For 60 days most children are out of school enjoying the “Dog Days” of summer. They spend their time playing poolside and outside until the streetlights come on or until they’re exhausted every single day. School is the furthest thing from their minds and many parents are thankful for the break in the “grind” of preparing for school.
While the summertime may be a great time for kids and parents socially, the effects of being out of school for at least two months straight has its effects on children. According to Learning Today, children from lower-income families tend to show a drop of nearly three months of grade level equivalency each year during the summer, when compared to just a one-month loss by middle-income students. If you add that lose of information over a time period our children can find themselves at a serious disadvantage when school starts in the Fall.
Many parents complain that attempting to have a modified school schedule is not only stressful but can be confusing because of the ever changing curriculums being presented in schools. In the 10 years I’ve been in public education I have found some reliable, research based methods to help parents fill in the learning gap of the summer. So what can a parent do to keep their child “academically sound” without having a full out school day during summer break?
Here are 4 economical ways to keep kids academically accountable in the summer without causing their parents unnecessary headaches:
1. Utilize online programs to refresh skills learned this past academic year and get a “heads up” on skills for the upcoming year. In this day and age there are hundreds of programs that give children (and parents) the ability to practice on skills learned during the school year. Many (if not all) of these programs are self paced, and can be easily crafted to meet various learning levels and students with disabilities. While the majority of the sites (Internet 4 the Classroom, Triple A Math, Cool Math, Brain Pop) are free there are sites (Study Island and IXL)where you pay a simple subscription fee for a calendar year.
Every summer I make my son get on any one of these sites for an hour and just review material. After a while he forgets he’s learning and stays on longer because he’s having fun! I can view what he’s doing online through the reporting features and everyone is happy. None of these sites are boring but instead use games, videos and real time interaction to reinforce standards and keep students engaged.
2. Parents can utilize local museums and academic summer camps to keep academic skills on (or above) a student’s current grade level. Starting in January and February of each year, local museums, schools, organizations and camps start to release their summer camp schedules. Take advantage and sign up early to avoid camp rosters filling up quickly. If money is an issue,many places even offer scholarships for full or partial tuition for the summer.
The first year I moved to Georgia, I made the mistake of putting off registering for summer camps and unfortunately by May all of my top choices were full. After I learned that lesson, I began to research 6 months out to make sure we got into the camp we wanted to attend!
3. Parents can sign up for reading programs at your local public libraries– for free. Every summer local libraries offer reading programs that reward kids based on the amount of books they read during the summer. This is a great way to not only increase your child’s reading fluency but move them several reading levels in a short amount of time. Many of the local libraries even offer a daily story time for kids!
When my son was in elementary school every week we’d visit our local library and get 5-10 books to read for the week! The library was almost always deserted so we had time to browse and really enjoy the library as a calm, serene place. For every 5 books he read he received a gift card for a local restaurant and by the end of the summer he’d moved 2 grade levels in reading!
4. Explore research programs run by local agencies that aim to remediate or teach new skills for the upcoming year. All over the United States you can find programs run by community based groups (think Big Brothers Big Sisters) or the local school district whose objective is to help “fill in the gap” left by the summer. Many of these programs are free but highly competitive to get into. Call your local school district and inquire about the process to apply before the deadline.
For the past two years, I’ve gotten my son into a pretty competitive program at a local private school –for free. He was admitted due to his grades and conduct in school and each summer they teach the upcoming school year with a particular focus on Math and Science. When he starts school in the Fall the material is not new–he’s already had it! Every year that he has completed the program he’s been placed in Honor classes. Despite me having to apply in March and go back and forth to interview, I believe the program was well worth it!
The summer is a crucial time for all children to retain their knowledge . Take 1-2 hours a day to reinforce what your child learned this year using one of the skills listed above and make sure we don’t leave any of our children behind this summer.
What do you do to make sure your children are learning throughout the summer?