Julie from Julieverse is a former teacher and discusses whether parents should be concerned about “The Summer Slide” and forgetting what was learned during the school year. She then features ways to keep kids educated the fun way during the summer.
I remember pulling out of my high school parking lot blasting the GoGo’s Vacation. Finals were over, and summer had begun. A time for play. Sprinklers, swimming pools, popsicles, and country fairs. Road trips, camps, beaches, and baseball games. School? Toss those notebooks in the trash. Forget everything we learned. Right?
Well, not really. Sure, it’s nice as a tween or teen to believe there’s no schooling in summer, but in reality, schooling exists throughout one’s life. While giving tours of my college campus to prospective families, one of my favorite thoughts to share with prospective families was that only 1/2 of our education is academic. The other half occurs as we grow.
As parents, we know that education in growing begins at birth. We’ve read the books and been prepped on eye contact, classical music, and reading board books. We recognize that every interaction is educational. What we may not recognize is that this education continues beyond babyhood.
Education, being only 1/2 academic, occurs at all ages. Education occurs when one pays for a candy bar and receives change when a child recognizes a “STOP” sign or realizes directions to his playdate before he gets there. It occurs when a tween page through a bopper magazine or a high schooler makes a decision. Education is around 100% of the time.
But academic schooling doesn’t have to be around, especially in the summer. It’s often by choice. In 6th grade at summer camp, I was terribly jealous of my friends who had summer reading requirements. They unpacked their bags and filled their shelves with intelligent classics and thought-provoking fiction. I humbly turned to my shelf and perused the selection of teen novels. Their schools had recognized something mine hadn’t: that encouraging the children to read during the summer encouraged their academics even at a time that academia isn’t surrounding them. Did those friends look at my shelf and snicker? Or were they filled with jealousy that I could select my own reading?
Research has shown that kids who do not further their academic learning throughout vacation are said to lose 1 month of academic learning from the school year. Meaning that teachers are then pressed to re-educate about the 1-month worth of lessons so that the children can catch up to where they left off. Does every child lose this much? Not likely. In fact, simply by encouraging kids to learn something new, parents are helping to prevent this so-called “summer slide” and may even promote a step or two up the “learning ladder.”
Beyond worksheets: How to teach your kids naturally
As a teacher, I provided my students with a packet of busy work each summer. But always encouraged their parents to be more creative in their summer schooling. There is so much more in education beyond the worksheets and drills. Some ideas to incorporate fun in your family learning:
- Hit the library and participate in a summer reading club. Kids love the rewards and the schedule. Let them select the book they want to read and encourage a regular reading routine. Discuss the books he reads to show your interest in his reading. More reading club activities are listed here.
- Go on a nature walk and discuss findings. Help your child to learn more about the items he finds on the walk. Create an ABC book about your walk-through collections, drawings, or photography.
- Don’t solve all the problems your child has. Problem-solving is a key area of education. Allow him to think through a problem and come up with the best solution on his own. Sure, it may take longer and be more frustrating, but by allowing kids to problem solve, you’re offering a lifelong skill.
- Ask your child for help at the store. For example, do your grocery shopping with a partner: have him estimate how many items you’re purchasing or how much the groceries will cost. For older kids, pair them up and give them their own list so that they’ll have to navigate the store and find products as a team. At the mall, give her the money to pay for a t-shirt purchase and make sure she counts the change.
- On a road trip, bring along an extra map and allow your child to find areas of interest as well as map out your drive. Also, play games, rather than watching another DVD. Games like “I’m going on a picnic and bringing…” help children with categorization, alphabetical order, and memory. Challenge each other to math problems, rhyming, and alteration games. Write a song together.
- Before your next vacation, purchase Visa Gift Cards in small denominations for souvenir money. Bring along a piece of paper and a pencil so that they can learn to budget their own money. Or offer them an incentive for not spending it all. Here’s how we taught our child the value of his souvenir money when he was seven.
- Play at a park or carnival. Kids can learn about prioritizing, budgeting (tickets and money), social skills, and more. Always be at the ready with exploratory questions such as “how high do you think that is?” and “how many people do you estimate the Ferris Wheel can hold?” then “Let’s see… if there are 2 people in each seat on the Ferris Wheel, let’s count by twos and see how close we are to our estimation.”
Education isn’t just about sitting at a desk, pencil in hand, and performing busy-work tasks. Take advantage of your everyday life this summer and start learning together.
Read More: Learning naturally to combat the summer slide.
This post is in response to the Y! Motherboard’s topic of the month: The Summer Slide. For great suggestions on fun summer activities, visit Shine and get the low down on a variety of topics surrounding all-things-summer.