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Have you ever heard of “Summer Learning Loss”? I bet you know what it is even if you aren’t familiar with that terminology! Remember when you were a kid and you would start back to school each fall and your brain would feel all fuzzy? And your teacher would spend the first several weeks of the new school year reviewing all the things you learned at the end of the grade you finished last year? The reason the teacher did that is because most kids experience a phenomenon called summer learning loss.
Summer learning loss happens when your kids don’t regularly work on their newly learned skills and keep their brains brain engaged over the long summer breaks. Good news for you as the parent though, because I come from a long line of teachers and I’ve got all the tips and tricks you need for your child in grades K-8 to help prevent summer learning loss.
Startling Statistics on Summer Learning Loss
According to ThinkStretch.com, over the summer your child can lose the equivalent of two months worth of overall learning from the year before. Further, according to IDTech.com, your child loses around 2 months of reading skills over the summer and 2.5 months of math skills over the summer. That’s a startling amount!
So, what do you do to prevent this?
So, how do you prevent this phenomenon while still making sure your child gets to have a break in the summer as well? You are probably thinking, I’m not a teacher! I don’t know what to do! Help me!
Some good news for you is you don’t have to be a teacher to help your child over the summer. You just need to know a teacher that can help point you in the right direction. And lucky for you… I’ve got not one, but TWO teaching experts in my corner. I picked their brains for this post and I’ve got so much to help you with your child, it’s amazing.
I’ve got the outline for what you need to work on covered for you. All you have to do is be a little creative! I believe with these tips and tricks, your child can enjoy their break, have some fun learning and reviewing skills AND at the same time you can prevent a lot of summer learning loss. It’s a total win!
Don’t worry that this is a huge time consumption either. This isn’t something you must do for hours on end every day. Try for 45 minutes to an hour of skills per day, broken out throughout the day. It’s a great time for you and your child together AND you are helping prevent summer learning loss all the while. It’s a total winning situation.
So, Where Do You Start?
First things first, no matter what grade your child is in, practicing reading and math, every day, is a MUST. And while that might seem like a bit of a grind, keep in mind, it’s SUMMER! It can be fun reading and fun math! There are endless options on how you can sneak learning in on the sly and keep those little minds active and working.
Let’s Split Up by Age
I think the summer learning work for students would best be split into two sections: Grades K-5 and grades 6-8. High Schoolers are an entirely different animal and breed, and that is well out of my scope of experience and/or expert sources. But grades K-8 – I’ve got ya covered!
My mom is a now freshly retired 2nd grade teacher of 35 years. Trust me when I say the woman is an endless supply of teaching knowledge for elementary age kids. So, I asked her about all the best ideas for summer review and preventing summer learning loss.
Elementary Education Summer Fun (Grades K-5)
So, first things first. READ, READ, READ!! And then read some more.
Read at least 15 minutes (MINIMUM!) a day with your child. Depending on their age and skill you may be reading to them, or they may be reading to you. Or you can do a combination of taking turns back and forth.
I remember I would read a page and then my mom would read a page when I was smaller. As I grew up, I’d read a chapter then she’d read a chapter. That made it so much more fun!
Pick a Theme!
To keep things fresh each week, make a list of themes and get books on that theme each week. Ocean week, ice cream week, circus week, etc.
Kindergarten and First Grade Readers
For Kindergarten and First Grade, you’ll be in simple, shorter books. Go to the library each week to change up your reading choices and keep a variety going!
Tons of libraries do summer reading programs. Check online or stop by to see what your local library is offering this season!
Second and Third Grade Readers
Chapter Books and Series
As your child gets older, you can incorporate in some fun and short chapter books too! You can try ones that are in a series that make reading even more fun for your child. I loved a good series of books that shared characters when I was younger. (I still do now!)
My mom recommends series like “The Bailey School Kids,” “Junie B. Jones” and “The Magic Treehouse” These series are fun, fast reads that your kids will enjoy. Find books that your child loves and that will then ignite a passion for reading. It’s so good for little brains to read, read, read. And such sweet time to spend with them reading too.
Fourth and Fifth Grade Readers
As your kids are moving through elementary school, it’s still super important that they read a lot over the summer. They will be able to do more of the reading on their own, but it’s still certainly an activity you can enjoy together.
