We’re not big on workbooks and drill-and-skill flashcards. But we’ve always tried to incorporate plenty of reading and other educational activities into their lives during summer break so they can return to school ready for the next grade.
For example, our family recently went on a day trip to Pioneer Farm Museum and Ohop Indian Village near Eatonville.
The entire day was basically a giant history lesson disguised as hours of fun, 1880s activities such as caring for animals, using blacksmithing tools and churning cream for butter. There was a little reading, too: Our oldest son loved reading the long list of rules for pioneer children and teachers that was on display in the one-room schoolhouse.
Research shows that kids are prone to losing academic skills and knowledge during July and August. In academia, it’s known as the “summer slide,” and it can be a huge factor in the achievement gap between wealthy and poor kids. As a result, teachers spend a significant amount of time re-teaching previous material because of the summer learning loss.
Sixty-six percent of teachers polled reported they spend three to four weeks re-teaching the previous year’s skills at the beginning of the school year, according to survey conducted by the National Summer Learning Association. And nearly a quarter of the teachers surveyed reported they spend five weeks or more re-teaching material from the lower grade level.
Here are eight ways to help your child avoid the “summer slide.”
1. Visit the library. Most libraries have summer programs in which kids can earn prizes for reading.
“Summer is a time when kids and teens can dig into things they’re interested in,” said Ellen Duffy, youth services coordinator for the Timberland Regional Library system. “Even more than helping kids gain and maintain reading skills, the library is about keeping the excitement about reading and learning and life alive and active. It’s about giving kids and teens opportunities to explore, to play, to make friends — to discover new characters and places in books.”
2. Encourage your kids to turn off the television, get outside and play with friends. If supervision is a concern, check with your local parks and recreation department for a playground program.
3. Keep healthful snacks around the house. Kids — especially those who are at risk of obesity — gain more weight during the summer, mostly due to snacking and lack of exercise. Registered dietitian and nutrition expert Keri Glassman has a wonderful list of healthful snacks for kids (including mini-pizzas and banana ice cream) at nutritiouslife.com/kids-zone/.
4. Find a low-cost or free summer feeding program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service program provides meals for kids who receive free- and reduced-price meals during the school year. For more information, call 866-348-6479 or go to whyhunger.org/findfood.
5. Give math meaning. There are plenty of ways kids can practice math around the house, from using fractions while cooking to tracking daily temperatures. For more everyday activities that reinforce math and other economic skills, go to familyeducation.com and click on “Stop Summer Brain Drain.”
6. Play board and card games. Many games encourage counting, strategy and problem-solving.
7. Create art. Keep those fine motor skills and creative juices in tune through art. Pick up a craft kit, consider signing your child up for an art class, or simply break out the sidewalk chalk on a sunny day.
8. Don’t forget communication skills. Suggest your child to keep a journal or write letters to loved ones. (Yes, the Postal Service is still operating, and using it might be a good way to sneak in a social studies lesson, too.)
Staff writer Lisa Pemberton is one busy mama with three young children. She can be reached at 360-754-5433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.