Pre-parenthood, if you told me I would need to look out for the “summer slide,” I would have assumed you were referring to the dance you did at your cousin’s wedding last week. As a parent, I learned all too well that the summer slide refers to a decline in a child’s academic performance during the summer break from school.
The “summer slide,” otherwise known as summer learning loss, disproportionately impacts children who are already academically behind and socially disadvantaged. The majority of students at Vista Del Mar fall into one or both of these categories. Children with a learning disability are also vulnerable to falling further behind without the specialized support they receive throughout the school year.
Complicating the issue of learning loss and the urgency to combat it is that students and teachers across America are still recovering from the deterioration of academic skills caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. So while the summer slide has always been problematic, these new challenges further accentuate learning loss and the need to address it. Unfortunately, the burden to keep up on catching up once again falls especially hard on economically disadvantaged students and their families.
A recent study by professors at Harvard and the University of Virginia reports that more than half of the gap in reading scores between 9th graders from under-resourced families and their more affluent peers is attributed to differences in summer learning accumulated between the first and fifth grades.
Thankfully there are ways to mitigate the effects of this learning loss while still honoring the ample pro-social opportunities provided by the summertime break from school. The key to maintaining a child’s scholastic skills while not hampering summer fun is to find creative and entertaining ways to consistently incorporate math, reading, and writing skills in everyday activities.
Though it may not seem as fun as streaming (for the tenth time) their favorite series, working on just three to four math problems per day can help students keep their math skills sharp during the summer month. To accomplish this task, consider adding math challenges to your daily calendar. Keep your budding mathlete motivated by checking off the completed problems at the end of the day, and each week add a more challenging level of problems to solve. Need help coming up with new math obstacles? Don’t worry, there are plenty of free math resources and workouts online, or you can purchase a math workbook for your child’s academic level at most bookstores.
Another great tool in making may a game is by utilizing g a simple deck of playing cards as a fast-paced learning game for both younger and older learners. One of my favorite playing card math games has two children pair up, one person flips two cards from the deck. The first student to correctly multiply (or add, depending on what you want to practice) and call out the answer wins and takes both cards. The play continues until all the cards are gone, and the winner is the one with the most cards.
Another idea, if your child is more of an extravert, is to make a math-themed TikTok solving problems as part of the choreography or play mathematical charades. Mathematical charades involve children acting out mathematical terminologies such as divide, sum, column, and database.
Another enjoyable way to incorporate math skills is spending time outside, counting up components of the environment such as on a grocery store trip, at the library, post office, or just walking around their home or neighborhood. For a child with autism, researchers share that one of the best ways to reduce sensory overload while reinforcing your space studies is identifying celestial objects in the night sky away from bright city lights. Look for the moon and Venus, as well as constellations such as Orion and the Big Dipper.
Working on just a few problems daily can help students of all ages close the gaps in their math skills, maintain what they learned during the previous school year, and prepare to succeed next year.
Implementing literacy practice can be as easy as adding a few literacy-rich activities into your summer schedule.
- Make reading a part of your child’s day by scheduling a designated reading time each day. Penciling in a consistent reading time (ie: around lunch or bedtime) may help a child to establish a healthy new precedent throughout their life.
- Be an example – Children learn what they see, and what better way for them to learn to love literacy than by seeing their parents reading or even seeing their parents get excited about reading!
- Take an invested interest in what they are reading. By talking to your children about what they are reading you can promote and expand their investment in the reading material. Ask questions about what they are reading such as: “What is happening in the story? Tell me about the characters. What do you hope happens? How would you change the story, if you could?” Open dialogue about reading helps strengthen comprehension, reasoning, and interest.
- The Library is your friend. Few places can provide an entertaining indoor option on a smoldering hot day quite like a library. Visiting the public library is a great way to get everyone out of the house, benefit from some air conditioning, present a chance for children to make choices, and exercise their brains! It’s free, and when children explore books or other materials at the library, they’re empowered by their imaginations. While you’re at the library, don’t forget to sign up for their annual summer reading program. Many public libraries offer programs with incentives for children to read.
- Motivate your child by joining a free reading challenge. Scholastic® hosts a free online reading challenge called Read-a-Palooza. Kids can log on during the 18-week challenge and enter their number of minutes read to earn digital rewards. They can view a map that tracks the minutes of participating schools, libraries, or community partner programs.
- During summer break, kids can benefit from creative writing projects or simply summarizing text that they’ve practiced reading. Even writing text in the form of emails or text messages can help strengthen literacy skills.
For families of children with special needs and other challenges, maintaining a routine during the summer can be vital to ensure skills learned during the school year. When consistency is established, so is a sense of stability. For a child who thrives in a structured environment creating this level of stability can help them thrive all summer long.
Try establishing a daily schedule that includes designated time for different activities such as play times, appointments, self-care routines, and meal times. Establishing this schedule can help your child regularly practice the skills they developed throughout the school year. Presenting your child with a visual schedule will set their expectations for the day and offer opportunities to encourage independent action as these routines become more and more familiar.
The summer break provides ample opportunities for unique learning opportunities that offer both a fun and meaningful experience for your child. Educators and parents can plan to ensure that a game plan for consistent review is put in place at the end of the school year. Digital and tangible materials such as worksheets can be provided to parents so a priority list of reviewed materials is established.
Model what you want to see: First and foremost, never forget that you are a role model. Children will do what they see the adults around them do. Summer is the perfect time for you to reduce screen time and increase time reading, writing, taking walks, playing games, or having conversations.
Parents, we’ve been through a lot, and by a lot I mean a pandemic. It hasn’t been easy for you or your child. Recognize that opportunities to review academic skills also provide opportunities for connection and meaningful one-on-one time. From all of us at Vista Del Mar, we hope you have a fulfilling and rewarding conclusion to your summer break.