AT THE beginning of each school year, teachers usually spend four to six weeks reviewing material that students forgot during summer vacation.
This phenomenon is known as the "summer slide," and it affects millions of children each year in the United States.
According to research from the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University, students typically lose more than two and a half months of reading and math skills during the summer break. However, there are steps parents can take to prevent the summer slide. Research shows that the more active children are during the summer months, the more likely they are to remember things they learned in school the previous year. Below are some suggestions parents can use to make the most of their children's summer vacation time:
1) Visit the library and give your children a choice from hundreds of free books to read. In addition to having reading lists for children of all ages, the public library offers a summer reading program with weekly activities and incentives to encourage children to read.
2) Encourage children to keep journals of their summer activities or to write stories. Even young children who may not know how to write well yet can still keep a journal or write a story of their own. Have them dictate their stories to you and you write it down for them, or help them with writing it. Have them draw pictures to illustrate their stories or journals.
3) Math may seem like a tougher subject to review over the summer, but math skills are used by everyone in daily life. Parents can help younger children review basic math concepts like counting, addition, and subtraction during typical daily activities. Older children can help parents pay for items and count the change at the grocery store, or do the family’s banking.
4) Take educational trips to parks, the zoo, or the museum. Another idea is to use the Internet to learn. Many museum websites have online exhibits that help children learn about many different things, from art to zoology.
5) Children can learn a lot from just going outside. Go to a local park or on a hike and talk about the different plants and how they grow, and point out the different insects you see. If your park has a stream, look at underwater life.
6) Academics are not the only things that contribute to children's learning and development. Creativity and expression are also a part of learning. Get some crayons and draw together, or sign your child up for summer art or drama camp. For musical activities, listen to music, play some of your favorite songs with your children, make up your own songs, or learn how to play a musical instrument.
7) Summers are great for informal learning as well. If kids are interested in animals or cars, expose them to as much as possible to allow them to become real experts of their hobbies.
8) As always, it’s important to make sure your children get some time outside for free play – whether it's running around in the back yard or a day at the beach. Children need movement and fresh air to develop properly.
Keeping children engaged and learning throughout the summer months will help them retain their academic skills, and they will be more successful in the classroom when school begins again in August.
Elizabeth Hamilton, M.Ed, MA, is a teacher with 22 years of professional experience. You can write to her at successfullearner[at]yahoo.com with your questions or comments.