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Ask Dr. Lynch: Preventing the “Summer Slide”

EducationWorld Q&A columnist Dr. Matthew Lynch is an associate professor of education at Langston University. Dr. Lynch provides expert advice on everything from classroom management to differentiated instruction. Read all of his columns here, and be sure to submit your own question.

Dr. Matthew Lynch

This week, Education World asks:

Without taking away the fun of summertime, what are some strategies parents can use to avoid the “summer slide” with their kids?

ANSWER:

First of all, thank you for sending us such an interesting and timely question. Many schools throughout the U.S. have recently wrapped up their school year, and many more will be doing so in the coming weeks.

Conscientious parents are happy that their children have a break from the drudgery of the school year, but they also want to avoid the summer slide. The summer slide occurs when children lose some of the academic skills and dispositions that they gained during the school year due to the absence and scarcity of quality learning activities during summer vacation. As the old saying goes, “If you don't use it, you lose it.”

To succeed academically, children need continuous opportunities to acquire new skills and practice existing ones. This need is especially heightened during the summer months, because children do not have the privilege of being educated by certified teachers.

When we think of summer, we think of a happy, carefree time when children can have fun and unwind. Sometimes, however, we forget about the potential learning opportunities to which we can expose them. In order to make sure that your child does not experience the summer slide, here are my suggestions.

  • Summer Programs:  Many public and private schools run summer programs for their students. Take advantage of them. They are usually for only half a day and allow flexibility for summer vacations. Contact your child's school to find out if it offers such a program.
  • Family Reading Program:  Set up a summer reading program with your child in which s/he chooses an agreed-upon number of grade-level books to read per month. Make sure that you consult the child's teacher or a librarian for advice. In order to show solidarity, the entire family should participate.
  • Specialized Summer Camps:  Enroll your child in a specialized summer camp. These camps are fun and incorporate hands-on activities into their curriculum. Some of the more popular ones include computer, science and math camps.
  • Pick the Teacher’s Brain:  Conference with your child's current or next teacher and ask him or her to suggest summer workbooks, science activities, essay topics and interesting summer activities for your child. You may even be able to elicit help in assessing your child’s performance.
  • Summer Enrichment:  Summer is also a good time to fill in learning gaps. If you know that your child is weak in a particular subject, you may want to set up an enrichment program. As always, consult with your child's teacher.
  • Learning While Vacationing:  If you are planning on taking a vacation this summer, you can turn it into a social studies activity. Ask your child to research the destination's history, cuisine, popular attractions, etc. Also, once you reach your vacation destination, you can schedule tours of famous landmarks and locations, which will increase social studies knowledge.
  • Summer Journaling:  Ask your son or daughter to write a daily journal of all the things learned each day. Remember, you will need to orchestrate learning activities for your children, because you can't trust that they will be able to do it on their own.
  • Turn Daily Activities Into Learning Opportunities:  If you’re at the grocery store with your kids, challenge them to add up the total cost of your purchase. Driving to grandmother’s house? Ask them to find certain colors, shapes, or patterns along the way. If you’re dealing with older kids, think of appropriate variations.
  • Learning Locally:  Don’t forget about the local park, museum, zoo, aquarium, etc. Your local community is full of learning opportunities you’ve probably never considered.

Preventing summer slide can seem like a daunting task, but thankfully, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to pull off. All you need is to be organized and have the right plan. I have provided you with some simple strategies for preventing summer learning loss, without taking the fun out of the school break. When the new school year begins, your child will be armed with skills retained from the previous year, and hopefully will have gained some brand-new ones as well. Good luck!

About Dr. Lynch

Dr. Matthew Lynch is a Chair and Associate Professor of Education at Langston University and a blogger for the Huffington Post. Dr. Lynch also is the author of the newly released book It’s Time for a Change: School Reform for the Next Decade and A Guide to Effective School Leadership Theories. Please visit his Web site for more information.

If you have a question for “Ask Dr. Lynch,” submit it here. Topics can be anything education-related, from classroom management to differentiated instruction.


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