me feel so ashamed because I hadn’t met my goal. Ha. MY goal).

    Also, celery penis. I could make a crude joke about how that would taste but I won’t. Oh, wait…

    • It’s hard not to have goals for your kids, though. I always knew Eddie would be an early reader because he just loves books and words. I have to tell myself it may not be that way for all of my kids and I just have to go with the flow. But I want that to be MY flow. It’s hard to be a control freak sometimes 🙂

  3. So, I’m just gonna go ahead and send Nora over, yeah? Okay. I’ll pick her up in September.

  4. So if they don’t have a penis where does the water go after it’s inside?

    I mean, I know the answer, but I’m surprised he didn’t ask you that.

    Also, way to dodge the bullet of having to explain that girls don’t have penises and yet they can go pee too. That might be a conversation for when he’s a little older.

    • Oh he knows that girls have vaginas. How I pee without a penis has been a hot question around here the past three months or so.

      • It’s crazy the day-to-day explanations that we take for granted. Then you have to explain what a vagina is and that even though we all call them vaginas, we’re actually referring to the vulva most times. As long as AmoebaJr isn’t talking it’s not something I have to worry too much about.

  5. So awesome! You rock Momma!

  6. So impressed, Kate! He’s going to be uber prepared for kindergarten. While I could never home school my kids, I do think some of the conversations and activities driven by my kids’ curiosity are more educational and absorbed than what the kids learn on schedule at school. Following Eddie’s lead is going to guarantee an enthusiastic learner (not that I need to tell you that). But as a teacher, I’m sure it’s very rewarding!

  7. Do you read the Elephant and Piggie Books by Mo Willems? My 4 yr old LOVES them and has gained quite a few sight words from them. Your tips are great. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I am super impressed. I’m completely disorganized, and unmotivated and these sound like things even I could do in the evenings with my kids (making it age appropriate for Cady of course). Love it.

  9. You are a good mama and teacher. Good luck with your summer goals and yay for Eddie for writing his name. So exciting.