Every June parents ask me what they can do to make sure their child doesn't suffer from "summer learning loss." I'll address the routines and resources you can consider, but, first, let's address how learning over the summer should feel. . . .
Summer is a great opportunity to make learning a family activity, to create connection through learning experiences and to build positive associations with learning. Choose to do something you've never tried before and do it together as a family - bike a new trail, cook a unique meal, explore a nearby locale you haven't visited before, take an art class together, volunteer at an organization you just learned about, etc. Every new experience is filled with teachable moments for the whole family and makes learning a daily occurrence in your lives, not just something relegated to the ten school months. It is also really great modelling when the parents step outside of their comfort zones and their children get to see how the adults in their lives cope with new and challenging things.
If the child has identified an academic skill area they want to work on over the summer, there are plenty of on-line resources and apps for skill development; your school district may even offer summer school options. Engaging in these structured learning activities needs to be child-driven so they don't feel penalized with required learning tasks -- learning should always be the reward of an activity/experience, not a punishment!
Other ways to incorporate reading, writing and math learning include the following:
make a weekly trip to the library one of your family activities and model how to ask the librarian for guidance in choosing from areas of interest;
read the local papers and magazines, then discuss the articles with your youth; sometimes this reading may naturally evolve to writing a letter to the editor about one of the articles;
for 14+ youth, help them write their resumes and practice job interview skills;
work with your child to create a budget around their allowance or part-time job incomes which includes saving as well as spending;
include youth in the entire process for cooking and/or baking: choosing recipes, making grocery lists, comparing prices to find the best deals, measuring, following recipes, noting chemical and thermal reactions in food, etc.
keep a journal or scrapbook of the summer -- this can be a family activity or something each person does individually -- the youth can collect artifacts from events, draw pictures, doodle-notes, written entries, record stats from games and activities, etc.;
explore the different social media platforms together and discuss the pros and cons of each, along with any safety concerns;
engage in a family research project which results in a decision/choice at the end of the summer, such as - How much screen time should be allowed in our home? or Should we get a pet, and, if so, what kind? or Where should we go for our next Spring Break? -- researching reliable sources to develop good arguments for their preferences is a great way to develop critical thinking skills.
Maintaining a routine
One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is positive sleep habits. Often when summer starts, students drop all of their routines around waking and sleeping, eating, learning and exercise. Though this drop can feel like an essential part of relaxing and recuperating from the demands of ten months of school, it can also make returning to school very challenging. To alleviate the struggle of getting back into routines in September, the following are some ideas for families to consider:
Allow for a two-week period somewhere in the summer where there are no routines --just fun and relaxing;
Outside of those two weeks, allow sleeping-in but only by two hours from their school wake-up time (for instance, the children wake up at 7am during the school year, they can sleep in until 9am);
Allow going to bed later, but still insure there are a minimum of eight hours of sleep every night;
Create loose routines which still have some responsibilities and are not necessarily attached to specific times but a sequence instead, such as the following example:
Get up by _____am
A learning activity around personal interest
Wind down for bed by ____pm
For adolescents who have summer jobs, creating a routine may be even easier and should still include 8 hours of sleep each night;
Having a predictable routine can give young people a sense of security and safety, and having some form of a routine through the summer can make the transition back to school much easier on everyone.
The goal of both school learning and summer learning is for our young people to embrace learning - both the initial discomfort of not knowing and the thrill of success once something is understood or a skill mastered. Learning should feel like an accomplishment and like it is an essential part of everyday.