By Janae Dixon, Virginia529

July 9, 2019

Sunny days, hanging out with friends, trips to the beach—there are a ton of reasons why summer break is your child’s favorite time of the year. But for parents the summer offers a unique challenge. How do you find the balance between letting your child unwind while also helping prepare them for the next academic year? Whether you have a rising kindergartner or a newly minted high school senior, here are some tips for maximizing your child’s fun—and learning—this summer.

Grades K-5, Read a Book 

Research shows that reading just six books during the summer may keep a struggling reader from regressing. If you’re having trouble choosing a book to transform a hesitant reader into a book lover, use a summer reading list from your child’s school or get a list of age-appropriate recommendations from your local library.

Now is a great time to encourage your child to take every opportunity to read, and you can blend quality time with reading (and listening comprehension) skills by reading to your child or reading along with them!

Grades 6-8, Fraction Fun

Math is everywhere—in our workplace, our homes and our personal lives. And while your middle-schooler may not ever want to hear the word “math” over break, they may come around when you show how present it is in their daily lives.

We use math every time we go grocery shopping, whether it’s estimating costs, meal planning or budgeting, so bring your middle school student on your weekly trip. Is there a “4 for $5.99” special? Ask them to break down the cost for one item. Budgeting is another great way to teach your children the importance of saving and planning.

Consider assigning your child sous chef duties by showing them the math involved in baking and cooking. Are you expecting company over the summer? Have your student help you figure out baking times and ingredient portions when you are feeding a larger amount of people. The kitchen is a great learning lab for comparing ratios, using metric measurements and cooking in batches.

Grades 9-12, College-bound

As the parent of a high school student, you may have road trips on the brain these days. The destination? College campuses—large and small, private and public, in-state and out of state. While your child is daydreaming about dorm rooms, talk to them about what they want from college, and what your family can afford before going on campus tours.

Your child’s education is an investment in their future, but it’s also one of the largest purchases you’ll ever make as a parent. All colleges offer multiple forms of financial aid and are required to display an online “net price calculator,” so be transparent with your high school student about what is financially realistic for your family.

During campus tours, families can get a helpful lay of the land. It’s also a great time to have the “talk” with a financial aid representative, where you can learn more about the cost of attendance and the different types of aid available.  Your student may qualify for scholarships, but, at minimum, you should consider completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  Hopefully you’ll be able to talk with the financial aid office about how to best use your 529 plan when paying for your child’s education.

It will take time and money to visit colleges this summer, but with solid research and planning, your child’s dream school can be in reach!

School may be out for the summer, but that doesn’t mean your child has to stop learning. Small, daily learning opportunities can help to prepare them for the next school year, but also for the big discussion of saving for higher education.

Have a happy, healthy and enjoyable summer!


About the Author

Janae Dixon is an intern at Virginia529. Virginia529SM makes education more accessible and affordable for families and individuals. With more than $71 billion in assets under management and 2.7 million accounts as of May 31, 2019, Virginia529 is the largest 529 plan in the nation. For more information on Virginia529’s college savings options, visit or call 1-888-567-0540 to obtain program materials.