Beach vacations, camping, swim meets, summer sports and camps … fun things to look forward to now that summer is here. However, each year we are reminded of the importance of keeping up with academics to avoid what’s known as the “summer slide.”
According to Oxford Learning, up to two and a half months of math and two months of reading loss can occur over the summer. Additionally, it can take six weeks to get back on track in the fall if kids don’t practice some type of learning over the summer. When you add in time spent in front of gaming consoles, phones, and devices, the decline can happen more rapidly. The good news is that it only takes two to three hours per week to keep your child from sliding.
You don’t have to sign your child up for classes at a tutoring center or an academic camp to keep them practicing their skills; there are countless ways to incorporate learning throughout the summer, and do it while still having fun.
If you ask a teacher for best practices to avoid the summer slide, you’ll get a resounding, “Read, read, and read some more!” We know that reading is one of the best habits to instill in a child, as it not only teaches them about a myriad of topics, but it also helps with vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, and writing skills. That’s why our schools provide grade-level summer reading lists. Most area schools offer A’s for reading a designated number of books from the list. A great incentive.
Michael Kelchlin, principal at Gravely Elementary School says, “To avoid the summer slide it’s important to keep a healthy body and a healthy mind. Limit the amount of time on electronics and get outside to exercise and play with friends and family. Participate in camps, clubs and family trips. Research something you’re passionate about, journal, visit the library, and read every day. Throughout the summer, our Gravely Seadogs are invited to join us for Family Literacy Celebrations both at the school and the Haymarket Gainesville Community Library.
The Haymarket Gainesville Community Library is an excellent resource and offers sections designated for different ages, genres and reading levels. Using the online system, any book in the Prince William Library System is available and can be delivered to your local library. Further, in conjunction with the Prince William Library System, it has a summer reading program that offers special events and incentives for kids from preschool through high school.
It’s easy to align reading materials with school curriculum. Why not add a book about history to the summer list? You can find out what your child will be learning next year by contacting your school. For example, fourth graders learn about Virginia history and middle schoolers learn about the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. There are plenty of historical fiction books that take place in those time frames. Create a family field trip to one of our many historical sites that are within a short drive: the Manassas Battlefield, Mount Vernon, Monticello, Montpelier, Jamestown, and Colonial Williamsburg, to name a few.
Matthew Phythian, principal of Bull Run Middle School, says, “Our area in Northern Virginia is rich with historical sites, museums, and other points of interest. I’ve always been a huge museum person and go as often as I can. I would encourage parents to take as many trips to museums as possible. If you haven’t been to the African-American History Museum, this should be at the top of your list. The United States Botanical Gardens is another hidden jewel that students will enjoy. My own children love going to the National Museum of the American Indian and have asked to go back many times. I recommend that students have the opportunity to explore as many of these rich resources that you can during the summer. These museums all have great exhibits and provide a great learning experience for students.”
There are many online resources for math that are fun for kids and will keep them practicing their skills while not realizing they’re working. Coolmathgames.com, Mathplayground.com, and Mathtv.com are a few. RazKids, IXL, and other sites available through each school’s website will work with your child’s school login over the summer. And what kid today doesn’t love YouTube? There are plenty of YouTube channels dedicated to teaching math. Kahn Academy is one recommended by many teachers. “Math needs practice and Khan Academy provides a lot of problems at various levels. There are lessons and explanations available which are valuable to the student’s learning,” said Kelly Ruotolo, fifth grade teacher at Mountain View Elementary School.
Hands-on science centers are a great way to engage younger kids in the subject. Additionally, there are a wealth of do-it-yourself science experiments online. Teacher recommended websites include Nasa Kids Club (nasa.gov/kidsclub), Biology4kids.com, Astronomy for Kids (kidsastronomy.com), and Bill Nye the Science Guy (BillNye.com). A fun science trip is Luray Caverns. Not only is it a great place to keep cool on a hot day, it also offers a science lesson and fun features like a ropes course and outdoor maze.
Help your child build their vocabulary with a word of the day challenge. Websites such as Superkids.com and Merriam Webster’s Word Central (wordcentral.com) are good resources. Add an extra challenge by trying to create a sentence with the new word each day. To encourage writing, create a summer diary and encourage your child to write about the places you visit, or their summer experiences.
If your kids are anything like mine, finding ways to keep them active over the summer isn’t hard – the challenge is trying to keep up. Bike riding, skateboarding, tennis, sports camps, dance camps, swimming, basketball, water balloon fights, etc. The bottom line is – just get outside and play!
If your child plays an instrument in school, summer is not the time to stop. Even if you postpone lessons until September, have them play a few times a week to keep it top of their minds. Contemporary Music Center (contemporarymusiccenter.com) in Haymarket offers Rock Camp, a great way to continue learning or even begin a new instrument. Plus, at the end of each session students put on a concert at @4410, the Center’s dedicated performance venue.
Don’t forget about art! Prince William County Schools offer wonderful art camps and programs. Even if you don’t want another camp, the summer is the perfect time to let the kids make an artful mess, especially outside! Stock up on art supplies, create a crafting area and let their imaginations run wild.
When I asked teachers for advice on avoiding the slide, I received some creative suggestions you might not think involve academics. For example:
Cook with your child. Have your child find a recipe and learn how to follow it. Following a recipe helps with reading, math (measurement), and science (the actual cooking process). Not to mention, what parent wouldn’t love the benefit of having more cooks in the kitchen?
Plant a garden. Much like cooking, when you have your child research what fruits, veggies, and flowers will work with your soil and sun exposure, there is a hidden lesson. Teaching them how to take care of a garden and then eating what they’ve grown is a great activity and hobby.
Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to your school and your child’s teachers. They will be happy to provide suggestions of things for your child to work on and can give you ideas that incorporate fun. For additional suggestions, visit the Virginia Department of Education’s website for a wealth of information that includes websites and ways to continue summer learning.