Summer vacation is coming! While we tend to homeschool on a more year-round schedule, we look forward to a longer break and more relaxed days when warmer weather hits. And many parents will take a traditional summer break. But there’s always this niggling worry: what about preventing “summer learning loss”?
In public schools, it’s been documented that students lose a few weeks’ worth (up to even 3 months!) of learned skills and content. So the first few weeks of school are often spent in review, and even in re-teaching the skills they should have learned in the previous year.
For most homeschoolers, this isn’t as much of a concern. After all, we’re not usually needing to compare our students to any kind of governmental standard within a month to justify expenses. And as long as there’s progress, a little bit of slide isn’t that big of a deal.
However, the fact remains: without regular practice and continued education, skills & knowledge decline. It’s a real phenomenon, documented by research studies. So how, as homeschool parents, can we prevent this “summer learning loss” — and still enjoy a break from regular routine?
Keep it light
There’s no need to ruin your or your child’s summer vacation by intensive summer school. But relaxing and enjoying a break doesn’t have to mean doing nothing either! There are several ways to encourage your child to continue learning, even while they’re having fun.
1. Encourage reading
Reading regularly, for pleasure, is one of THE best ways to keep up skills. Make sure you are encouraging your child to read, and read lots. Check out your local community for a reading contest or challenge. Often libraries, banks, or restaurants will offer prizes for reading certain amounts of books over the summer.
Don’t get picky about what your kids read either. Comic books and graphic novels count as reading just as much as the classics do. And if your child prefers to read easy readers over chapter books that are more on grade level, that’s ok too! Regular practice is good, no matter how easy it might be.
2. Get out the games.
Do you know how many academic skills are needed to play a good game of Monopoly? Or try an old fashioned card game, like Crazy Eights or Gin Rummy. There are tons of good games out there, and now you can find stores that will rent them to you, rather than having to buy and store them.
If you don’t have enough people at home to play a game, try finding a board-game meetup, or create one! You get family fun, meeting new and old friends, as well as games that will sharpen your memory and keep your kids learning.
3. Stay outside.
Summer is the season of warm weather, lots of sunshine, and lots of things to do. Take advantage of summer and use your environment to keep your kids’ skills up.
Go bug collecting and identify your specimens before you let them go. Try bird watching or walking a trail locally to look at flowers. Take along a field guide so you can look up what you find.
Break out the sidewalk chalk and the imagination. Or try backyard games, like baseball, soccer or badminton. There are tons of things to do, and all of them will exercise your kids’ mental and physical skills.
I know many parents cringe at the thought of their child spending lots of time on a screen, but there are different kinds of screen time.
There’s unproductive screen time that leaves you a zombie. That’s the kind that’s great for when you need to de-stress and escape from life for a bit. But not so good if you’re looking to prevent summer learning loss.
Then there’s the screen time that is interactive, engaging, and requires your brain to stay on top of the game. Literally. Because video games, especially ones that require strategy or fast thinking, are excellent tools to help prevent summer learning loss.
1. Learn history through documentaries.
This is one of my favorite ways to get my kids interested. There are tons of documentaries available free online. Pick a topic and you can find a full-length film.
Or, if you’re feeling brave, delve into the black hole of conspiracy theory, and look up alternate science or history theories. Conspiracy theories make for fun watching, and then you can make it a family project to go look up what’s true and what isn’t. Not only do you learn history or science better, but you’ll also develop critical thinking skills — both in yourself and your kids!
2. Go strategic with simulation
My kids and I love simulation games. While we’re studying Ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, China or the Aztec, games like Civilization help enhance our learning. We can see in a little more 3-D action just how these civilizations built their great landmarks, developed technology, and how they fought with their neighbours.
We also enjoy those “tycoon” type games, especially as an add-on to our studies in geography. While lemonade stands and popsicle booths make for great hands-on learning, using games like Rollercoaster Tycoon offer an alternative way to learn about supply, demand and profits.
3. Educational by design
And then there are the video games that are openly educational. There are tons available, for just about every age level! Here are some of our favorites:
- Always Ice Cream
- Teach your Monster to Read
- Reading Eggs
- Math Seeds
- Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
Try Summer Bridging
There are tons of fun, light, easy-to-use workbooks and worksheets that can help bridge the gap between the end of the year and the beginning of the next year. And one of the benefits of using a workbook or series of worksheets is that your kids can stay in the habit of regular “school” time (assuming you have a routine of “school” time) without you having to plan, grade or do a whole lot.
1. Comprehensive workbooks
The Popular Smart Company, The Critical Thinking Company, and Evan Moor are a few of the more popular comprehensive workbook publishers. You can pick up a grade-level all-in-one workbook and use it as a fun activity book for long trips or rainy days. Or have your child do a few pages as a regular part of your daily routine.
A perk to this is that you can get a really good sense of where your child is compared to their public-schooled peers. So if staying on par or ahead of public school is a priority, this might be a non-pressured, non-testing way to check.
I regularly use lapbooks as part of our homeschool curriculum, but these would also make a great summer project. A lapbook is a topic-specific self-contained package of templates, prompts, reading and reading suggestions for a unit study.
Hands of a Child and A Journey Through Learning are my favorite lapbook publishers, but you can get templates, ideas and prompts on Teachers pay Teachers or Homeschool Share as well. You can explore How to Be a Knight, or take a trip to Australia. Maybe look at how storms work or how a to plant a garden. There are so many themes to try out, that you can do a different one every week!
3. Free Printables
Maybe you don’t even want anything in depth, but you need a boredom buster? Try a free printable worksheet like this one:
Your child will love practicing word recognition in this fun matching activity! For more resources to support your child’s early reading skills, visit Education.com. Education.com aims to empower parents, teachers, and homeschoolers to help their children build essential skills and excel. With over 12 million members, Education.com provides educators of all kinds with high-quality learning resources, including worksheets, lesson plans, digital games, an online guided learning platform, and more.
Summer Slide doesn’t have to happen.
You can relax and have fun this summer, and still know that your kids will be well prepared for their next school year. Use the right tools to help your kids stay on track and prevent learning loss, without nagging or ruining their summer, or yours either.
What will you do this summer to prevent summer learning loss?
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