Summer holidays are fast approaching, and apart from all the practical considerations such as who will take time off work to look after the kids, every parent thinks about the amount of time their child will be away from school or their formal learning settings. Getting back into the swing of things by September is a challenge after lazy days and long lie-ins, but it needn’t be? It’s not always necessary to book your child into a focused event or activity, if you don’t want to do this, there are other ways you can stop summer learning loss.
THE FACTS ABOUT SUMMER LEARNING LOSS
There are some quite important statistics that parents should be aware of regarding the amount of information that has to be recovered after a long school break.
Statistic show that up to 2.6 months of math skills are lost as well as 2 whole months of reading skills during the long summer break.
You should know that it takes only 2-3 hours of focused or structured learning a week, to prevent this huge learning loss. It shouldn’t prove too challenging for most families, to make sure that they allocated some time and energy to supporting the kids during summer and preventing summer learning loss.
TOP WAYS TO STOP SUMMER LEARNING LOSS
Reading, writing and language
Keep up your reading even if it’s just a bedtime story or glancing at magazines that have fun activities, or reading aloud from something online. Reading from the TV during adverts etc. still counts as reading! Keep the vocabulary exchanges going and discuss the things that you are reading to expand the use of vocabulary and consolidate already learned words.
Reading and writing throughout the holidays can be accomplished in lots of ways. If you are planning a trip, let your kids help you by doing online research, reading about places to visit and grade them in order of desirability, recording on paper what they find. Ordering a new item online for summer fun, let them contribute and be involved. Ordering a meal at a restaurant, let your child take the lead and read you items from the menu. It all counts!
Why not play spelling games on long trips where you and your child can try not to use the same word twice, or use ‘sparkly’ descriptive words is a way for them to show off their language skills. Reading, writing or speaking, it will all contribute to retention of what has been learned.
Maths, counting, calculating and measuring
School maths by most kids’ interpretation can be boring and is sometimes difficult. You can make everyday home maths, much more fun. Almost all everyday tasks involve some kind of maths. Set your child some mini challenges such as measuring and weighing when you bake something, counting money when you go shopping, giving them a play fund where they must record what their total money was and deduct what they have spent daily.
Give your child budgeting responsibility, however small. Offer them a fixed total sum for online shopping and let them research and keep adding up so that they don’t overspend on purchases. They will have to make multiple calculations in order to make sure they don’t. If you go on an outing, let your child handle everyone’s budget and keep track of expenses in a super important note book. They can be accountant for the day and they will love the street cred this offers and it will boost maths confidence immensely.
**** WARNING – DON’T POINT OUT MISTAKES, INSTEAD HELP WITH RECALCULATION INSERTING THE CORRECT AMOUNTS AS YOU GO – POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT IS MUCH BETTER THAN CRITICISM.
Give older children the responsibility for helping younger ones so they work in collaboration. Calculate ingredients for fun and games, such as making slime, or play-dough. Help your child set up a weekend stall, where they can sell home-made drinks to other local children, or items they made such as slime.
Let your child plan and monitor the whole process from purchasing ingredients, making the items measuring along the way, and then pricing them as well as working in some profit. That way they can enjoy the fun aspects of the project by being able to buy a treat they really want as a reward for their success. This encourages an entrepreneurial spirit in children as well, so you are really gaining holistically on so many levels.
Socialisation, interaction, collaboration and organisation
Encourage collaborative learning and keep your kids in touch with their friends. It’s important to have some down time and have some fun play dates, where there are no adults permitted, but children also get bored very quickly because the stimulation of school is missing and they run out of ideas for things to do without a little bit of creative input.
If friends are close by, then you can encourage planning a days’ events by everyone taking turns and filling up 1 hour of the day. You can use a timer or a clock if you want things to be really fair, but otherwise let the children decide and collaborate what they want to do after you set things up. Let them consider things like safety, taking breaks in the play to stay hydrated and prepare food to eat healthy, let them consider the organisation required for drop offs to a location, such as packing up bicycles, how many cars are needed etc. All of this work involves a wide variety of skills and will boost your child’s abilities as well as consolidating skills they already have.
Group work, family work and recording processes
One of my daughter’s favourite school areas this year was the micro-society project she undertook at school. Her group ended up making the most profit, was the most organised and retained staff commitment and enthusiasm throughout. You can mirror this at home during summer either between your children or among their friends. Create a mini project, and allocate all necessary planning and resources once the group themselves have ‘elected’ a leader to manage and oversee. You should give minimal input and allow the children to explore all the options only coming to you for final approval and logistical help, if that’s required. This can be extended throughout the summer with all kinds of variables and can fulfil so much in terms of skills and knowledge retention.
Family diaries are also a great way for the whole family to keep records and memories intact from the long holiday time. Everyone can choose to keep a diary in their own way combining methods, such as writing, taking photographs, making colourful drawings or collages, or making a video log with a smart phone or tablet. Plan the project up front, deciding how frequently you will log your activity as well as what is required and how you will present it.
Presentation, confidence building, independent learning, goal setting
Get out that old wallpaper roll and some blue tack or cover a whole wall in your house with sugar paper or roll of creative art paper stuck together. Every family member can add something every day about their day, whether it’s a photo, a rhyme a sticky note, or just a smiley face, either in a collage form, or a time line, depending on what you choose. Make sure to date each contribution.
Encourage your kids that each of you will contribute a ‘secret’ component to the family diary at the end of summer, that nobody else knows is being recorded and that will be presented at a big family lunch towards the end of the break. These will be graded and prizes will be given. You can even choose a prize together in advance, such as an upcoming movie that everyone wants to see, buying entry tickets to an event or even just booking an activity they love, such as swimming or a bike ride.
This gives a mysterious element of fun and secrecy and we all know – kids love to keep secrets. It will also encourage your child to look for alternative ways to gather interesting things and use a whole range of their school learned skills to edit, collaborate, collate and present.
As long as your checklist of skills and attributes contains the following, you should be on the right path to ensuring that you put a halt to summer learning loss for the coming year and make September a relaxing and exciting prospect rather than the anti-climax of summer holidays being over. Whatever is achieved during the summer can always be presented as a project if your child’s school has requested.
CHECKLIST TO KEEP IN MIND WHAT TO ENCOURAGE
- Working independently
- Working collaboratively as a family or in a group of friends
- Initiated play – either by the parents, or the other people that take care of your child
- Guided play
- Directed play
- Expand learning
- Reinforce past learning
- Create a fun daily component spread across the whole summer
- Mark daily learning with fun events and rewards