In that spirit, here’s some reading list ideas for 4th and 5th grade readers. As they progress through 4th and 5th grade, there are tons of series for an older elementary school age child as well like “The Boxcar Children”, “Ready, Freddy!”, “The Babysitters Club”, “Nancy Drew” and “The Hardy Boys.”
In short, get them to read as much as you can. And spend some time and find some books they really love.
Comprehension is IMPORTANT
Make sure your child understands what they are reading as well. Have them recount to you what just happened after a few pages or a chapter. After the first chapter have them tell you what they understood to happen, then after the next chapter, you do the same for them and continue taking turns. This helps your child be able to quickly learn to summarize what they read and be able to relate back to you what the story was about. This skill is hugely important and will get more and more important as they progress with school.
Writing is very important too. It’s always going to be important. And if you can teach them to love it now (or at least not mind it so much) you are going to give them a big step up. And, there are a ton of different ways to encourage and practice writing.
Keeping a journal is a great way to encourage writing. You could keep a journal over the summer of the fun things you do each day or even a list of the books you read together and what they were about!
A fun suggestion from my expert teacher mom is to write your child a question in a journal and then have them answer and write you back. Then you write them back, and it goes on and on, and it makes the writing fun. Put the journal under their pillow and they can do the same for you when they are done with their question.
Write about anything you want! You can write about your days, your plans for the week, a trip, whatever you like. It could be as simple as their GI Joe/Power Ranger plan of attack, the best thing about the movie they just watched… their Fall Barbie Fashion Plan (… not that I did that…). Keep it fun for your child and they will enjoy it much more.
If you are drawing a blank or need help getting started, here’s some age appropriate journal prompts for elementary age kids.
Additionally, to encourage more writing, make it fun and let them pick a fun pen and journal at the store. Maybe something more outrageous than they could have at school usually, like a crazy feather pen.
And when all is said and done, my goodness, what a sweet memento to keep as a snapshot of that age of your child for later years. A journal with their thoughts and precious young handwriting will be a keepsake forever.
Math practice is just as important as reading. And you need to do it every single day. But it doesn’t have to be math sheets in front of them to review math facts on end! They need a break from that too! It’s fine to throw a review sheet in here and there, but the summer is the chance to throw in some fun math learning!
If you don’t know where to start, go to Pinterest and search. It’s staggering how many fun ideas there are!
Here’s a few suggestions from my expert 2nd grade teaching Mom:
Practice age appropriate math facts in the car. 2+2? 5×8? 100÷4? Whatever level they are at! Throw them in any time you have a quick car ride. You can take ordinary games like Jenga, and turn it into math learning opportunities. Grab any chance you have to make it fun and let them get a little practice in at the same time.
Word Problems and Problem Solving
Fit in a word problem wherever you can! Do some grocery store math. If pasta is 2 for $4, ask them to figure out how much one box of pasta would be. Then how much would it be if you got 3 boxes. Come up with a quick word problem while you are waiting for the gas to pump, or in the drive through line, waiting.
Count the change in Dad’s pockets or Mom’s wallet when they get home each night. (ALERT – MOM AND DAD – this is your cue – HAVE CHANGE IN YOUR POCKET EACH NIGHT FOR THIS TO WORK). Even if you don’t carry change, keep some in the car and put it in you pocket on the way in the door. Counting money is a fantastic way to practice math skills. Have them count it out, then add some more change, take some away and then have them re-count for a new amount.
Even better, let them keep the change in the piggy bank and then count up when they collect even more money. Let them exchange coins for dollar bills, and then later dollar bills for $5’s and $10’s! Make it fun and help them practice learning about money.
Dice & Decks of Cards
So really, make it fun and take the time to make sure you practice up with your budding student. Use board games for learning opportunities like making them be the banker when you play monopoly!
When my mom started telling me all these things to put in this article, I realized she had done all of these with me when I was young and I never even had a clue we were working on any kind of skills. I thought we were just playing. Turns out she was a teaching ninja all along!
Science and Social Studies:
For science fun, I don’t mean to keep harping on Pinterest, but my goodness the number of ideas on there are tremendous. There are so many fun science experiments to try, to keep your child in learning mode and to have fun at the same time. And they are mostly super simple with household items you already have on hand.
