Summer is the time for children to be carefree; they can stop thinking about spelling lists and algebra problems and start thinking of lemonade stands and bicycle races. While summer does have its share of relaxing moments, unfortunately for many kids, all of that relaxation leads to dreaded summer learning loss. In fact, the National Summer Learning Loss Association indicates that students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in math alone over the summer. What can you do to avoid summer learning loss for your kids? Here are some practical tips to help:
1. Assess the Learning Need
If you still have contact with your child’s teacher, find out what your child’s learning needs are. Are there certain skills that she needs help with? Are her reading skills up to par for her grade level? If you find a specific area of concern, focus your summer efforts on that area.
2. Have Kids Read (the Right) Books
Over the summer, you likely take your children to the library to stock up on reading material. That’s a great first step, but it’s important that your kids aren’t just reading, but that they are reading books that challenge them. Unfortunately, kids tend to pick books that are at or below their reading level and avoid a challenge when left on their own. Try to strike a balance between books the child chooses independently and books you help her choose that will be challenging.
3. Play with Math
Math can be boring, especially if your child’s experience with math is simply flashcards and worksheets. Pick some math board games that will help create a very strong sense of numbers for your child. Then, consider using apps that keep kids engaged and interested while working on basic math practices. Introduce tangrams, pattern blocks and other hands-on manipulatives that are interactive, fun and educational.
4. Have Structured Math Practice
Having fun with math is great, but you also need structured math practice to protect your kids from learning loss in this crucial subject. Use the tools at your disposal, like the computer or tablet, to keep the fun level high, but make sure your child is reviewing basic math facts. Even completing just five to 10 grade-level math problems a few times per week can make a big difference, according to Dr. Ruth Peters.
5. Use Local Resources
What local learning resources does your community have? Museums, zoos and even forest preserves can present learning activities, if you use them well. Don’t just tour the museum, take time to read the information and discuss it with your child.
6. Motivate with Screen Time
Instead of telling your children “no” to screen time, consider using it as a motivator. Tell them they can watch TV after they have read two chapters in their book or done their math problems for the day. You can even make a list of eight to 10 activities that the child has to complete before using the computer or watching TV. The list can include educational items or exercise and chores — depending on your goals for your child.
7. Explore Interests
Does your child love dinosaurs or horses? This is a great time to delve into that interest a little more. The school curriculum may not have time for a learning unit on horses, but you can take your daughter to a horse camp or spend a day at a ranch. Figure out what your child’s interests are, and find a way to explore that over the summer.
8. Utilize Summer Learning Camps
Summer learning camps are a valuable tool to help limit learning loss and make summer learning fun. Everything from writing and performing arts to math and science is available in a camp format. Consider, for instance, your local science or children’s museum, which likely offers a STEM-based camp that can make learning interesting and engaging.
9. Read Together
Choose a chapter book series that is of interest to your children and read together. You will push their vocabulary and understanding while also bonding. Often kids can listen to books that are beyond their reading level, but Reading Is Fundamental indicates it will stretch their understanding and encourage them to improve their own reading skills.
10. Play Word Games
Do you remember Mad Libs? As funny as they are, they present an opportunity to practice grammar skills. All of those adjectives and adverbs your child is spouting are reinforcing grammar concepts. For younger kids, practice rhyming and finding synonyms. Word games also help grow vocabulary in a fun way.
Summer learning loss is a real problem. While your kids have earned and do need a chance to relax a bit, don’t let them lose all they have learned this past school year. With these strategies, you can combat the dreaded learning loss.