How to prevent summer dumbing down

How to prevent summer dumbing down

I decided to compile some strategies for how to prevent summer dumbing down because whether we like it or not, “summer slide” – that is, the loss of knowledge already learned – is very real. According to stats compiled by OxfordLearning.com, on average, students lose up to 2.6 months' worth of math progress and up to 2 months' worth of reading skills. Those stats don't even take into account other subjects such as history, geography, social studies, science, and countless concepts that build on one another from year to year.

The good news is that summer dumbing down can be stemmed, and kids can improve in just 3-4 hours of learning stimulation a week. It doesn't have to be a daily grind. Just an hour or two every couple of days is enough. The key is how you do it.

Start by identifying where your child needs the most help.

This step is easy – and, truthfully, where many parents waste the most energy and focus. I say waste because the problem with the approach of focusing too strongly in one area is that it can actually be counterproductive.

Here's why: Humans are designed with a great capacity to learn but if frustration and stress are too high, we tend to shut down intellectually and emotionally. No learning happens at that point. It's commonly called a meltdown and even adults are prone to them, although not usually with the screaming and crying. Adults exhibit this through getting “burned out” and feeling like we just cannot make one more decision today. Simply ponder how a long day often leaves you unable to even decide what to do about dinner, and you'll see what I mean. With children, this stress point can happen very quickly when working on areas in which they struggle and feel inadequate. So the key is to remain productive in that area.

Next, identify where your child shines and what they enjoy most.

This step is also easy – and where many parents, unfortunately, tend to expend the least amount of energy and focus. But the logic that it makes no academic sense to work on areas in which the already child excels can also be counterproductive. Denying that sense of accomplishment can result in overall frustration and an aversion to all summer learning.

Here's why: As humans, we naturally gravitate toward activities where we perform well. The positive reinforcement of excelling and enjoyment are very powerful, making learning effortless. But discouraging learning in an area of excellence in favor of direct learning in an area of struggle is a mistake. You'll only foster and feed a sense of failure and inadequacy that will overtake all learning.

How to remain productive and leverage things your kids' love:

First of all, don't make everything in your summer learning about that one area or subject of struggle. Variety is crucial.

Next, leverage that area of effortless learning to create a productive atmosphere for learning in struggle areas. It's easier than you may think. For example, if your child loves Minecraft but struggles with math concepts, there are dozens of learning activities using Minecraft to teach geometry, addition and subtraction, multiplication, area, volume, perimeter, and more. Likewise, if they enjoy art but struggle with writing, have them draw out a story and then verbally describe what is happening. Then work to capture the action with speech bubbles or text underneath. Don't stress if what is written is only a fraction of the story idea. Doing so only curbs creative enthusiasm. Encourage them to add to it a little each time, until everything they want to say is written down.

Finally, don't stress about approaches that don't appear directly academic.

Too often, we tend to look at learning as needing to be pen-to-paper. But learning is happening, I promise! With the world of technology, there are nearly limitless options for improving in almost any subject: online video lessons, games-style applications, instant-feedback interactive programs, and much more.

Many online programs walk your child through concepts, starting wherever they are, and going back over things in a slower, self-set pace. Sometimes all a child needs to “get it” is a different style, a different approach, or a different format, such as using humor to keep concepts from being dry.

One company I highly recommend for young learners is ABCMouse.com. In fact, watch for a super special offer for ABCMouse beginning Thursday, May 24, 2017. It's such a great deal you won't want to miss it!

I also suggest checking out homeschool websites and groups for finding out what is available for summer learning. (You don't need to be a homeschooler to take advantage of their free information.)

Whatever you choose to use, my final piece of advice is to allow your child to help choose what they are going to use. That sense of ownership can go a long way toward necessary motivation throughout the summer.