Literacy and numeracy
For literacy, a good starting point is Summertime Reading, a leaflet produced for parents by the National Literacy Trust. The leaflet gives advice on using the Internet for literacy, how you can find out about the world using online resources, as well as giving parents a general guide to supporting their children's reading at home.
For numeracy, Maths Year 2000 has a very useful, parent-friendly website. It has hundreds of ideas for numeracy at home, and you can search its nationwide database of summertime events, some of which sound like fun: for example, the "Spy Mission" family numeracy trail around Chatham's World Naval Base which runs throughout August.
Viewing the Net as a support for children's holiday interests is the best way to ensure literacy and numeracy remains test and stress-free. BBC Online will soon have a wealth of print and audio content updated as things happen. It may be finding the website for the summer blockbuster film - tipped to be Chicken Run from Wallace and Gromit's creator Aardman Animation (see competition on page 5), or sending friends and relatives an electronic postcard. Another idea is writing a few chosen sentences that would be useful abroad, maybe "Where can I buy an ice cream?" and using one of the many free translation websites to turn it into the language of your choice.
Apply a similar approach to numeracy and it becomes using a currency converter to exchange your holiday sterling into US dollars, or calculating the distance from where you live to where you are travelling. Computers are really good at these sorts of flashy sums. Calculators for all manner of things have become almost a utility of the Web and can be found from the homepages of most search engines. Maps abound online too, so there is no reason why everyone in the car should not have their very own copy of where they are heading. As well as maps showing routes, children may want to find historical plans of where they are going. On the Olympics theme, calculating time zones and just when the sun rises and sets over Sydney, is an Internet-friendly exercise.
ICT in school often means sitting at a screen but there is every reason on a balmy summer's evening to view the computer as supporting activities that happen many miles from a electric socket. A word processor can create all sorts of personalised documents to encourage writing and counting. Anything from sheets for a diary with the child's name at the top, to lists to complete for holiday packing, or charts (for recording how many or what you saw on long journeys) can be run off during the last week of term.
No round-up of literacy would be complete without mention of libraries. The big event this summer is the BBC Blue Peter Book Award, running exclusively in almost every library in the UK during August. Children earn "Pokemon"-style cards for each book they read, with six to collect. There is an Olympic medal and commemorative folder for those reaching the finishing line. Readers will then nominate their favourite book for the Blue Peter award, which will be broadcast by the children's TV programme in autumn.
Choosing what to read can be a stumbling block, especially if your local library has a limited selection. This is where online book sites come into their own. With their very extensive stock lists and reader reviews, all searchable by category, children may find just what they want online and can then request it from their library (children pay no library charges for requesting books).
Of the more general sites worth looking at are The Guardian newspaper's new launch, Education Unlimited, Learnfree from The TES's parent company TSL Education, and Freeserve Education. These offer a variety of homework helps, exam primers, general news and educational games.
Debbie Davies is a freelance journalist and author of the BBCWebwise interactive tutorial for online beginners
National Literacy Strategy www.literacytrust.org.uk
Tel: 0207 828 2435. Sumertime Reading leaflet costs pound;5 per 50 copies.
Maths Year 2000 www.mathsyears2000.org
BBC News Online www.bbc.co.uknews
Education Unlimited. www.educationunlimited.co.uk
Freeserve education resources www.freeserve.comlearning
Electronic postcards www.electronicpostcards.netecards.htm
* Search engines: Easy to use translation service and currency
Try Yahoo's reference category for useful links to maps, flags and almanacs such as the Old Farmer's Almanac (www.almanac.com) to find out everything from how old your dog is to how much washing you can safely hang on your washing line.
Better than average search engine providing you with exactly what you are looking for. www.google.com
Compute world time, sunrise and sunset http:www.cmpsolv.comlossunset.html