How to help your kids avoid summer learning loss

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Want to ensure your kids avoid summer learning loss? Find out why it’s important to help them to learn outside school, and how to make it fun!

According to Penny Fray from Pen and Ink Tuition, keeping your children sharp for school in September doesn’t need to be hard – or even onerous. There are plenty of ways that they can learn while helping out around the house and playing.

In this article, she explains why it’s important to keep learning on some level during the holidays, and shares ideas on how you can help your children to avoid summer learning loss.

It’s well known that children fall behind in the summer

Ask any teacher and they will tell you that they face a difficult task every September. While children return to school having enjoyed a long summer break, teachers find that their learning has taken a break as well.

That’s because many children do not do any schoolwork over the summer, and begin to forget some of what they have learned in the previous weeks and months.

It’s actually a well-known phenomenon and the subject of much research among academics. It’s one of the reasons, for example, that the Institute for Policy Research recommended that summer holidays be shortened. (And why Malcolm Gladwell recommends that inner-city schools get rid of the summer holiday altogether in his book Outliers.)

School children lose up to two to three months of work

Research shows that, while children are enjoying their annual holiday abroad, playing in the garden and catching up with friends, they are losing as much as two or three months’ worth of work.

Of course, all of these things are very worthwhile activities, but it means that children often come back to school at a lower academic level than when they left. At best, children show no academic growth over the summer, at worst, children show a clear regression. That regression is worse the older the child: the summer learning loss begins to show in Year 3, and becomes more acute for those transitioning from primary to secondary school.

Come September, teachers are faced with reinforcing knowledge already given to pupils the previous year, before they can even begin to tackle that academic year’s tasks.

10 tips to help you avoid the summer learning loss

Children clearly need the break from academic pressure over the summer, but there are plenty of fun things you can do to mitigate the summer learning loss. Here are our top ten tips.

1) Encourage them to read

Reading is by far the most important thing you can encourage your child to do. Here, variety is everything: comics, graphic novels, newspapers, magazines, non-fiction factual books, and nutritional labels – it all counts. Why not start a children’s book club among family and friends?

2) Play word games

Word games, such as Bananagrams and Scrabble are a great way to get the whole family involved as well as keeping literacy levels up.

3) Write a journal

Writing and keeping a journal or scrapbook of their activities over the summer really helps children stay on track. When you go on days out ask the children to collect items that they can then write about in a scrapbook.

4) Keep them writing

In fact, anything that makes them pick up a pen and pencil is very useful, because, unless they are super-keen on colouring and scribbling, over the summer they get completely unused to using a pen and pencil and their writing really suffers as a result.

So ask them to write your shopping list for you, to write the addresses on your envelopes, send postcards to their friends, or to pen a surprise note to grandma.

5) Buy them puzzle books

Puzzle books, which include anything from dot-to-dot to word searches and crosswords are excellent for keeping children’s brains ticking – while having fun.

6) Set them challenges

While out and about, send them on an adventure quest to find five different kinds of something, writing them down as they go along – children will enjoy the challenge! Some ideas of things you can ask them to find are:

  • Five types of flowers.
  • Five types of leaves.
  • Five types of insects.

7) Keep their number skills sharp

Research suggests that maths suffers the most during the summer learning loss. Obvious games to play are Monopoly, Yahtzee, and card games.

While out shopping, give your child say, £5, and tell them they can buy what they want but that they must work out how best to spend it. You’ll need a fair amount of patience for this, but it helps them a) learn about budgets and b) get the numerical synapses firing!

Another idea is to get them to weigh out the ingredients when you are baking as well, they can eat their reward while improving their maths!

8) Introduce them to chess

Spain has recently made chess compulsory in all schools after a study showed that literacy and numeracy scores improved with those that had been taught to play.

9) Take them to museums

Trips out to museums and cultural centres give children the opportunity to learn something new, challenging their thinking brain cells.

10) Sign up to a challenge or competition

The Reading Agency runs a Summer Reading Challenge, which is available in most libraries. Children sign up to read books every week and receive rewards. The Reading Agency is hoping to beat a world record this summer! (We’re also running our own Summer Challenge.)

Make learning fun

While you may want to help keep your kids’ learning sharp, you’ll have greater success if you make it fun. Even more so if they don’t even realise it’s ‘learning’! Remember that children achieve their best when learning is a continuous process, and when they enjoy it.

By using some of the ideas here, you can help your children to have a fun summer holiday, and make sure they return to school in September, bright and keen to continue learning. Good luck! 

Why not join Pen and Ink’s Summer Challenge? Aimed at ages 5-8 and 9-11, every week in August we will send out a fun learning task to complete. Complete one for each week in August be in with the chance to win a hudl2. Sign up here!

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