Do you remember the excitement of the last day of the school year? You were free! Or did the end of the school year mean something different for you?
- Maybe you could play all summer or all vacation!
- Maybe you were sad. You would not be able to see your friends.
- Maybe you loved school. You didn’t want it to end.
- Maybe you would go to live with another parent during vacations. That might have been a happy thing or a sad thing.
- Maybe your parents had other things for you to do during the whole break. That could have been good or bad.
- Maybe you needed to stay inside. There was no place to go outside. Maybe there was nothing to do. You just got bored.
Vacations should be a break. It is good to do something different for a while. It helps to get away from school. It helps the children. It helps the teachers. But for many parents, vacations are hard. They don’t know what to do with the children. The routine is gone. The children might be bored. Or the children might forget to follow rules.
And for many children, vacations are a time to lose ground with learning. They forget many of the things they learned in school. They can be left behind when they start back at school.
Taking a break is good. Vacations are good. But the children can still learn. And the children and parents still need routine. They can have vacation and still learn together in a fun way. Then they will be ready to go back to school with new energy and ideas.
Studies show that…
Parents are important for children’s learning. Most parents are not school teachers, but they are a kind of teachers.
- Parents are children’s first teachers. They start teaching children when the children are babies. Children get a great start when parents talk to them, listen to them, show them things, and teach them about the world.
- Parents are important all through children’s lives. Teachers make a difference for children. But teachers do not work alone. Parents help teachers. Parents need to keep supporting their children’s learning.
- Great adults remember what their parents taught them. Great writers talk about things that happened outside of school. Those things helped with their success. Even great teachers remember ways that their parents helped them learn as children.
- Parents can:
- Teach about culture and family history.
- Teach about food and cooking.
- Take children on vacations.
- Tell family stories.
- Share special family items — clothing, jewelry, photos, tools.
- Teach language.
- Share family faith or religion.
- Teach values important to the family.
What can happen over vacations? Schoolchildren can lose a lot of what they learned during the school year.
- Children might stop reading. Then they slow down with reading skills. And then they don’t like reading as well as they did.
- Children might stop writing. Even very young children start writing. That is part of the reading process. They might stop doing that during a break. Then they forget some writing skills.
- Children might stop doing math. Then they need to go back and learn things again. Those might be things that they had already learned. They will be behind other children in math when school starts again.
- Children might stop doing science activities. They might think science is just for school. They think science is not fun. Then they forget these skills, too.
How can the “summer slide” be stopped?
- Schools might have special programs over breaks. Those are usually for just some children, though. And children might not want to go.
- Parents can pay for special summer programs or camps for children. But those can cost a lot of money.
- Find out what your schools do for children during the break. There might be some good choices for your children. But look at the many things you can do as a parent!
Next steps for parents…
Parents might be the best teachers during vacations. They can do some things to make learning special during breaks and vacations. Parents are not trained teachers. But you can do some special things. You can show children how to use learning in life every day. You can help them learn why they need to learn. And it will still feel like a break from school!
Using Learning Every Day
Reading — Point out to your children when you read something. Show them how you use reading in your life. Have them read with you when they are old enough. They could help you read. Or you could read directions or information together.
Writing — Point out when you use writing. Ask the children to help you make a note or a list. Show the writing on paper or on your phone.
Math — Point out when you use math. With very young children, show how each person gets one plate at the table. Have the child help to set the table. Count things all day. With older children, show when you add up shopping lists. Have them help to check your change at the store. Compare prices to choose what to buy. Talk about things you are saving to buy later. Explain how you save money.
Supporting Children’s Schoolwork
Find out if there are special things to work on over the break. Maybe there are skills your children should practice. Maybe there are books your children should reading. Maybe there are things you could do to help your children do during the break. Your children’s teachers might have some ideas for you.
Or you might look at some of the papers your children brought home from school. You could look at those activities again. Maybe your children could do those activities again after a short break. You could ask the questions out loud. Or you could ask your children to explain the ideas to you. Teaching the skills to someone else is a great way of learning. Your child could be the teacher! And that could keep those ideas fresh.
Special Summer Projects
Summers and other breaks give chances to do things that are new and different. The whole family can do things together. Or one parent can do things with one child at a time.
This is a good time to start (or continue!) a habit of reading every day. Reading is very important for children’s learning. And reading with children is a very good way for parents to stay close to children. Parents can read to children, even after children can read by themselves. And children can read to parents when they are old enough. Parents and children can take turns reading. You can get books in a library. You might be about to trade books with family or friends. Maybe you could borrow books over vacation. You could ask a teacher for ideas over a break.
Writing stories or “books” is an activity that children can start at an early age. Young children can tell the story to a parent or older child. The older person can write down what the child says. Young children also use “invented spelling.” They try to write before they know the real spelling. That is an important first step in writing. Then they can add drawings. Older children might want to use a computer. Children might want to work in groups and make a newsletter. They could create a newsletter about what happened over the summer or over the break. They could become reporters. Or they might want to write books about what they do over the summer.
One special project for summer or a break would be to start an allowance for the children. The children would get a certain amount of money each week. Parents could help the children set up a budget. The children could set goals. They could save for something. The children could learn to add, subtract, and manage the money.
There are many places to learn about science in the summer. Children, parents, and families can go to parks. They can just go to the backyard. Or they can learn some things in the kitchen. But it is great to get outside. Some children have worked with real research studies. They started in their science classes in school. The kept working on it in the summer. Some people have worked with 4-H programs. Some children and families have worked with National Parks. Some learned about insects. Some learned about the history of local or national parks. Others could work with caring for the earth. And some learned about people in other countries. There are many choices!
See some ideas here:
- Study birds in your backyard: http://gbbc.birdcount.org/
- Study temperature and cricket chirps: https://extension.entm.purdue.edu/401Book/default.php?page=home
- Learn about the larger world, then look around your neighborhood: https://geology.com/google-earth
- Study families around the world, then compare them to your family: https://www.familiesoftheworld.com/
Goals for parents…
Think about your children. Think about their summer or school break.
- What do they do during that time?
- What do you do during that time?
- How often do your children have chances to learn?
Parents are important partners in learning. Set three goals.
- Show your children how you use reading, writing, and math in your everyday life.
- Read with each child at least 3 times each week.
- Choose one special project to do with the children over the break.
Have fun with learning over the school break!
Clary, R., Wandersee, J., Guyton, J., and Williams, M. (2012). Citizen science in your own backyard: Building a generation of scientists through entomology. The Science Teacher, 79(9), 51-57.
Kraft, M. A., Monti-Nussbaum, M. Jackson, M., (Editor), & Moffitt, Susan L (Editor). (2017). Can schools enable parents to prevent summer learning loss? A text-messaging field experiment to promote literacy skills. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 674(1), 85-112.
Miller, S., & Ollove, M. (2011, Summer). Nature as a learning tool. The Science Teacher, 78(5), 70-71.
Previts, J., & Bauer, D. (2016, Jan.). Ourselves and others: Learning, teaching, and discovery. Middle School Journal; Columbus, 47(2), 1.