Ice cream. Splash parks. Swimming pools. Boat rides. Catching fire flies. These are just a few of the things that may come to mind when you think about summer. Summer is a time for rest, relaxation, late nights, long days and lots of fresh air. It can also be a time for something else: summer learning loss, also known as “summer slide.”
While watching kids zip down a slide at the park is fun, this summer slide isn’t the kind of slide we want them going down.
Kirstin Pesola McEachern, Ph.D., is curriculum and instruction director and diversity & inclusion director at The Summit Country Day School in Cincinnati. She agrees that “summer slide” is very real and not what we want for our kids.
“The research is consistent in revealing that students don’t just stay stagnant in the summer; they lose an average of one month of academic gains for each month they are not in school,” McEachern says. “For lower performing and at-risk students, the losses can be even more pronounced.”
So, what do we do? With parents feeling so much pressure today, this has the potential to feel like just one more thing to add to the list. Honestly, it can all be overwhelming. Isn’t summer supposed to be a time for fun? Yes. It is.
And the great news is that summer can be both fun and educational. It doesn’t have to be just one or the other.
For parents who want to engage their children in learning activities during the summer, McEachern said that the best resource is their child’s classroom teacher. “Teachers have the best assessment of where students are and what skill practice is best for them to start the following school year on the right foot,” she says. “Their recommendations can be specific to their school curriculum, too, so students not only stay fresh with skills, but also maintain familiarity with their school’s pedagogical programs. Summer camps with an academic bent and programs at your local library can also be beneficial.”
The question then becomes: How do we find the balance between enjoying the lazy days of summer and allowing kids to just be kids, while at the same time keeping their minds active and engaged to help prevent this learning loss from occurring?
McEachern reminds us that a little work over the summer break goes a long way. “Summer is a time for kids to take a break from their school routine, but such a long vacation should not mean a break from learning,” she says. “Engaging in as little as 10 minutes of skill practice a day in addition to bedtime reading can go a long way in eliminating summer slide. In addition, reading to and with your children is the single best activity you can do, not only to practice decoding and comprehension skills, but also to explore the specific content of the book. Choosing stories that involve math, science and global issues allows you to continue to stoke your child’s curiosity in these subjects.”
Yes, we want our kids to enjoy break — but at the same time, we don’t want them to lose the academic progress and skills they gained over the last school year.
The good news is, summer can be both fun and educational, and you don’t need a daily curriculum to make that happen. There are plenty of resources for parents, and many ways to make learning fun. In fact, a lot of times, a child may be learning and not even realize it. Baking, running a lemonade stand, writing in a journal, typing on a keyboard, using chalk to practice letters, signing up for a summer reading program to earning cool prizes — these are all just a few of the things you can do that combine both fun and education in a way that will keep your child learning and enjoying the relaxing days of summer.
Websites to Help Prevent Summer Slide:
But Why? A Podcast for Curious Kids
Brains On: Science Podcast for Kids