Preventing the summer slide

Summer is right around the corner – that glorious time of year when parents and children take a break from life to concentrate on each other.

But after the first morning ends in a bitter, half-hour argument about whether Family Guy is inappropriate or high-quality humor, then what?

How about some math and reading?

Unfortunately, summer learning loss is a thing. According to a recent study published by the RAND Corporation, performance falls about a month during the summer, and for lower-income students, it can be 3 months. As a former teacher, I can tell you that during the first few weeks of school it’s expensive and ineffective to try and return to where kids were when summer vacation started.

Keep them learning all summer long. Our children wouldn’t try out for the track team or orchestra without consistently practicing their skills, right? Math and reading work the same way.

Mom, you don’t have to set up desks in the living room, pull your hair back into a tight bun, and get out a ruler for whacking knuckles. Create fun activities that trick kids into learning.

  • Take field trips to local state parks, beaches, or even the mall to observe freak sub-species in their native environment. Encourage your kids to write about what they observe, like weird procreating habits of ants and ways women gossip.
  • Independent reading time, depending on their age, from 10 minutes a day to an hour. Doesn’t matter if they’re reading a novel, sports magazine, or comic book. The important thing is, they’re not bothering you.
  • Many websites list words by age group – pick one every week and post the word and definition on the refrigerator. Create a reward system so kids can compete and the one who uses the word correctly the most times wins something fun, like dessert or your attention.
  • Audio books – borrow them from the library and discuss to check reading comprehension. Great for long road trips and you’ll enjoy a break from 20 Questions.
  • Make a summer scrapbook with pictures and captions. But be sure to tell your kids, and husband, that pictures of mommy in a bathing suit must be pre-approved before publishing.
  • Alternative book reports encourage kids to convey what they’ve learned in a creative way. They can construct a favorite scene in an empty shoebox or pick a favorite character, dress like him, and perform a monologue.
  • Read out loud – little kids learn to turn pages on their own and older kids can discuss plot lines.
  • Cook with your children – Measuring ¼ cup of vodka into tomato and cream sauce teaches math skills. Who knew? Reading recipes improves reading skills and watching your kids destroy the kitchen in a matter of minutes will teach you patience. Everyone wins. And vodka helps.
  • Buy index cards and your kids can make addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division flash cards. Give them an extra half hour of computer time if they quiz each other for a half hour without complaining about it.
  • Gardening not only improves skills, it encourages responsibility. If they can’t care for a tomato plant, surely they cannot be responsible for a car. See how that works?
  • Grocery shopping – Kids add up how much they think you’re spending and the closest one at checkout gets a free piece of fruit. What? That’s motivating! It’s also good for kids to learn how to read labels, why we avoid unhealthy food, and how many teaspoons of salt and sugar are in each item.
  • Create a family budget – Older kids should know how much money is coming in and going out each month. Then maybe they’ll start turning off the bathroom light and shutting the refrigerator door.
  • Online worksheets and math games – For rainy afternoons when dubstep videos have snatched your last nerve.

Other ideas:

Create a schedule every day. This helps kids who respond well to structure and lets caregivers off the hook. When kids complain they have to stop play time to work on Algebra, grandma can point to the schedule and say, “Mommy sucks…not me.”

Check out free programs at local movie theaters, libraries, parks or Boys and Girls Clubs.

Ask teachers for tips. After all, they’ve taught your kids and should know what they need before the next school year.

Lots of camps have scholarships, even if they don’t advertise it. Call and ask.

Network with other parents. One might be into music, another history, and yet another might like to work on cars. Kids can hang out and learn from these parents while everyone else takes a break, and the next day switch it up.

The point is to make summer fun and full of learning at the same time. The beginning of a school year is stressful enough. Give these ideas a try.