Did you know that taking a full break from academics in the summer can result in two to three months of learning loss? This is especially true for students with learning disabilities and ADHD. Therefore, while students certainly need and deserve a break from school in the summer, they must also try to keep up their skills so as not to fall too far behind. Here are a few suggestions on how to keep your child learning during the break.
Provide Structure: Students are used to the structure of school, which stimulates learning with minimal distractions. Unstructured time at home is not as conducive to learning. It is difficult for many families to fit academics into their carefree summer days. Even children who attend day camp generally return home to many hours of free time afterwards. Sleep-away camps usually provide a round-the-clock schedule, but these rarely take up the whole summer. The best way to provide structure during idle hours is with a schedule. I recommend scheduling time for pool and play, reading for pleasure, hands-on educational activities, and even academics with a tutor.
Reading for Pleasure: This is the best way for students to keep up their reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, and spelling skills. Nonfiction will teach them about a topic of interest, historical fiction will teach them about a period of time, and fiction will open their eyes to other types of lifestyles and introduce them to characters that they can relate to. I emphasize that pleasure reading has to be enjoyable and therefore must be picked out by the student. It can be books, magazines, newspapers, graphic novels, etc. E-readers are great because they enable readers to quickly look up vocabulary words while reading. For children who do not read on their own, you can encourage them by taking them to the library and bookstore, and having a daily reading hour at home for all family members. You can also read the same book as your child and discuss it together in a mini book group.
Neighborhood Book Group: When my child was in fourth grade, we started a neighborhood book group for fourth grade girls, led by a creative teacher, in an effort to keep our kids reading. They had so much fun and eagerly continued the book club weekly or biweekly for four years.
Hands-on Educational Activities: These can range from gardening and cooking, to traveling to museums and historic sites. Many of us wish school could be more hands-on, so let’s make up for this deficit in the summer. This is also a great way to bond with your children.
Academics with a Tutor: I know from experience that it is very difficult for parents to get their kids to do math and grammar worksheets in the summer. It is even more difficult to get them to write. This is why a third party, a professional tutor, can come to your house a couple of times a week to work on math, reading, and writing. These are truly “use it or lose it” skills, so your money will be well invested. A tutor can steer students towards topics that pique their interest for reading and writing, and help them find interesting ways to apply math concepts. Ideally, these tutoring sessions should be engaging, stimulating, and fun.
Hopefully, you and your children are enjoying your summer and looking forward to vacations, the beach, and carefree summer days. Learning can be fun, too, so be sure to incorporate it into your summer schedule.
Cheryl Gedzelman is President of Tutoring For Success, which offers home based tutoring, test prep, and academic coaching in the Washington, DC area, www.TutoringForSuccess.com; (703)390-9220