While summer is the perfect time to be outdoors and let children run around and play, it’s also a great time to continue learning outside the classroom. The minds of children are hard at work learning during the school year and keeping them mentally stimulated in the summer is important to retain their new knowledge.
We tapped high school teacher and mom Haley Lussenden (haleyknows.com) for some great tips on how to combat the summer slide for children of all ages.
What exactly is “summer slide”?
Summer slide refers to the tendency of students to lose some of the achievement gains they’ve made during the previous school year. The reasons why this happens largely come down to lack of resources and awareness.
So how can our kids avoid this?
The biggest preventative measure for summer slide, hands down, is parental involvement. If parents don't prioritize learning during the summer, kids often gravitate towards video games and social media. One of the easiest ways parents can encourage learning over the summer is to lead by example. If your kids see you reading for pleasure or working through the math to determine the number of tomato plants that will fit in your garden, they’ll be far more likely to exhibit similar behaviors.
How do you make learning interesting in the summertime?
My rule for summer learning is to keep it light and fun. There are so many things fighting for your child's attention over the summer, and learning needs to be carefully integrated to get him excited about it. This can involve reading books about animals before taking a trip to the zoo, or asking your older child to help you budget your family road trip based on the average cost of gas, projected speed and distance to be traveled. Kids often tune out if the lesson doesn't feel relevant to real life or their own experience, so get creative when planting educational opportunities into your child's day.
Another summer learning opportunity—which also incorporates giving back—is to keep kids connected to their school with a smart and fun summer fundraiser. You could, for example, request a bag from fundraising/reseller site Schoola [whose founder is a former school principal and mom], fill it with gently used kids’ and women’s clothing, and return it to them. Forty percent of the sale of the items (less the cost of inbound shipping) will go directly back to your school for programs like art and music.
Do you offer age-by-age summer learning advice?
Learning needs to be tailored not only to different age groups, but also to the individual child. Making learning fun and engaging for kids means finding the right material or plan just for them. I suggest a visit to your local library, where you invite your child to check out different types of books. Crafting books, graphic novels, short stories and other light reading materials can drive home the “reading is fun” message. Do a Google search for book suggestions or homeschooling resources for your child's grade or age. There are a wealth of free online resources to help parents encourage learning.
What about kids going into kindergarten—how can we prepare them for school?
A great thing parents can do is to encourage critical thinking skills early. Rather than spoon-feed information to your child, it’s best to encourage him to find answers or develop questions. Next time you read a new book to your child, for example, before turning the page ask, “What do you think will happen next?” or “What would you do in this situation?” Fostering critical thinking skills early will benefit kids their entire life.
Where can parents find resources for summer learning?
There’s no better resource for summer learning than your public library. Sadly, statistics show attendance at libraries rapidly declining, which is a shame! Local libraries have taken huge strides in recent years to provide valuable resources in the wake of home computers and smartphones. For example, most public libraries now allow patrons to check out e-books and visit databases, like the ancestry.com archives, for free. Also, khanacademy.org is an amazing free online resource of video lessons that appeal to children and adults. Another recommendation: teacherspayteachers.com, which has numerous free and low costs teaching resources created by teachers that are available for download.
Gennifer Rose is community and content specialist for Schoola. Her favorite school memories are of doing art and craft projects at her bilingual (English and Spanish) elementary school. She enjoyed making paper mache piñatas for Cinco de Mayo, sugar skulls for Dia de los Muertos and Mexican fiesta lanterns. Her love of handmade goods continues to this day and remains one of her favorite pastimes.
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