Ways to Stay Ahead in the Summer
05/04/2016 12:46PM ● Published by Jennifer Gonzalez
A child’s dream of summer is all about the swimming pools, long days at the beach and lots of free time outside. And while, yes, the days of summer should be doused in recreation and leisure, a parent’s looming question remains: how can my child stay ahead academically throughout the carefree days of the summer? Eight weeks without classroom instruction seems like a long time, and the possibility for a child to lose critical skills that he or she worked so hard to gain seems almost inevitable.
The truth is that many children do lose critical skills over the summer. But, there are ways to prevent this “summertime slow-down.” The best way to make sure your child stays ahead is to incorporate weekly skill-practice, make it fun, and maintain the practice as an expected routine. When it’s consistent, children will understand the expectation. They won’t resist it if it’s enjoyable and part of their normal schedule.
First, schedule it out. If you have the resources, hire a tutor. Determine a time when either the tutor will work with your child, or you or a sibling will work with your child, or even a time when your child can practice important skills independently. When your child understands this is an expectation and not an option, you are guaranteed more buy-in and less resistance. Allow them to be a part of the process. Let them have a say as to when and where the “practice” will take place. Academic practice can be scheduled on specific days, such as on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or on contingent days such as, “days we don’t have baseball practice,” or “days mommy doesn’t go to work” etc. This helps your child mentally prepare for the work ahead, and understand the expectations from the start.
Next, make it fun! Just like teachers, we have to find ways to engage students and make material interesting. As a parent, you can do this in a variety of ways. You could practice multiplication facts first thing in the morning! For every fact your child gets correct, he or she could earn a certain amount of free time. Also, any subject matter can be turned into a game. Have a competition with your children while playing on the playground. Whoever wins the competition gets a reward. Parents can get creative with this one. Maybe the reward is choosing the next activity for the family or even getting to sit at their favorite “seat” at the dinner table. Since every family is different, the rewards may be unique. Figure out the best “rewards” for your child.
Try technology for academic practice. Websites such as Cool Math Games (www.coolmathgames.com) or Storyline Online—Where Reading is Fun! (http://www.storylineonline.net) make learning both fun and convenient. Check apps for phones and device, such as Marble Math Junior and Bookster. If there is a specific skill you want your child to practice, simply google, “Apps or websites to help students improve in (insert skill here),” and usually a huge variety will turn up! You will want to make sure the website or app is appropriate for your child, but once you have, you cannot go wrong by providing them some time to get online and practice. Using electronic devices is a surefire way to pique your child’s interest in practicing academic skills over the summer.
Reading is the most important thing your child can do over the summer, but it may also be the hardest thing to get him or her to do. Some ways to break up the monotony of reading is to try reading outside on the porch instead of in the home office. Take your child to the library and let them check out any books that he or she likes, even if they are too difficult. As long as they are appropriate, you can always read them aloud to your child if the reading level is beyond their ability. Reading with your child is a great way to motivate them. When they see that reading is important to you, the goal is they will see that it is important for them. During a road trip, let your child read to you. Reading before bedtime is another way to use reading to strengthen your relationship with your child. It attaches positive feelings to the experience of reading. Maintaining this practice throughout the summer is critical and helps develop and/or continue positive reading habits in your child.
Finally, make sure the routine continues throughout the summer. This is key. We all start with good intentions, but we all have distractions like sports and vacations, too. Sticking to the routine will be help make sure your child follows through and continues to grow, even during the lazy days of summer. There is nothing wrong with enjoying some relaxation, but practicing academic skills one to two hours a week is a reasonable expectation for parents to have. When children know the expectation is non-negotiable and aimed at their personal growth, they are more likely to cooperate and participate with a positive attitude. Best of luck in your summer adventures, both personal and academic!