August 12, 2022
Summer vacation is upon us and children across the nation are enjoying relaxing days full of sunshine, play, and endless fun. It is the time of year when school uniforms are traded-in for swimsuits, backpacks are emptied of papers and folders, and school supplies are flung aside not to be seen again until the packing list is emailed to parents in a few short months.
While summer vacation provides a well-deserved break for our hardworking kiddos, this season unfortunately isn’t all about rainbow and unicorn pool floats. It is the time of year when many students will also experience the summer slump, a period when their learning plateaus or regresses and some of the educational gains that they worked so hard to gain over the school year, seem to magically disappear. If these children are not engaged in learning activities such as reading, math, writing, and problem-solving activities, which is often the case over the summer, they may be at even greater risk for summer regression.
The good news is that summer vacation doesn’t necessarily have to mean that learning has to come to a standstill. Education extends beyond the walls of the classroom and there are many ways that you can help your child continue to grow while still experiencing a fun and enjoyable summer break.
Has your child expressed an interest in painting or asked to take karate lessons? Maybe they would like to try their hand at acting or exploring robotics. If so, summer might be the perfect time to try out these new activities. These days, there seems to be a summer camp for just about everything. Camps are a great way for children to sample a sport or class for a week or two without having to make a season-long commitment to that activity. Camps also encourage group cooperation, social learning, and independence. Programs range the gamut in price from really expensive to no cost. Be sure to check out community recreation programs for affordable options.
Another great vacation option for kids is educational summer programming. If you have a child who is struggling or who may need a little extra academic support, you may want to see if your school system offers literacy or tutoring classes. Many of these programs are free of charge and encourage social as well as academic learning. Some also build in fun recreational components such as swimming or art activities.
Lastly, don’t forget to check out your local library. Many of these offer educational groups and activities as well as reading incentive programs where children can earn prizes for reading a set amount of books over break. If your child likes to learn online, libraries may also have free access to educational courses or educational gaming activities.
Learning at home
Learning doesn't have to end when your child leaves the classroom. You know your children best and are probably their best mentor. Home is a fantastic place to practice life skills such as cooking, gardening, and everyday chores.
Summer vacation also provides the perfect opportunity for families to learn together. Why not come together and choose a topic or two that you would all like to learn about? Maybe it is sea creatures, the solar system, or family genealogy. Or take advantage of those long days when the kids are complaining that there is nothing to do and try one of these activities.
- Visit historical sites around your town or while on vacation
- Take an outing to a local history or art museum
- Attend an outdoor summer concert or cultural festival
- Try out a new science experiment or art project
- Write postcards or letters to friends and encourage journaling activities
- Show your child how to read a map and explore a new neighborhood
- Share a favorite book together and take turns reading aloud
- Get outside and explore a new hiking trail
Just like the kids, caregivers are easily susceptible to succumbing to their own summer slide. After all, parents work hard too. We all deserve a break from packing lunchboxes, sitting in long school pick-up lines, and constantly shuttling our children from one after-school activity to the next. While it is ok to bend the rules and relax the schedule a little bit during summer break, it is also important to maintain some of the structure and routine of the regular school year. Not only will this assist in sustaining your child’s academic learning but it will also help to get the kids back on schedule come September. A few ways that you can do this are:
- Keep a consistent bedtime, even if it is a bit later than during the school year
- Encourage a set amount of reading time per day
- Maintain limits on screen time (including gaming)
- Provide and encourage opportunities for social interactions
While the best way of dealing with the summer slide is prevention, the reality of the situation is that sometimes it happens. Fortunately, many school districts build in beginning-of-year baseline assessments so that teachers are able to see where each student is and where they need to be going. If you discover that your child has experienced regression over the summer, talk to his/her teacher about ways that you can help them at home. It may be as simple as getting back to a structured routine or perhaps your child may benefit from a little extra academic support in the new school year. Also, help your child to be excited about the new academic year and all of the new things that they will be learning. Draw on fun things that you did over the summer and work a few into your child’s school year routine. Lastly, look back on the summer and take note of what worked and what did not work for your child. Although it seems a long way away, the next summer vacation will be upon us before we know it and you will have another opportunity to prevent the summer slump.