Avoid the “Summer Slide” with Creative Academics

Summertime Learning is Key to Next Year’s Success

by Joyce Sibbett, Ph.D., President, Dancing Moose Montessori School

Did you know that as your child soon begins the lazy, hazy days of summer that they’re also very likely to slip behind academically?  It’s called the “summer slide” and it’s a real phenomenon.

Research suggests that students lose a month or more of skills and knowledge over the summer break. In fact, a recently released survey from the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) confirms that teachers spend a significant amount of time re-teaching material due to summer learning loss.  The survey, which was based on answers from 500 teachers, found that 66 percent of teachers have to spend three to four weeks re-teaching students course material at the beginning of the year, while 24 percent of teachers spend at least five to six weeks re-teaching material from the previous school year.

That’s a lot of learning lost, but creative planning can make a huge difference.

What follows are three fun ways to incorporate creative learning time into your daily or weekly schedule, and they will add an academic boost for next year’s school progress.  Additionally, you’ll be giving your child some great boredom busters so you never have to hear, “Mom, I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.”

Reading, Reading, and more Reading

If your child does nothing else this summer, make sure he or she is reading!

Make visiting the library part of your summer plan. You can join reading clubs where your child earns points for the number of books read (or minutes spent reading); you can attend story hours or book readings, which may include arts and crafts events.  Most importantly, your child should practice reading daily, and reading with your child is a perfect prime time activity that yields prime results.

Another fun way to incorporate words and reading into your summer routine is to learn a new word each week.  Have your child write it down, draw a picture about it, hang it on the fridge and see who can use it the most times throughout the week.

On longer car trips, listen to audio books and watch your child’s imagination come alive. Discuss characters and let your child anticipate what the characters might do next.  Let your child share opinions about choices the characters make.  Become a news reporter, and let your child role play one of the characters in an interview.  Artwork can be a nice addition to the reading experience to make the story come alive.

Books about superheroes are fun for summer reading, particularly when your child has more time to identify positive and negative traits of his or her favorite superheroes, to make costumes and masks for art projects, and even to act out the storyline for friends and family. Children can also explore a variety of non-fiction books and learn about many places in the world they’d like to someday visit, or even to just dream about.

Gardening and Cooking with Math

Plant a garden. Children enjoy responsibility and take pride in watching their plants grow and thrive.  And you may even be able to turn your children into excited vegetable eaters, knowing they played a part in growing their own carrots, broccoli, and green beans.  A great math component to a garden can be measuring and comparing the growth of a few plants on a weekly basis.

At Dancing Moose, children love to spend time tending garden plants throughout the growing season.  One of the children’s favorite garden projects was a pizza garden, including lots of vegetables that taste great on a pizza.  At harvest time they enjoyed a vegetarian slice of pizza, and all agreed that it was the best pizza they’d ever tasted.

Cook with your children. This is one of the best ways to integrate math, reading, and following directions. Measuring quantities is a natural part of the cooking process.  Let your children design the menu too.  Help them gather their favorite recipes throughout the summer and then create their own cookbook.  The cookbook’s cover is a perfect opportunity for an art project, which could become a thoughtful gift for grandparents and others.

Taking it a step further, a fun math (and economics) project that Dancing Moose children did last summer was to survey members of the school community to learn their favorite cookies, create graphs to represent their surveys, and follow up by taking cookie orders.  Children then baked cookies to fill the orders, collected money, graphed profits, distributed profits, and finally, analyzed results. This could be done in your neighborhood or just with family members and extended family.

Summer Camp Ideas

Here’s a fact worth paying attention to:  Studies have shown that children enrolled in summer programs are two years ahead of their peers by the time they reach fifth grade.  That’s a significant advantage!  Whether you choose a part-time or full-time summer program, summer camps can—and should—provide a balance of learning and fun.

First, enroll your child in a quality summer program that’s been around for a while and will provide your child with opportunities to build critical thinking skills.  Second, look for active programs that will keep child’s mind and body active.  And third, find a program with an array of creative choices.   A quality program will contribute to happy memories of summer as it helps your child maintain academic achievement levels for the new school year.

You can find camps of all shapes and sizes—science camps, acting camps, dance camps, music camps, sports camps, computer camps, and just about anything else that your child might be interested in.   A summer camp is a nice time to help your child enhance his or her skills in an encouraging and fun atmosphere.   And if you have a preschooler who is scheduled to start school in the fall, summer day camp will give him or her an “introductory” period to prepare for a full-day of school.

Here are some additional things to consider when making the summer day camp decision:  Do you share the philosophy that the camp/school follows?  Is there an emphasis on community, helping your child fit in with others?  Does the curriculum include an element of choice?  Does the camp/school communicate often and openly with you?  Is the staff well qualified?

As summer approaches, consider the many ways that you can help your child avoid slipping down the academic summer slide.