Out of school for the summer? Did you know that a child loses 2-3 months of learning in the summer months when they are not engaged in a summer program? This might seem like a time for kicking back and unwinding after the school year, but it's actually a great opportunity to improve your skills in reading, writing, building that resume to help you impress the college of your choice, and basically staying engaged.
Everyone understands the importance of continuous learning during the summer, but it can be difficult to incorporate summer learning if you are not participating in structured activities like a summer camp. In low-income communities, the loss is even greater. Students backtrack in reading and spelling skills, widening the achievement gap between disadvantaged teens and their middle-class peers. Summer should be a chance for students to recharge and families to reconnect.
Elementary School Students
The summer months are looming. What is your child going to do during all that time when she's not in school?
Without a plan, she'll probably spend too much time in front of the TV. She'll probably also drive you crazy by announcing, "I'm bored." So start planning for the summer months now. Work with your child to set learning goals for the summer:
- Read at least four books. Research shows that kids who read just four books over the summer will avoid "summer slide," or the gap in academic skills, when they go back to school in the fall. Listening to audio books will also build your child's vocabulary and her confidence. Many public libraries have these available to check out. (Check out the reading clubs in the resource guide below)
- Try something new. The child who has never thought of herself as an athlete could spend the summer learning a sport. The kid who feels shy might look for a chance to be in a summer play. Summer is a good time to stretch.
- Let your child take a risk. No, you don't have to let her try skydiving! But if she's never climbed a tree, give her a chance to learn the skill. Trying and mastering hard things is how your child learns.
- Don't let weak areas slide. If there is a subject your child struggles with, don't let her take the whole summer off. Ask the teacher for some ideas about how she can practice over the summer so her learning doesn't slide backwards.
Source: "It's Summer, Let's Read!" Instructor, Summer 2011.
Middle School Students
Summer with a middle school-age child can pose a dilemma. Your child is freed of his usual schedule, and he will likely want plenty of freedom. As a parent, you need to balance his growing desire for independence with your responsibilities to make sure he is safe and cared for.
To make this work:
- Place your child in a structured environment for part of the summer, if possible. It can be a summer program at a kids' center, a day camp through a local government or civic group, or an organized sports program. Research low-cost options.
- Know where your child is. Your child will want to hang out with friends. He should be able to do so, but you need information first. If possible, meet his friends and their parents. When your child is with friends, know whom he is with, what they are doing, how you can reach him, and when he will be home.
- Insist that your child do chores. Your child is at an age when he should be developing responsibility. Now that he doesn't have homework, he should be helping the family. One important way to do this is through age-appropriate tasks. Examples are taking out the trash, putting dishes away, or caring for pets.
- Keep track of media. It is not realistic to expect your child not to use media over the summer, but it should not be the biggest part of his summer. Limit use to certain hours or days.
Source: C. Murfin, "Summer and Your Middle Schooler," Seattle's Child
High School Students
Your plans can be more than getting a summer job; there are a number of activities that you can help to stay active and gain valuable experience over the summer months.
- Volunteer - Great way to gain some valuable work and leadership experience
- Get a Job or Internship - Most practical ways to build your resume and impress colleges.
- Travel - Summer travel can be an exciting way to enrich your mind while enhancing your resume
- Study Abroad - Opportunities to study at foreign universities or similar study abroad programs are another great option for your summer, and perfecting a second or third language is a worthwhile pursuit.
- Take Classes - You can begin taking your PreAP/AP classes during summer
- Summer enrichment programs - summer enrichment programs can be another valuable and educational summer experience. Investigate the types of summer enrichment programs offered by local youth groups or area colleges and universities.
- Visit Colleges - Campus visits should be part of any college applicant's summer plans. Go on a trip to Boston or California to visit colleges and have some fun.
- Upgrade your SAT/ACT Skills - Don't waste a summer preparing for a four-hour exam -- everything else on this list has more value for your personal growth and college preparation. That said, standardized tests are an important part of the admissions equation at most of the country's highly selective colleges. If you've taken the SAT or ACT and your scores aren't what you think you'll need to get into your top choice colleges, then the summer is a great time to work through an exam preparation book or take a test prep class.
How to plan for summer?
- Parents should meet with their child's teacher(s) or guidance counselor to identify any weak areas. You want to use the summer months to make improvements. Ask the teachers or guidance counselors if they have any recommendations for your child on workbooks, puzzles, and activities.
- Research programs/activities on your own based on your child's interest
- Look at the sample list of summer programs for your city click here.
- Organize groups with other parents to setup carpools and to collaborate with other parents on ideas for the summer break
- Create a summer schedule per week. Make sure that your child gets a little of everything (math, reading, science, writing, and don't forget to also have some fun)
How to create a summer schedule?
Begin by putting activities/programs into buckets:
Create a weekly schedule based on the above buckets. Please see below a sample (Click here to download Schedule Template.
- LearningStructured in an enrichment program, day camp, online resource, etc.
- ReadingSet a time for reading every day)
- SportsSet some time for being active in a sport or just going outside
- ChoresCombine everyday tasks into doable chores - teaches them to be responsible
- FunAfter all, it is summer, so have fun - take your children to the movies, bowling, etc. - spend some quality family time