Growing up, I attended a conventional school throughout my academic life, which is probably not unlike most parents of my generation. Whether you attended a public or private school, the year was more or less structured in a similar manner – we attended classes during the week, lived for the weekends and holidays, and all of our hard work and effort culminated in the big event that never seemed to come soon enough: summer vacation.

Summer vacation was a time to shelve the books, throw the backpacks into the closet, and relax and have fun. The last thing you ever wanted to think about was school work. In fact, by the time classes ended in June, all learning pretty much came to a halt. Now that I'm a parent and a homeschooler, I have to confess, the concept of summer break does makes me scratch my head a bit. Why exactly do kids need to take three months off from learning?

The current educational system is based on the agrarian economy that was prevalent when schools were first created. Many families made their living working the land, and summers were taken off so that kids could help with the summer harvest. That, however, is a bygone era, and today it seems that taking three months off is not only a lost opportunity for kids to learn, but is not a good representation of the modern working world that our kids will eventually be entering.

Now, I am not suggesting that today's over-scheduled kids need more work. However, summer is a long period of time to shut down young minds, and there are some good arguments for keeping their learning humming along during this time: it keeps young minds sharp and in focus, it's a good opportunity for kids to be self-motivated, it will help them to hit the ground running in the fall, it will keep your kids off the couch and away from the TV and video game console, and as difficult it may seem for your kids to fathom, it is a chance to make learning fun.

While that alone should make summer learning worthwhile, the barriers to getting it done are still significant. Here are some tips on how to get it done.

1. Make it Light and Enjoyable

When kids are little, learning is fun and desirable. Years of schooling can diminish this effect, so focus on subjects that they like, find topics that interest them, and take it at a leisurely pace –remembering that little bits of learning add up over time.

2. Be Flexible

Parents should keep in mind that any summer learning that gets done is better than nothing, so don't despair if assignments are missed or if you shift the direction of learning, as long as kids are interested.

3. Let Them Feel Like it's Summer

Summer is a special time for any young person, so let them make the most of the warm weather and spend time with friends. Plan vacations and trips so that they can get a break and create special memories.

4. Avoid Making it Hard Work

Don't overburden your kids and remember that small steps add up and make learning less like a chore. Organize things so that they still have time to play and have fun. Learning is best accomplished when kids are don't feel like they are working at it.

5. Review Last Year's Material

Going over what they've already learned is a good way to reinforce important material while also figuring out strengths and weaknesses. Also, you have a ready-made template for learning, and it will help their confidence in studying material they're familiar with.

6. Connect with Friends and Neighbors

Chances are that you are not alone in wanting your kids to do something enriching over the summer. Finding a group learning activity is a great way to make it more fun and interesting for everyone.

7. Focus on Their Interests

Part of the fun of learning is studying something interesting, and unfortunately, this does not always happen in school. Summer is a good chance for kids to actually choose the subject they'd like to study.

8. Let Them Have Input

When kids have some say in what they're learning, they take it more seriously and are more invested in what they are learning. It sends the important message that their opinions matter and helps builds their confidence and self-esteem.

9. Preview Next Year's Courses

What better way to start the next school year off right than previewing the material over the summer? It doesn't have to be rigorous, and learning just a little bit over three months can give students a leg up when school resumes in the fall.

10. Instill Some Independence

As parents, most of us don't have the time or wherewithal to oversee every aspect of our kid's education, so it's helpful when they have some independence and initiative. Summer learning is a good way to practice this by having them work alone and cover subjects that have meaning for them.