Many of us have a wonderful image of summer as a carefree, happy time when “kids can be kids,” and take for granted the prospect of enriching experiences such as being outside in nature, time with family, and trips to museums, parks, and libraries. Unfortunately, when children are not in a good summer camp, parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to find productive things for kids to do.
As a result, studies have shown that achievement test scores decline over summer vacation. Summer learning loss, the phenomenon where young people lose academic skills over the summer break, is one of the most significant long-term causes for the achievement gap between students going into high school. Those students who do not need the first month or two of the school year to review and relearn what they mastered last year are able to advance further and faster than their peers.
As the final month of summer is upon us, what can we do as parents to help our children prepare for the start of the school year?
Preparing to returning to school after summer vacation
Read more and play math games
Every summer many youths lose two to three months in reading while their “reading” peers make slight gains. Additionally, most youth lose about two months of math skills in the summer. These reading and math losses add up. By fifth grade, consistent summer learning loss can leave students 2 1/2 to 3 years behind their peers.
Ways to make reading fun
Find fun reading for your child, even comic books or graphic novels, can help them when it is time to open their school books. Some other ways to keep reading interesting for elementary school students over the summer is to ask your child to find the names of town or places on maps and signs, or ask your middle school student to use Google to look up facts about places you visit. When driving them around, play a game of is the first person to see the word railroad, school, speed limit, or other common words.
Apply math to the real world
There are many ways to apply math to the real world during the summer. Some things you could do include asking your child how much change you should get when paying at a store or how many pieces of watermelon or pie to cut up for snack. Upper elementary students can be asked how long a trip will take if they know the miles you need to travel and the speed you are going – reverse the “are we there yet, how much longer” question parents are always asked!
Write out your goals for the school year
Sit down with your children and ask them what they want to do over the next year. It may be they want to make new friends, play a sport, be in the school play, learn to ride a bike, skateboard or dance. Help them write out these goals on a board that they can post in their room or in the kitchen, and help them think of ways to achieve these goals during the year.
Review homework or tests from last year
At Hudson Country Montessori School, we provide parents with a collection of their child’s work and tests at the end of the school year. Instead of reviewing the package when you get it, August is a perfect time to review it with your child to help refresh their memory of what they learned. If you already looked over the collection, bring it back out to refresh the information with your child.
Make a school activities schedule
Review the calendar for the school year and highlight the days that are important for the student. Identify the days that are deadlines for the goal they identified above, such as Sport registration and sign-up days, test days & school events. For dates that need preparation, work with your child to establish smaller milestones to lead up to the big day. Just as practice days need to be set-up before the game or tournament, study days need to be scheduled before the big test. Being able to see the coming school year, and identify deadline dates as well as when to start working on milestones can help relief your child and you of school year unease.
Start to adjust your child’s sleep schedule
The week before school starts, plan some morning activities so you and your child start to wake up earlier. The first week of school is the toughest for students if they have not been used to waking up until 11am all summer. By the time students are fully awake, half the school day has past. Have you ever walked into a movie that has already started? It takes a while to catch up and understand what is happening. Similarly, it can take a month for the student to catch up to what they did not absorb in that first week.
Prepare their clothes and school supplies
The week before school starts, help your child pack their book bag and pick out the clothes they will wear for their first week of school. Knowing they are prepared, and having an idea on what they will wear can help reduce anxieties about starting school and fitting in. These are also great activities for helping to get the student up earlier in the morning, and it starts a routine for the student to packing the school bag and picking out their clothes on their own in the morning that you will surely appreciate through-out the school year.
Start your school day
On the first day of school, wake up your student a little earlier than you normally would for school. New routines take a while to adjust to, and there may be anxiety and uncertainty that need to be addressed and can slow down the morning routine. Having a little more time than normal will help prevent concern about being late contributing to the first day of school anxiety.
Eat a healthy breakfast
It sounds silly, but eating habits during the summer are much different than during the school year. Additionally, a young person’s body needs steady and healthy fuel to stay awake and aware during the class day. They will not be able to rummage through the cupboard at school if they get hungry during class. Make sure they have a good, healthy breakfast – and make it special so their day starts right.