We recently posted a blog post on Charlotte Smarty Pants about avoiding summer learning loss and wanted to share advice from a teacher reinforcing many of the same ideas and opinions. Below is a post by a parent and teacher Jenna Schmoekel, originally featured at MamaOT.com.
As a teacher, I know parents have mixed feelings about summer. Some parents look forward to the extra time they will spend with their children/family and the vacations and adventures summer will bring. Other parents think of summer with…a little apprehension, shall we say? What will I do with my child alllll summmmmer looooong?! Many parents fall somewhere in between – starting out excited for summer, but ending up pretty excited for school to start back up.
I hope you and your child(ren) enjoy your summer, go on adventures, and don’t get on each other’s nerves too much! As you play, though, keep these suggestions in mind. They might help you have a more productive summer…and they will definitely make your child’s teacher smile in the fall!
I know this seems self explanatory…or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you don’t realize how important it is for your child to read over the summer. We aren’t kidding when we tell you on those final report card comments to read, read, READ this summer! Most public libraries have summer reading programs that offer rewards for reading a certain number of books or hours. Your child can help you pick books they enjoy and you will be able to tell if they are too easy or too hard for them. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if there are 5 words they don’t know on the first 1-2 pages, then it’s too hard. (You can read that book to your child and let them pick out a different one to read themselves…reading aloud is also great!) Reading over the summer increases fluency and helps children retain all the new letter/sound combinations, sight words, and comprehension tools they have learned throughout the year.
Turn off the electronics.
I know. I know what you are thinking: ‘Is she crazy?! What am I supposed to do with my ENERGETIC child(ren) for 3 months without electronics!? There. Is. No. Way.’ Well, no, I’m not (completely) crazy! I don’t mean turn off the electronics all the time. There are many educational things you can do with technology. However, there are so many opportunities that kids miss out on when they are constantly engaged with the TV, Playstation, iPhone, iPad, etc. When children are engaged in technology, they are not having conversations and enhancing their verbal skills. They are not active. They are not engaged in imaginative play. Talk. Run. Ride bikes. Swim. Build a pillow fort. Finger paint. All I’m saying is, limit the technology use!
Give your kids new experiences.
When my students come back in August, most of them have a lot to say about their summers. They went to Disney World. Or Sea World. Or the local amusement park. Or fishing. Or Grandma’s house in Wyoming. Or to the park. Or had a campout in their backyard. It doesn’t matter what they did, how “extravagant” a vacation they had, or who they went with. They love to share their experiences.
Give them an experience this summer they will remember forever and want to share with their classmates and teachers. It doesn’t have to be expensive and far away. Something local and free is great, as long as you make it an adventure. I had one student who couldn’t stop talking about the night they stayed in a hotel because their air conditioner went out. He had never stayed in a hotel before…it was an adventure.
Incorporate math practice.
Yuck. What kid wants to do math over the summer (unless you have a child who loves to play school during their time off!)? I’m definitely not saying to pull out the flashcards and workbooks over the summer, but do incorporate math activities into daily life and make them fun. Math is typically the subject that suffers the most when kids take summers off, so it’s really important that you work together to maintain their skills so they can jump right into the new school year come August or September.
Going to the grocery store? Have your young child count the apples and oranges you are buying to see how many all together. If you have an older child, have them estimate the total cost of the trip as you go. Count down days to a vacation. Keep track of the number of hours (or minutes) they go swimming or how many blocks they ride their bikes. Have them practice telling time as you wait for the time to go to the pool or practice counting money as they save up to go to the water park. It’s the little things with math that keep their minds engaged over the summer, and they really make a difference when they come back to school in the fall. Check out www.mathwire.com for more ideas on how to incorporate math activities into your child’s every day life.
Keep routines going and expectations set.
Summer is a time for relaxing, vacations, and fun. Your kids will stay up late and you will go out of town, and your routines and schedules will be all thrown out the window…and that’s okay! Just remember that kids thrive on consistency. Even if it’s a later bedtime, try to keep a bedtime (at least when you’re not on vacation!). Don’t let your kids get away with things just because it’s summer and you’re on vacation. The more you can keep them in the mindset that they still have to follow rules and meet expectations, the easier the transition will be in the fall to get back into the swing of school. Plus, you’ll have a much easier summer when they know what to expect and what is expected of them.
Jenna Schmoekel is a graduate of Texas State University who has been teaching elementary school for 3 years (4th grade and 1st grade). She lives in San Marcos, Texas with her husband Brian and her 2-year-old daughter. She enjoys scrapbooking, running, and sharing coffee with friends.