Secret summer learning

Whether or not they favour the long summer vacation, UK educationalists are nevertheless agreed that a significant amount of backsliding happens over the summer break with many children slipping educationally backwards, particularly in subjects they are already struggling with. 
If this happens during Britain's 6 week holiday, how much more likely is it to affect children in France who are away from their lessons for over two months.
One solution is, of course, holiday tuition, particularly in their weak subjects. But if you feel that inflicting schoolwork over the holidays is too mean – or too expensive – it is very easy to slot stealth learning into the holiday timetable without children being aware of it.

Board games are fantastic for exercising the brain (adult brains too!), from Scrabble to Cluedo and, of course, chess. Think, too, of pen and paper games such as hangman and squares, for example. And word games like 20 questions or alphabet games (going through the alphabet naming, in turn, animals or birds or towns or countries etc. beginning with each letter with the person who gets the most under each letter getting a point). 
Puzzle books with Sudokus, easy crosswords, and IQ type tests involving series of shapes or numbers, odd ones out, wordsearch and lateral thinking are also great brain teasers. 
The supermarkets sell age appropriate holiday revision books in lots of subjects; some children may see these as 'work' but many find them fun to do.

Here's some more ideas: 

Board games – from counting squares on a Snakes & Ladders board to the sticks in Kerplunk for little ones to counting out Monopoly money. Simple card games, too, often involve counting.

Bribery: get children to work out the change in the boulangerie, for example, and if they get it right they can keep the money. Or get them to tot up the items in the epicerie with a cash reward if they get it right (be careful in the bigger supermarkets, though, as the prices change constantly so that the check out total may not match what you have counted.)

Invent games such as walking down the street and counting how many car number plates add up to ten. Get them to count your spare change or all the 1 and 2 centime coins dumped on your dressing table. If they get it right they can keep them.  

With older children, set them to cost a week's shopping budget by checking prices against a list or to cost a family outing petrol, entrance fees, ice creams etc. This will help not only with maths but understanding the cost of living.

Once you start to think this way, you will discover hundreds of opportunities for sneaky maths – e.g. I will come and play with you at 4pm, if you can tell me how many minutes away that is…

Especially if f your children are fairly recently arrived in France, within the last couple of years, say, they will need to keep up their French over the summer. If they are not inviting French friends over or going to their houses, the best thing is to sign them up for holiday activities which are well provided and heavily subsidised. Ask at the mairie if you don't know where to find them.

Otherwise, it is well worth subscribing to French television if you don't already have it so that they can watch French children's programmes (this is not only good for their French but means they are watching the same shows as their French friends which is good for integration).

When they watch DVDs, put them on in French. (tip: if you buy DVDs of English language films in France they will generally come in both French and English but if you buy them from the UK, via. Amazon, for example, they will often be in English only).

Yes, children growing up in France need to keep up their written English if they are going to be properly bilingual. Reading English books is obviously important, but so is writing (as opposed to texting) in English.
Buy post cards for them to send them to friends and family back home, telling them what they are up to over the summer. Or keep a holiday scrapbook with daily written entries as well as tickets, photographs etc.
If that sounds too old-fashioned for older kids, turn the scrapbook into a blog with text, pictures and video clips, open to friends and family. ( is free and you can select who has access.)

Play the word games mentioned above in either language or other word games – for example, making as many words as you can out of one long word; going round finding a word which begins with the last letter of the previous word, or a word linked to the previous word such as horse – stable – boy – girl – pink – green – grass – flower etc.

On long journeys, substitute CDs of literary classics, children's or appropriate adult's, for music or video games.

Do you have other ideas for stealth learning? Share them with us at

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