What is the Summer Slide?
Honestly, I wish I were talking about a 3,000 foot waterslide that starts at the top of Angel Falls, but unfortunately I am talking about a phenomenon that affects virtually all students enrolled in a traditional calendar school.
The Summer Slide: learning loss which occurs from educational inactivity.
I sometimes think about this in terms of running a race. If you have ever ran several miles at a steady pace, you know that when you do stop, you aren’t supposed to collapse in a heap at the finish line. You’re actually supposed to walk around in order to properly cool down. This cool down period is important as it helps prevent injuries, muscle spasms and tightening.
Now, think about this in terms of education. When school does come to a screeching halt at the beginning of Summer, do your kids collapse on the ground of relaxation, never to get up again until September? Or do you give them a cool-down period, one made up of puzzles, books, flashcards, games, books, cooking, sewing, art, educational experiences and did I say books?
Now before your child, who is reading over your shoulder this very minute and cringing over the word "flashcards", revolts against this whole article before you have even finished it, let me assure you both that this “Summer Slide Prevention” looks very different from their normal school day.
[Insert sigh of relief here].
In fact, I believe that this "Summer Slide Prevention" will boost your child’s love for learning, as well.
So what does this “Summer Slide Prevention” look like? Here are 10 different ideas for you to pick and choose from:
1) Know your kid. What are his strengths? Weaknesses? Does she get motivated by the competition of others, or is she her biggest competitor? Does he work better alone or with friends? What subject areas should be the focus? Use these observations to help engage your child throughout Summer, knowing that this will likely look different for each of your children. Maybe your kids wouldn't mind playing math games if their friends came over and played with them. Maybe your child needs to work towards a prize, points, money, or a trip to their favorite skateboard shop. The idea that she can be the top reader in the library youth program could be the best incentive, or maybe that one-on-one reading time with you is prize enough! You know your kid. Maybe your child had a rough year and needs a summer filling up his heart meter with lots of read-alouds, outdoor games, and one-on-one time. Find a plan that works!
2) Find Summer programs that will help your child’s attitudes about school. Most libraries have some sort of Summer Reading program. Your child can accomplish their set goals, win prizes, and engage in a bit of friendly competition through these programs. Your city might have family activities scheduled all summer long. During the first week of the month, our city has one night when museums have free admission, art galleries are open for browsing, and local music fill the air with sound. Perhaps your city has a night like this? What about the county fair? My kids like to enter their photography and paintings into the fair competitions. The entry fees are free. The experience is priceless!
At our fair, kids can enter food, poetry, sewing, photography, flower arrangements, woodworking projects, as well as all sorts of art, like painting, pottery, clay, collage, creations made out of the recycling bin, out of duct tape, etc.
This girl is extra happy because this is her first year entering the contest, and she won second place. She didn't care as much about the $2.00 as she did about the fancy red ribbon! Oh, and in case you were wondering, this is her own creation: a hedgehog-penguin.
This girl is smiling because, along with a few bucks, she also just won a special award--a gift card to a local art store!
3) I think Summer is the perfect season for Art. Put all the paint on a tablecloth covered picnic table and you don’t have to worry about spills. Better yet, Kids can jump in the sprinklers right after! If you go beach-combing this Summer, take home some shells and busy yourselves with this fun seashell craft!
4) Take this break to start new eating and exercise habits with your child. Summer is also the perfect time to share your love of gardening. Plant a garden with your children and feast on its produce! This fun, fraction activity "Garden Patch Fractions" could help in the planning process!
5) Invite your children into the kitchen as often as possible. Following a recipe and preparing meals not only give your child practice with reading and math, but it also helps you log in some special one-on-one time with each other. Here, Chef Georgia Reese helps make delicious Buckwheat Pancakes!
6) My children get excited to pick out a fun, new Math workbook just for Summer. I aim for 2-3 pages completed each week. If workbooks aren’t your thing, try flashcards, math card games, this quick dice subtraction game, or cool computer multi-player games like these.
7) Involve your children in Summer projects. Need to paint the fence? Ask your child to help figure out how many gallons of paint you will need. Take them with you to pick out new shrubs for the front of your house and ask them to research them to figure out how best to care for them. Plant them together! Go to a grocery store or farmer’s Market. Give your child the grocery list and the grocery money. Ask them to get everything on the list and make sure to stay under the allotted amount! What about a yard sale? Hire your own kids to run the yard sale and teach consumer math at the same time!
8) Keep a journal! Encourage your child to write everyday for 10 minutes. If he writes just a sentence or two each day, at the end of the Summer, he will have written over 100 sentences! And what a wonderful Summer keepsake he has made!
9) Take the opportunity this year to explore your wonderful State. Visit your state's capital city. Explore National Parks. Read maps. Take long, glorious hikes and enjoy ice cream afterwards. You get the point--get out of dodge! Perhaps this Summer activity will get the ball rolling.
10) And by all means, enjoy each other. Explore, skip, dance, and sing--together. This is the most important summer task, and will give them the biggest academic boost of all.
Your turn: What would you add to this list? What has helped prevent your children from being a victim of "The Summer Slide"?