BY KORI MACKALL, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, THE PIEDMONT SCHOOL & JOHN YOWELL ACADEMY
Summer break is here, or just about here, for students across the Triad. Students have survived end-of-grade testing, end-of-year celebrations, and are ready for a break! But is summer break breaking our kids? Most teachers will tell you that it often takes a month or two to help our students recover from their summer break when classes resume in the fall. Most classrooms spend the beginning weeks of school reviewing skills that were forgotten even before starting their current grade-level curriculum. If you do the math, kids are losing up to four months of possible instruction during the year that could otherwise advance them to the next level. This isn’t even taking into consideration that May is also a month spent in review, simply to help prepare students for end-of-year testing and exams at most schools.
So how do we avoid the summer backslide? Some research suggests revisions to academic calendars to allow for more natural breaks throughout the year, versus 10-12 weeks straight in the summer months. However, academic calendars are at the discretion of boards of education or schools, so considering some of the following suggestions are ways parents can help combat the summer backslide.
Keep Reading and Writing!
Most parents are thankful to see those reading logs take a break for the summer. But encouraging your child to continue daily reading will really help them stay engaged and maintain the skills they have learned. To keep it from seeming like a school-related chore, let your child pick out books or magazines they are interested in. Before a vacation, head to the library or local bookstore and allow your child to find something of interest. Older students may have requiredsummer reading projects for school, so be sure you have your child take care of those requirements, but be sure to allow them “fun reading” time to pursue reading something of interest (yes, even comic books!).
Encourage your child to keep a summer journal or a vacation journal. Have your child write age-appropriate-length passages every few days, or daily during special trips. Include pictures for a fun addition (you can use either hand-drawn or printed-out photos, and paste them in the journal). Even an electronic, typed journal is helpful in keeping children engaged in writing (and a great tool for those who struggle with writing). This also becomes a nice keepsake over the years!
Technology to Consider
…Not meaning Fortnite here! While it is certainly okay for students to have some fun with their favorite video games here and there over the summer break, be sure to explore educational technology available to intermingle with your child’s summer activities. Apps like Epic!, a paid- subscription app for about $7/mo. that provides access to thousands of books for students 12 and under, are a great starting point. For older students, consider apps like Audible, that provide access to thousands of books and offer a read-aloud option (great for car rides!).
Keep those math calculation skills up with apps/websites such as IXL, Khan Academy, BuzzMath or Brainscape. Take advantage of “real- life moments” to help encourage your child to stay engaged in math. Have them help count money at the grocery store, have them keep a time schedule to work on time-telling skills, give older students a budget for upcoming trips, and have them record their spending in a journal or spreadsheet. Math is everywhere; find creative ways to keep it going!
Consider a Scheduled Academic Camp or Tutoring
The best way to keep the summer regression at bay is to maintain some form of normal academic schedule, if even just for a short period of time. Consider a Summer Academic Camp or weekly one-hour tutoring sessions. These routes still allow for plenty of fun time, pool time and vacation time, but they help students keep engaged in the academic structure and schedule associated with school. Keeping engaged in this way helps the transition back to school in August seem a little more natural.
There are area programs that offer academic-based camps, such as the 5-week academic enrichment camp at The Piedmont School. For students who are at-risk or not meeting grade-level expectations, academic camps and/or weekly tutoring may need to be prioritized, as the summer backslide can often hurt these students the most.
Students certainly need time to recoup from a long school year and fun is definitely in order! Find a balance that makes sense for your family and for your summer plans. Maybe it looks like an hour a day of academic-related activities, perhaps like an academic summer camp or tutoring, or it may be squeezing in academic activities simultaneously with your planned vacations. However it works for you, be sure not to let summer break break your child’s progress!