I posted this on my other blog, but I thought it had merit here as well. Authors are parents too.
These are seriously interesting websites where you can stay entertained and learn a few things too. My advice: Write these down. With summer coming up and the kids out of school, they will tell you they are bored. Sign on to one of these sites and let them browse. There is sure to be a ton of things that will interest them.
Library of Congress: www.loc.gov - Currently they have an exhibit of Thomas Jefferson's library. He was one interesting fellow, interested in horticulture, architecture, as well as politics. You can learn about Mayan culture, watch videos, find lesson plans, and LOTS more.
National Archives: www.archives.gov - This site has a lot of information, including some that could help you with your family tree exploration. They have a gift store with reproductions and new items and, seriously, who doesn't want a coffee mug showing Elvis shaking hands with President Nixon?
Smithsonian Institute: www.si.edu - The Smithsonian has a mind boggling amount of information, artifacts, and things to see. There are several museums all together, so if you are into history and are ever in the Washington D.C. area, it would be worth your while, though I understand it could take days to see it all. The site has a video tour conducted by Ben Stiller. For some reason I couldn't open it, but I think I may be missing the latest and greatest software for this.
I've mentioned this before regarding summertime and keeping the kids busy. If your children find a certain topic that interests them, build on that. Take them to your local library and check out books and videos on that subject. Help them make drawings, papier mache items, or other crafts that pertain to the subject. They will have fun and learn something, plus it will keep them busy and keep their minds active over the summer months.
Here's an example of what I mean. You can see the actual Gutenberg Bible online. Get some alphabet stamps (available at almost every craft and toy store). Find a saying or bible verse that your child appreciates. Check out a book on illuminated manuscript and talk about how they were done in the "olden" days. Let them stamp the verse on a piece of paper and then draw and paint or color in designs around the edges like illuminated manuscript. Mat it with construction paper and display it on your refrigerator or frame it. You just kept your kids busy, they learned about illuminated manuscript, they will now have an appreciation for the process and the history of it all, and your child has something to show for what they learned and did all summer. This project might take a couple of days, so you can do several different projects during summer vacation. They may get the bug and want to visit museums or other places of interest for more ideas. If that's too artsy, watch the video of the Wright brothers's first flight at Kitty Hawk. Let them build a model airplane. Or teach them to cut a perfect star in one snip. Then show them America's first flag and let them applique a star onto anything - a pot holder, a tote bag, a shirt. Use your imagination. The possibilities are endless.
I'm a firm believer in teaching them early and fertilizing their minds so they have a desire to gain knowledge for a lifetime. It's like exercising your muscles - and you don't want to neglect that either. Help them keep their brains in shape and they'll do better when school starts in the fall. It's infinitely more valuable and fun than watching tv or playing video games.
For more on this subject, check out the parenting articles at www.anamericanhomaker.blogspot.com for ideas for the summer months.