Summer Learning Slide: Help! My Kids Don’t Seem to Care About it

I’ve been an educator for 30 years, and I’m a parent, so you’d think I’d be a pro at what to do with my kids over the summer when they were younger (they’re now in their 20s). I wish I could say that was the case, but the truth is, finding that perfect balance between a carefree, relaxing summer and making sure my children were invested in summer learning and prepared for the upcoming school year was always a challenge.


If your kids are like mine were, they’re not excited about keeping their skills up over the summer. In fact, they couldn’t care less if many researchers (and teachers!) believe the summer learning slide is real and that students can lose 2 ½ months of academic gains during the break.

It’s completely normal for kids to want nothing more than to hang out with friends, play video games, and go to fun camps. And many high schoolers are busy enough with their summer jobs, social plans, and college planning.

When I used to try to encourage the love of reading over the summer, I’d often hear, “Yeah Mom, I’ll read later, after I’m finished watching this show.”  If I insisted they do math practice problems before leaving for the day, they would generally comply, but so often, the effort was minimal.

The problem was— I was my boys’ mother, not their teacher. And honestly, I found that adhering to my role as their mother preserved our relationship. So what’s the solution? I found that a couple of things worked well in our house.

Develop a summer plan to keep skills sharp

Create a summer schedule and put it in writing. This is perhaps the most important thing you can do BEFORE summer starts or right at the start of your child’s break. Sit down with your kid and agree upon a daily time dedicated to practicing skills (don’t call it homework!).

For most kids, the morning is best. Twenty to thirty minutes each day or three days per week is all you need. If you wait until late July or August to think about summer learning, your child will likely resist your attempts. Children are more likely to comply when they know what to expect early on.

Another idea is to reach out to your child’s teacher(s) before the school year ends for suggestions on grade-level books and activities for summer learning. If your child is weak in a particular subject, summer is a great time to fill in the learning gaps and boost confidence.

A tutor can influence kids in ways Mom and Dad can’t

When my younger son was in school, he always worked with a subject tutor over the summer on writing and math. My older son usually focused solely on math with his tutor until the summer before his junior year, when he started working with a test prep tutor to get a jump-start on ACT prep.

Summer Tutoring Learn More

I liked having tutors involved in the summer, and here’s why: the tutor helped them with the subject matter and assigned them follow-up practice, which they did on their own time before the next session. And quite frankly, they were far more willing to do it because the request came from someone other than their parents.

By the end of each summer, both of my boys had reviewed the important concepts from the past year, filled in any learning gaps, and previewed what was coming up in the first quarter of the new school year. They were confident and ready for the fall. And best of all, it was achieved in a stress-free way without nagging from mom or dad.

The importance of carving out time for reading

As a teacher, I could always tell which of my students engaged in learning activities over the summer when they returned in the fall. Those that did nothing were rusty and needed time to catch up. Those who had read throughout the summer were ready to learn.

Here’s what worked in our house: Everyone picked a book to read each June, not just kids but parents as well. After dinner, we shut off all electronics for a half hour. We all sat in the kitchen or family room and read for pleasure. This worked because everyone was involved.

Sometimes, I think reading can be seen as punitive by kids. When we say, “Go up to your room and read,” it can almost feel like a punishment to our children. Furthermore, reluctant readers will do very little reading on their own, so the key is doing it together either by reading independently at the same time or by sharing a book.

For young children, the approach “I read a page, you read a page” is often very successful. Teenagers who are not keen on reading can find a great list of books through the American Library Association. There, you will find high-interest titles for girls and boys.

For your tween or teen, consider an e-book. Teens love electronics and are much more likely to read if they need to flip the switch on their tablet or Kindle. Moreover, once they finish with one book, the next book is at the tip of their fingers in their online storefront.

Unless a particular book is required by the school, don’t force your child to read “quality literature” that may not interest you. Reading a comic book or graphic novel is reading! Allow your child to read magazines, books on topics of interest, or books based on movies they’ve seen or want to see. Audiobooks are great, too, because they help with reading comprehension. We have some summer reading recommendations (straight from our students) HERE.

Find ways to make math fun

There are plenty of practical ways to incorporate math skills over the summer without making it seem like a chore.

Math can be meaningful and engaging over the summer when it’s related to real-life uses. I like to challenge kids to do mental math while cooking (fractions), going out to eat (tip percentages), and shopping (budgeting and adding).

There are also a number of great apps and websites that aim to shore up skills in different areas of math, no matter your child’s age. I find a lot of value in the personalized learning options on IXL. This site is helpful for a general review of grade-level concepts. Kahn Academy also offers many free math learning resources.

Get your summer plans in place now

The key to making summer learning productive is to have a plan in writing early on and to incorporate engaging activities. Students do like to feel unprepared for the upcoming year, and hopefully, these pieces of advice will help you to get your students to realize the importance of keeping up their academics and preventing the summer learning slide. By helping them keep their skills fresh, you will help make the new school year successful!

If you want to bring in a backup this summer, have an expert educator challenge your child (while having fun!), and keep them on track, we’re here for you! It’s easy to get started. Just click here to schedule a time to chat with one of our Educational Specialists about your child’s needs and summer learning goals.

One-to-One Summer Sessions 2023