As kids bid farewell to another school year, they dream of days filled with family, friends, freedom, and fun. However, students of all grade levels can fall two to three months behind in their academic skills if they spend their summers doing nothing but having fun.
Summer learning loss refers to a child’s tendency to lose part of the skills and knowledge acquired over the school year while they are out of school for the summer.
In fact, studies have shown that during summer break, students fall behind an average of one month. When they come back to school in the fall, educators spend the first few weeks reviewing in order to get them back on track.
Summer learning loss is a well-documented phenomenon that’s been recognized and studied by numerous credible education and health care organizations. And it’s not a new issue. Educators have known about summer learning loss for over a century. Now there is widespread concern that the pandemic could exacerbate this problem.
Even though summer learning loss is factored into the public school curriculum, many pupils experience long-term repercussions. A John Hopkins University study conducted by sociologist Karl Alexander and his team over a period of 25 years showed a link between summer learning loss and long-term academic success. According to Alexander, what happens over the summer break during elementary school years accounts for two-thirds of the academic achievement gap between underprivileged students and their more advantaged peers in ninth grade.
The good news is that research also shows that parents can help reduce summer learning loss and ensure that their kids will have an easy time getting back on track when it’s time to return to school.
Make a Plan
To help your child stay on track, you’ll first want to come up with a schedule so they can still have fun but also set aside a little bit of time for learning activities. You can make a calendar and plan an activity for each day or a few times per week.
This creates a visual countdown to the start of the school year that’s easy to follow. Rather than giving them a long to-do list for the entire summer, it’s better to let them focus on one day at a time.
The activities will depend on your child’s age. Younger kids will need simple and fun activities like sorting and counting objects, writing short notes for you and doing crafts. Older students can do more complex activities involving reading, writing and math, but they should still be fun.
If you’re not sure what activities to plan, you can talk to their teachers. They can help you come with ideas that align with the school’s curriculum and the topics your child has the most trouble with.
Take Your Kids on Field Trips
Kids learn the most from hands-on activities, especially if you’re there to help them make sense of what they see. Let’s take museums, for example. One study found that kids who visited museums were able to learn more about the things they saw when their parents asked them open-ended questions during the visit.
Kids consolidate what they learn by talking about it, so encouraging them to share their impressions will not only help them develop their vocabulary and communication skills but also retention.
If you don’t have that much time to take your kids on field trips during the summer, you can sign them up for a day camp. Most camps include activities meant to strengthen academic skills, and you can choose them based on topic. STEM summer camps are very popular since their goal is to stimulate children’s interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Reading is one of the top areas where students lose skills over the summer break.
Luckily, there are numerous strategies you can use to motivate your child to read during their summer break and actually enjoy it. One would be starting a book club for them. This will give them a chance to discuss the books they read with their friends, which will also help them develop their language and communication skills. And even if it’s not possible to have the book club meetings in person, you can use videoconferencing software like Zoom or Skype.
You can also integrate reading into family time by taking turns reading to each other. To make it more fun, you can act out the stories you’re reading and have your kids think of alternative endings, sequels and prequels. This improves their reading skills, increases their vocabulary, encourages them to think critically and fosters their imagination, all in a playful way.
Writing is another valuable skill that you can help your kids with during the summer break. These days, students spend more time typing on laptops and mobile devices, so you’ll need to pay special attention to handwriting.
If your children are very young, you can have them write you short notes, which will be enough to practice their motor skills and review basic sentence structure. For older kids, you can encourage them to keep a journal or write short stories on topics they’re interested in, like exploring outer space, dinosaurs, pets or camping.
You can also take photos or cut out pictures from old magazines and try to connect them into a story with short captions. This can work for younger kids as well because you can adjust the length and complexity of the caption according to their grade level.
Studies show that during the summer break, children can lose between 25% and 50% of the math skills they learned throughout the school year.
While most children will not see this as the most enjoyable way to spend their summer break, working on some math problems a few times per week will go a long way in keeping their skills from getting rusty. It’s highly unlikely that they’ll start doing this on their own, so you’ll have to be the one that motivates them.
There are ways to make this fun for them, so they won’t start to see it as a tedious series of chores. You can integrate math problems into stories, and there are also lots of free or very affordable apps on both iOS and Android that turn math into a game full of challenges and rewards.