Planning a Fun and Educational Summer Break
May 31, 2009 Other 2387 Views
Many kids see summer as three months of sleeping late, spending time at the pool, and hanging out with friends. While parents want their children to enjoy the break, they also want it to be a productive time. They know instinctively what education researchers have proven again and again: when summers do not include educational activities, student knowledge slides backward. "Summer learning loss," they call it.
Students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than at the beginning. Most students lose more than two months in math skills, and those who do not read over the summer risk similar losses in reading achievement. Skills that are learned through repetition and practice, such as spelling and computation, are most at risk.
With a little planning and parental encouragement, it is possible for children to have a fun and educational summer. Start with the school's summer reading list. Parents should make it mandatory, even if the school says it is "optional." But don't stop there. Encourage your child to sign up for the public library's summer reading program. Start a subscription to an age-appropriate magazine such as Ranger Rick, National Geographic Kids, Highlights, Boys' Life or Girls' Life. Even sports magazines and comic books will help keep them reading--and that's what you want.
If your child's teacher recommends a summer math workbook, use it. If not, you can find age-appropriate workbooks at the Learning Station in Newark and at most bookstores. (The Spectrum workbook series is particularly good.)
We all know that kids like to spend time on the Internet. That can be educationally productive, too. A Google search will turn up a host of free educational games that your children can play online. As always, parents should verify the suitability of a website before allowing their children to use it and should monitor what their children are doing online.
For children in pre-K and elementary school, check out gamequarium.com and funbrain.com. Kids of all ages will have fun with the educational games on www.sheppardsoftware.com. The geography games are addictive in a good way; other topics include vocabulary, math, history, science, health and "brain game" puzzles. Older students (and adults) will find an array of challenging puzzles and games at theproblemsite.com. High school students can build vocabulary skills on vocabulary.com.
Traditional sleepaway camps, sports camps, and arts and crafts camps provide important opportunities for teamwork, socialization, exercise and creativity, but be sure to balance those experiences with camps that offer more academic enrichment. Perhaps your child would enjoy a camp that focuses on science, creative writing or foreign-language immersion. Summer also is an excellent time for students to improve their math, reading and study skills to prepare for success in the upcoming school year. Look into camps offered by museums, historic sites, schools and academic enrichment centers such as Back to Basics Learning Dynamics.
If your child is required to attend summer school, you should know that there are state-approved alternatives to the traditional summer school. Back to Basics, for example, offers one-on-one instruction that fulfills the summer school requirement. In addition to giving students personalized attention, the instruction sessions can be worked around students' camp or job schedules as well as family vacations to minimize disruption to summer plans.
With a little planning and determination, parents can ensure that their children's summer is one of learning gains, not losses.