School’s Out! Summertime Learning Lapse? Issues and AnswersShare
As the school year draws to a close for the summer, parents are often concerned about whether their kids will actually retain the knowledge they’ve acquired over the past several months, or whether they’ll experience a learning lapse. Here are some considerations and suggestions for parents.
The end of school invites speculation about the weeks ahead. Will children’s knowledge levels decline, and will the bulk of lessons learned be forgotten? Should kids be required to review course material over the summer so as to be on top of it all when classes resume?
Summer is a time of creative adventures and playful learning opportunities. Daily activities are less “academic” but nevertheless they can be wonderfully enlightening. And, learning is an ongoing process, even though it may take on different guises or be reflective of changing interests over the summer months.
There are many ways to help children hone their creative and critical thinking skills while still having lots fun and making the most of summer. Here are several tips for parents who might be concerned about a possible slump in their children’s learning trajectories.
1. READ. Reading is a gateway to new worlds, and can strengthen acquired understandings. Talk to kids about what they’ve read over the previous few months, refreshing their memories, and encouraging them to think more about or even extend the material.
“Remember that interesting book you read at school? Who wrote it? Maybe the author has written something else you’d enjoy reading this summer.”
2. BUILD. Follow up and possibly build upon projects or assignments that sparked curiosity or captured the child’s imagination. Support kids in further developing those creative impulses!
“That bird feeder you designed was really unique. What other animal feeders can you devise using your creative ideas as a starting point? Why not investigate?”
3. CHILL. Don’t nag kids to reread their notes from the school year. And, don’t engage in scare tactics like telling them they’re sure to forget everything if they don’t review regularly. Adopt and convey a positive attitude.
“I know you’re prepared for next grade. However, when you’re ready I’m happy to help you review stuff. We chat about how and when, and we have lots of time before school begins again.”
4. RESPECT. Some kids really enjoy working on school-related things over the summer, finding it challenging, intriguing, and worthwhile. And, they may embrace the concept of being well prepared and at the very top of their game when school starts. Respect the individual’s curiosity and preferences for learning and doing. Adults can help children schedule in time for scholastic pursuits without forfeiting summer-time fun.
“Let’s make a plan that will ensure that you have time for everything you want to do in the weeks ahead.”
5. PLAY. Enjoy the great outdoors and spend time together. Don’t get waylaid by electronic devices. During the summer when scholastic demands can be set aside, kids can engage more fully in free-spirited play and collaborative exploration, preferably with family and friends. Play is empowering, and involves physical activity, roleplaying, socializing and friendship-building, creative strategizing, sharing, and skill-building. However, it’s also important to show children how to relax, reflect, and maximize quiet moments. This can be beneficial for recharging energy, and for consolidating ideas and then coming up with new ones. (And, if children get bored? That’s okay because then they’ll discover what interests them…)
“It’s good to balance busy times with some down-time. How do you think we might do that?”
6. ORGANIZE. Encourage kids to organize their school materials and store them some place accessible at the end of the semester so they’re easy to find and refer back to later on.
“Here are a couple of storage boxes you can use. And, some colorful folders and marking pens. You can get creative about storing things. Let me know if you need anything else.”
7. STRENGTHEN. Make note of what may have proved difficult for your child. That is, what material or subject matter might warrant some attention so as to enable him to feel more competent and confident when classes resume. He might share the need to revisit course material and strengthen his grasp of it. Be resourceful. You may want to ask if he’d consider connecting with a mentor, or brainstorm some exciting activities that will boost skill levels.
“I’m proud of your efforts, and the way you persevere when things get tough. Let’s figure out if there’s anything you want to focus on over the next few weeks, and use the time to explore possibilities in ways that are interesting and fun!"
Fun and playfulness are keys to a happily productive summer—triggering creative thinking, which in turn acts as a springboard for intellectual growth. Come fall, teachers will determine where each student is at in the various subject areas, and program accordingly—clarifying, reinforcing, and building upon previously learned material. In the meantime, parents are well positioned to help kids stay active and curious over the summer months, to encourage them to find time for reflection, and to support them in being organized and ready for the transition back to school. But hey, September is long way away!
Have a great summer everyone!
For more information on supporting children's optimal development check out Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids by Dona Matthews, PhD and Joanne Foster, EdD (House of Anansi Press, 2014) - and visit www.beyondintelligence.net for articles and resources on intelligence-building and more.
SOME ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:
(By the way, these suggestions are great for boys, too!)