The Reality of Summer Learning Loss and What You Can Do to Stop It
For most adults, summertime brings back childhood memories of family vacations, swimming in the neighborhood pool, or chasing the ice cream truck down the street. It’s great to reminisce about all the fun things you did over the summer as a kid, but have you ever tried to think about what you forgot? According to a study conducted by the RAND Corporation in 2011, students lose approximately one month of math and reading knowledge during summer vacation. Luckily, there are many options for parents who want to create a bridge from June to September that doesn’t involve worksheets and vocabulary lists. A child’s brain needs stimulation in order to grow and it’s important to show your child that learning is something that takes place everywhere – not just in the classroom.
Summer learning loss is a topic that has been well researched and documented over the last several decades yet school districts have been slow to adjust the traditional calendar to address the needs of students. A two month break from school forces teachers to spend valuable time re-establishing classroom procedures, administering diagnostic tests, and reviewing academic material that students have forgotten. Research has also shown that the growing population of English language learners falls even further behind their classmates when they return to school the following year. In spite of this information, only 10% of public schools follow a year round schedule that shortens summer break and spreads out vacations over the course of the year. So what can you do to make sure that your child continues moving forward instead of becoming another victim of the “summer slide?” Finding productive activities for children during the summer months isn’t as challenging as it might first appear.
Opportunities for learning are all around us. Follow a recipe to bake a cake and use measuring cups to teach your child about fractions and quantities. Plant a garden in your backyard and turn it into a lesson about nature, weather, and the life cycle of vegetables. Set up an art studio in your living room and watch as your child learns about colors through painting. Most communities are full of affordable (or free!) stimulating resources that parents can take advantage of. Go on a trip to the zoo and take turns reading signs and identifying animals. Visit your local library often and let your child pick out a book to read to you. Spend an afternoon at a park, museum, or aquarium and simply allow your child to explore. Later that evening, ask him to write a story or draw a picture about what he saw.
To meet the needs of parents who want to ensure that their children continue learning year round, many summer camps are moving away from capture the flag, basket weaving, and sing-alongs. This new brand of academic summer camps focus on hands on learning experiences in a specific subject area and also offer the opportunity for children to interact with peers in their age group. Do you have a future marine biologist at home? Scientist? Artist? Computer whiz? Musician? No matter what your child’s passion is, there are camps out there that will pique his or her interest while developing critical thinking skills, building academic confidence, and encouraging creativity that will carry over into the classroom next fall. Make sure to do your research because different camps will have different educational philosophies. Additionally, some camps will provide feedback to parents about what campers do on a daily basis.
Another way to stimulate the mind of your child during the summertime is through the use of technology. Fortunately for parents, technology is more accessible and affordable than ever, making it possible for children to learn at home through interactive educational apps. Some games have become so advanced that they respond to your child’s performance by increasing difficulty as certain skills are mastered. One app in particular, Agnitus, stands out from the rest because it provides detailed report cards to parents that show their child’s progress in specific areas. Parents who want to keep their children learning over the summer would be wise to use learning apps to introduce academic concepts through visually stimulating and engaging games.
By Matt Freid