Written by A Guest Blogger
Research has shown that the long summer holidays can be detrimental to kids’ learning. So how can we all work together to beat the dreaded “Summer Slump”?
The “Summer Slump” refers to the fact that children’s academic performance tends to dip over the long break. Numerous studies have shown that students score lower on standardised tests at the start of the new school year than they did at the end of the previous one – even if they are taking exactly the same test! It’s thought that, on average, students will lose at least a month’s worth of learning over the summer; although this can vary depending on subject, age and family demographic.
The good news is that the “summer learning loss” isn’t inevitable. Nor is it particularly difficult to beat. It’s really just a question of parents, carers and children sitting down together and planning how to make the best of the summer break.
Over the holidays children don’t need to be doing the same learning that they do at school, but they do need to be engaged in some learning. Of course, they also need to have a break, but that doesn’t mean simply turning their brains off! They can recharge, have fun, be kids and keep their brains active. Everyone’s end goal is to make sure that they return in September ready to face the fun and challenges of a new school year – rather than scrambling to get themselves back to where they left off.
There is plenty that can be done over the summer to ensure that children go back to school ready to ‘hit the ground running’. Here are our top tips…
Make a rough plan, but keep it flexible
Remember, you’re not trying to recreate school. Holiday learning should be relaxed, stimulating and unscheduled. Don’t fall into the trap of setting formal tasks or having a structured timetable for each child. Preventing the summer slump is like hiding vegetables in pasta sauce – the learning can be done without the child even noticing!
Get kids reading!
There are so many benefits to reading. It’s been shown to improve vocabulary, empathy, creativity, capacity to deal with stress, quality of sleep, ability to form relationships and memory; to name but a few. And, crucially, what children read is not as important as you may think. Fiction is generally better than non-fiction, but forming a reading habit is the vital part, no matter what it is they’re picking up.
For competitive children, setting a reading challenge can be a great way to keep them engaged. Reluctant readers might feel more comfortable being challenged to try two or three books outside of their comfort genre. You could devise a chart and award points for each book, making it as visually engaging as possible. Children love to see their progress and a target reached could equal a treat; perhaps a special day out – which is a great way to keep them motivated. Check out the Summer Reading Challenge at your local library.
Remember that it should be relaxed and fun. Give children the freedom to choose what they read and then discuss the books with them when the opportunity arises. Or, if they prefer that you read to them, then just go for that! It’s establishing the habit of reading that’s important, as well as the discussions around themes and vocabulary which naturally come from that.
Bring learning into daily activities
Unless a child is studying for a particular exam, it’s important to concentrate mainly on keeping brains active and engaged. Embrace their curiosity, work with their interests and let them lead. The summer is a great opportunity for children to learn things which they don’t always cover at school – such as creativity, leadership, and problem solving; as well as demonstrating their practical knowledge.
Children also learn through daily activities and chores. Cooking is a fabulous way of demonstrating maths (ratios, weights and measures, time etc); plus providing lessons in patience, planning, reading, following instructions, and general knowledge. A sports competition in the garden could help them with developing maths skills to add up scores, and anticipating who might win – as well as encouraging them to stay fit. A trip to the supermarket is loaded with learning opportunities – from mental maths, to nutrition, to persuasive writing techniques (just think about all that sales patter!).
Key tips from Lucky Gecko HQ
- Create a summer reading challenge, and make use of the library if you can. Help them find books that relate to their areas of interest.
- Play board games
- Encourage children to create a scrapbook, comic or diary.
- Send postcards to relatives to help with writing skills.
- Involve their friends. Playdates are a great opportunity for kids to consolidate their experiences and indulge in a bit of healthy competition.
- Go to galleries, museums and parks – these are often free and provide all sorts of learning opportunities.
- Consider collecting and curating keepsakes to remind them about their summer and what they’ve learned
- Suggest a summer project. What would they like to know more about? Maybe it’s cars, tigers, volcanoes or rollercoasters… whatever interests them. Get them to research and present their results at a family ‘show and tell’ evening.
- Don’t force it – making learning a chore will just cause arguments and turn children off
- Embrace a child’s interests and allow them to lead.
- Remember that learning happens anywhere and everywhere – don’t just try to recreate the classroom.
- Have fun with it! Children really do notice when adults are engaged and enthusiastic about their activities
If families and carers (Student Nannies!) work together, then junior family members may not even realise that they are beating the summer slide. And who knows – you might all have more fun than you thought!
This blog post was written by Charlie Patteson, an experienced personal tutor, and founder of www.luckygecko.com Sign up for a subscription and every month your child will receive a Discovery Box that encourages children to think differently, learn new things and have fun! Perfect for children aged 9 to 12, all of our boxes are delivered monthly, and cost £36 per month. Simply choose which one you think best suits your child’s needs and we’ll do the rest.