Family Project: Summer Learning

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Children look forward to summer vacation with good reason. Summer brings warmth, fun and most importantly, no homework. However, during those summer months, children can lose some of the academic progress they have made in the prior school year. Developing a balanced at home program for review and the introduction of concepts upcoming in the new school year will keep your child’s mind fresh and relieve anxiety when they return to school.

Develop the program with your child. Depending on their age, they may be able to contribute more than you expect to the process and enjoy doing it with you. First, print out a calendar which shows their last day of school from the preceding academic year and their first day of school for the upcoming year. It is helpful to first fill in the calendar with as many “fun” things planned as possible. This will get your child excited about the summer. For example, if you have scheduled a week-long family vacation to the beach, have your child write those vacation days on the appropriate dates on the calendar. If an important family member is coming out for a visit, have them identify those days as well. Not only will this remind them of their fun plans for the summer, it will also serve as an easy ongoing response to their sometimes pesky and repeated questions throughout the summer about how long it will be before these events occur.

Next, schedule a “break” in school work for a time period after the former school year ends. It can be a few days or an entire week, depending on your child and any planned vacation schedules. Talk to your child about what it means to “take a break” and ask them how many days they think should be part of this break. Once your child has marked off the days of break, vacation and other fun, ask your child how they felt about the prior school year. What was their favorite subject? What subject was hardest? What do they think they need to work on to improve for the next school year? You may be surprised at their insight. You may also provide your child with some direction regarding areas where they might improve. It is important to make sure your child does not view the summer work as a form of punishment but as a form of help and fun.

Once you and your child have identified issues to focus on, determine whether these issues are best addressed with busy work or a more involved project. For example, if your child struggles with multiplication math facts, there are very few projects that will supplant worksheets or flash cards to help them improve. If they struggle with reading comprehension, you might add a project to the schedule that involves summer reading, over and above your school district’s summer reading program. For example, perhaps you and your family enjoy going to a particular ice cream store during the summer. Schedule time to go to the library with your child and find a book or two they can read about ice cream. Then, schedule reading time and reflection time. If your child has difficulty writing or enjoys writing, this can be an opportunity for a book report. Try to avoid “book report forms” that they see in school. Suggest they write a pretend newspaper article or even a letter to their grandparents, telling them about what they have learned. If grandparents are coming to visit in July, you might direct your child to a topic or book that they can read and discuss with grandma and grandpa during their visit. Planning a vacation? Have your child choose a book about the vacation destination as a reading topic before you go.

Avoid writing designated start/ finish times or rigid time parameters during the day for academic work. Instead, talk to your child about what time of day they think it would be best to dedicate to learning. Parent work schedules, summer activities and vacations can all be taken into account. For practical purposes, you may find yourselves using a designated time for learning, but writing it down can add pressure to your child and lead them to dread the work they will be doing. Using at least three days a week, schedule different subjects to address. For projects, you may designate more than one day. There are a variety of flashcards, worksheets and project ideas available online. There are even interactive websites that are safe and child-friendly which can be used to promote not only learning but computer education.

Organize any printed materials in colorful folders for your child by subject. Do not place all the work for the entire summer in the folder. Rather, each week, print out the materials for each subject. When the time comes for your child to perform the work in the folder, take out the folder with your child and remove the assignment for them to complete. Once they have completed it, sit down and review their work with them and address any issues. You might have them cross off the day’s work on the calendar you created.

Most importantly, stick to the schedule when possible. You may be surprised at how many idle days are eaten up during the summer. By mixing activities with worksheets or flashcards, you can keep your child interested in learning throughout the summer and ready for the upcoming school year.

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