Summer Learning Loss, Summer Brain Drain, The Summer Slide… they are all phrases that refer to the same phenomenon, and they conjure up images of math facts oozing from our kids brains while they play outside.
The idea that students lose skills and knowledge over the summer is not a new one, and it IS a real issue that is well documented. Gary Huggins, chief executive of the National Summer Learning Association, says that studies show that students lose as much as two to three months of math and reading skills over the summer. “Summer is great as a break from school, but it doesn’t have to be a break from learning,” Huggins says.
Summer is an excellent time to work on skills that students didn’t master during the school year, and I encourage you to find a program to help with that. Let someone else worry about the math gaps, reading fluency levels, and writing deficiencies… so that you can spend the summer months doing creative, engaging, relationship-building activities with the kids! Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Let them play. It is so tempting to overschedule our kids, but don’t forget to just let them be kids and play. There is huge educational value in creative, unstructured play… at all ages!
- Chat with them. So much of the conversation during the year is directional, like “Grab your backpack. Don’t forget to brush your teeth. When is the last time you showered?” Take time this summer to have some real conversations to get to know your child better. Ask them questions to see how they view the world, and let them get to know you better too.
- Plan a vacation or outing together. The research and budgeting for a vacation or outing includes all sorts of Valuable skills that kids can practice. For instance, they will be reading for information, and that is an important skill that they need in the classroom. Money and time can also be budgeted, which helps them use math in a real-life experience.
- Write postcards or travel journal. Even if you aren’t on a trip, writing postcards is a fun way for kids to practice both penmanship and planning what to write in a small space. Travel journals encourage kids to think about an analyze different parts of a trip. You can find all sorts of fun ideas online to make a travel journal on your own.
- Schedule Kid Dinner Nights. By the time kids are 10 or 11, they can make simple meals. Give your child a night of the week that is just theirs to figure out. Let them plan the meal, make a shopping list, and prepare for their meal. It would be good to give them a list of meal options so that this isn’t an overwhelming project!
- Try something new. Expose your kids to a new sport, new hobby or new place. Do a little research first so you know something about your new experience before you start. You may all discover that you have an interest that you never knew you had!
- Be nontraditional. Try reading articles or books or ANYTHING, even if it’s not on any reading list. Reading about subjects that intrigue our kids is such a valuable piece to instilling a love of reading. It is also a great way to start meaningful conversations because your kids are much more likely to want to talk about things that interest them.
- Volunteer somewhere. There are so many options. Figure out a cause that your child is passionate about, whether it is animal cruelty, the homeless, or impoverished kids who don’t have sporting equipment. You will be amazed by what your kids can think up as solutions. Encourage them to make a difference.
- Go to outdoor movies. There is just something magical about watching movies outside. Pack up some yummy snacks and drinks and head to an outdoor movie. It makes for great family time together!
- Start a family book club. Choose a book together and have everyone read it on their own. Find some discussion questions about the book online, and plan times to get together and discuss the book together. It is fun to see what different ideas and thoughts come from reading the same book!
- Take Walks. It’s so simple, but so powerful. When you are walking with your kids, you aren’t making direct eye contact, and this makes it much easier for them to open up about important topics. It’s amazing how much more kids will talk on a walk than sitting at a table!
While you can definitely have your children working on skills that they need to improve before the new school year, you can also incorporate all sorts of meaningful, engaging activities that also help reduce summer learning loss. Have fun!