Help! My Kids Couldn’t Care Less about the Summer Learning Slide

I’ve been an educator for over 20 years, and a parent for 16, so you’d think I’d be a pro at what to do with my kids over the summer. I wish I could say that’s the case, but the truth is, finding that perfect balance between a carefree, relaxing summer and making sure my children are invested in summer learning and prepared for the upcoming school year.

If your kids are like mine, they’re not excited about keeping their skills up over the summer. In fact, they couldn’t care less if research shows that students can lose 2 ½ months of academic gains over the summer months. My 12-year old son’s focus is hanging out with his friends, playing video games, and going to sports camps, where as my 16-year old is busy with his summer job, breaking in his driver’s license, and visiting a few colleges along the way.

When I try to encourage the love of reading I hear, “Yeah Mom, I’ll read later, after I’m finished watching this show.”  If I insist they do math practice problems before leaving for the day, they generally comply, but so often their effort is minimal. In the past, I found that not a lot gets done until August and by then the books that need to be read and the math packets that must be turned in by early September have piled up.

The problem is that I am my boys’ mother, not their teacher. And to be honest I found that adhering to my role as their mother preserves our relationship. So what’s the solution? In our house, I found that a couple of things really work well.

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.  Sit down with your child and agree upon a daily time dedicated to practice skills (don’t call it homework!).  For most kids, 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.  When children know what to expect early on, they are more likely to comply.

Another idea is to reach out to your child’s teacher(s) before the school year ends for suggestions on 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

For the last few years I’ve had a tutor come one to two times per week to work with my seventh grader on writing and math and with my rising eleventh grader solely on math.  This year, I’m changing things up for my oldest because college entrance exams are coming up.  He took a practice SAT and ACT. After our test prep manager, Erin Ebert, compared both scores, we found that Will did far better on the ACT.  So, this summer, he’s getting a jump-start on ACT prep with Jason King.

I like having tutors involved, and here’s why: the tutor helps them with the subject matter and assigns them follow-up practice which they do on their own time before the next session. And quite frankly, they are far more willing to do it because the request comes from someone other than their parents. By the end of the summer, both boys have reviewed the important concepts from the past year and previewed what’s coming up in the first quarter. They are confident and ready for the fall and best of all, it’s been achieved in a stress-free way.

The Importance of Carving out a 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 really were rusty and needed time to catch up. Those that had read throughout the summer were ready to learn. Research shows that when students read four books over the summer, learning loss is negated. Here’s what works in our house in June. Everyone picks a book to read, not just kids but parents as well. After dinner, we shut off all electronics for just 30 or 45 minutes. We all sit in the kitchen or family room and read for pleasure. This works because everyone is 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 aren’t keen on reading can find a great list of books at www.ala.org. There you will find high-interest titles for girls and boys.

For your tween or teen, consider an e-reader.  Teens love electronics and are much more likely to read if they just need to flip the switch on their e-book.  Moreover, once they finish with one book, the next book is at the tip of their fingers in their e-reader storefront.  Unless a particular books is required by the school, don’t force your child to read “quality literature” that may not be of interest.  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.

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 prepared for the upcoming year and hopefully these pieces of advice will help you to get your student to realize the importance of keeping up their academics over the summer. By helping them to keep their skills fresh, you will help to make the new school year a successful one!

What ideas do you have about keeping kids engaged in the summer? Post a comment! I always love to hear new ideas.

 

 

 

How to Nurture Creativity in Young Kids

I spoke with a mom from Chevy Chase earlier this week who was inquiring about summer tutoring options for her son.  A rising third grader, her son loved school and was excited about the prospect of working with a tutor over the summer.  A curious child who loved math and science, he was also and avid reader and writer and was always eager to learn!  Worried that a lazy summer spent out of the classroom would diminish this spark, mom called to discuss enrichment options.

Math and Science Enrichment Tutoring in Maryland

While he loved school and adored his teachers, this boy, like many eight year olds, was a ball of energy and surely would not want to spend summer days inside working on math fact drills.  His summer would be filled with sports and science camps and he would be spending his mornings at the pool with his swim team.  Mom told me how much he was looking forward to working with a tutor this summer and that he really wanted to expand his math and science knowledge.  He respected his teachers and thrived with one on one support.  Aside from needing a tutor experienced in working with energetic children, this boy required a tutor with a creative approach – someone who could think outside the box and prepare fun, engaging, activities to keep him focused and learning all summer long.

A naturally creative child, this boy love crafts, science experiments, and learning new concepts in hands on and interactive ways.  We selected a terrific tutor to work with him this summer; a fourth grade teacher who plans to challenge this student with enrichment support and fun, interactive, educational games and activities this summer.  From Reston, Virginia, to Bethesda, Maryland, and everywhere in between, we have talented teachers available seven days per week to challenge even the most curious of learners and keep the academic spark burning strong this summer!

Making Summer Learning Fun

Bottom line?  Summer is all about making learning fun.  Looking for ideas you can do at home to keep your kids interested and engaged this summer?  Take a trip to your local craft store and stock up on a hodgepodge of inexpensive materials.  Set aside time each week for arts and crafts and allow your kids to build/create/design whatever!  Kids will love the creative outlet and these homemade treasures can serve as reminders of a wonderful summer!

Get Your Kids to Love Summer Reading!

If you attended this week’s free webinar, “Avoid the Summer Learning Slide: Simple Solutions and Useful Tools”, you already know that reading over the summer is incredibly important. In case you missed it, here’s a video of the webinar on our youtube channel.

Studies show that students who read four or more books over their summer break do much better on tests in school in the fall, and their first quarter grades see a huge boost. Here are some tips to turn your kids into happy readers over the summer and solve next year’s bad grades before they start.

  • Everyone picks a book, not just kids. At the start of the summer, parents AND kids should choose a book. Modeling is the best way to teach. When kids see that their parents are reading, they are much more likely to do so themselves. Pair reading with relaxation in the evening…for the whole family. And if you follow our second tip, you’ll find that your kids may fall in love with their reading time…
  • Pick books that are kid-tested. Even boys will devour a book when you find the right material. Check out the ultimate teen book list on amazon, or these recommended reading lists from a private school library network for kids of all ages. When they are involved in choosing, they’re much less likely to push back. For younger kids, consider an online reading program like studydog.com, headsprout.com, or literactive.com.
  • Consider an E-Reader. We all know that our kids love screens. Consider buying them books through a Kindle, Nook, or iPad. Kids like being able to customize colors and fonts, and it’s convenient to be able to carry so much material in your pocket. Anything that makes reading fun and easy is a great chance to get your kids involved in reading over the summer.
 

Getting your kids to read over the summer is well worth the effort, and with these strategies in place, you may find that they will love it!