How to prevent summer education loss
School’s out… and that means that summer education loss (aka summer slide) has begun. Yes, parents, your children may have already forgotten some of what they learned in the classroom. But students that complete even just a few hours a week of learning over summer vacation can beat the summer slide. So you need a plan.
Before you begin, access where each student is on their learning journey. Note where they struggle. For most students, this will tend to center around mathematics and/or reading skills. Next, assess what each student grasps easily and excels in. And, finally, note what areas fall “in the middle” for your student. (Meaning that they aren’t an easy subject but with a small amount of effort, your child does well.)
As you make your plan to help prevent summer education loss, balance will be key. You need to hit on all areas, not just the subjects where your kids struggle. Avoid the temptation to push only those areas, in hopes they will catch up over summer vacation. If a child becomes overly frustrated, learning will shut down. You may even see them seem to regress even further in learning due to a defeated spirit. To help combat this, don’t neglect areas where your child excels, thinking it unnecessary. Having some easier “wins” builds confidence.
It’s human nature to gravitate towards things we excel in and feel good about while avoiding things where we struggle and even feel stupid. Kids will naturally be amiable toward activities they feel confident in doing and resistant to ones where they see only failure. The trick is to present learning activities designed to bolster areas in which they struggle as things they enjoy and are good at. Abandon the concept that learning has to be workbooks and pencil-to-paper.
Here are four fun examples:
If your child likes cooking, allow them to experiment with baking, which uses both mathematics and simple chemistry. Talk about how the measurements in baking need to be precise (math, especially fractions) in order to correctly create tasty treats. Discuss how changes in ingredients can be either chemical (like eggs, flour and sugar becoming cake). Or physical changes (like marshmallows and chocolate melting together into s’mores), which is science.
If your child loves video games but struggles with math, there are dozens of learning activities using games like Minecraft. They help teach geometry, addition and subtraction, multiplication, area, volume, perimeter, and more. For example, have your child build you something in Minecraft that uses specific dimensions or shapes. This allows them to see the math concepts to better grasp them. This is better than trying to understand abstract concepts from a book.
If your child enjoys art but struggles with writing, have them draw out a story and then verbally describe what’s happening. Later work together to capture the action with speech bubbles or text underneath, like a comic book. Don't stress if what is written at first is only a fraction of the story idea. Encourage them to keep adding to it a little at a time, until everything they want to say is written down.
Visit a museum, zoo, county fair or similar place to engage in lively activities and discuss what you’re seeing. Some suggestions are: “act like the animal”, “tell me why you like that painting the best”, or count the number of lamp posts. These are just thought-starters. Allow your kids to come up with the ideas. This will foster creativity and engagement since we naturally are more engaged with ideas we have ownership in.
Finally, consider using technology and rewards to encourage summer learning.
Most kids want to have money to spend on something over summer. The ice cream man is driving by, they want a new game, souvenirs of the family trip… the wants are as diverse as the kids. Instead of just handing out money, make it a game to earn it through learning.
One way is to leverage the nearly limitless online options for improving academics: video lessons, games-style applications, instant-feedback interactive programs, and much more. Some have a cost, some are free. But you don’t have to hunt far on the internet to find them. Sometimes all a child needs to finally have a concept click is a different style, approach or format, such as humor or animations.
To make rewarding them a positive experience, offer varying amounts. The more difficult a subject is, the more they can earn by completing an activity in that subject. By basing it on how much effort they need to put in, you can naturally encourage them to tackle harder subjects. All while preventing summer education loss!