For social studies, take any summer vacations or trips you have and use that to make a few learning opportunities. Use the car ride to the beach! Which states are you going to drive through, what’s fun about that state? What’s the state flower, food and bird? Here’s a 50 states coloring book to cover most places you might visit!
Middle School : Grades 6-8
Now that your child is in middle school, the learning doesn’t stop. You definitely need to keep up the work over the break to prevent summer learning loss in older kids as well. My Aunt taught 8th grade for 37 years, so I went to her for advice for summer learning loss for middle school age children. According to her, at this age, it’s all about preventing the summer learning loss, keeping those learning muscles flexed and ready to go AND further developing skills on their own over the break.
Reading is still crazy important. It always will be. By now, your child is fully capable of reading a longer chapter book and retaining the concepts. Even though they no longer need you to read with them, I’d suggest reading the book beforehand or at the same time as your child. That way you know what questions to ask to make sure they are picking up all the details as they are reading.
I’d suggest doing this until you are confident their reading comprehension is good and they are retaining the information well. Plus, aren’t you curious to know what they are reading? What interests them? What books they can’t put down? I can’t wait to see what my kids gravitate toward!
What do they love to read?
By this age, chances are, your child is either an avid reader… or they aren’t. There isn’t a lot of middle ground there. If they don’t like reading books, try to find what they DO want to read about, and make that work. Are comic books their thing? An online blog? Newspaper and magazine? Cookbooks? There has to be something they will like reading or at the very least some subject matter that interests them.
Reading is reading. It’s a lifelong necessary skill. They WILL have to read books for school all through the rest of their education, so they can’t simply say “I don’t like reading” and not read. But do try to help them learn to make it as enjoyable as possible.
Push and make sure they have the skills they need to be successful in their classes. My kids are little now, but when this time comes, I want to know they can read a book and clearly articulate what they read.
As a retired 8th grade English teacher, my aunt says she cannot stress enough the importance of practicing writing. Every. Single. Day. If nothing else, just to be in the habit of writing. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes a day. The need to intelligently write and communicate will never go away in life. Being able to receive a question and write out an articulate, good answer is insanely important. This can lay that foundation for later life skills.
And all this writing doesn’t have to be a big deal, it’s not like your child needs to compose a five thousand word essay a day. It’s totally fine to have your middle school tween keep a journal simply to get the writing flowing every day.
Subjects to Write About
Try having your child start a personal journal. They could either write about whatever moves them that day, or you could give them a list of journal prompts.
If they just want to journal about their days and their feelings, make sure they know they can write freely, and that may also help get the ball rolling. Just tell them if it’s something they would prefer you not read, to simply fold the page over and you will respect their privacy.
Learning to articulate their feelings on paper is a massive learning lesson for your child. It sets them up to be able to assess what they are feeling, and it gives them an outlet to process their feelings.
And at ages 12-14… there’s a LOT of feelings. Face it, from here on out there’s a LOT of feelings. And journaling is immensely helpful for kids. Here’s a fascinating article from Very Well Family regarding the benefits of journaling for kids.
Sometimes you need some prompts to get started and be inspired. If you do end up using some writing prompts, as the parent, it might be fun to do a journal of your own and write about the same prompt question with your child. After you are done, get them to read theirs to you, and you share yours with them. Anything to help your child be engaged as a writer!
Shocker… you’ll still want to practice a lot of math. There are plenty of online places you can get actual math worksheets and lessons that are grade appropriate for learning and retention over the summer months.
Also, since your child is older now, there are tons of online programs that you can subscribe that will help keep the gears working that will allow your child to work on their own at their pace as well.
And there are TONS of ideas on… wait for it… Pinterest that will make for some crazy fun activities for your child too. Mango Math has a treasure trove of ideas and links on their site. Common Sense Media provides a list of 15 “Online” Summer Camp Programs as well.
I was a giant fan of puzzle books when I was younger (I still am!). These would provide wonderful critical thinking and problem solving skills. Lots of the puzzles are word problems that then require some math too. Crosswords, Sudoku, even word finds. I love some logic problems as well! Keep the brain busy!
Want to combine all the subjects?
Want to get a bigger bang for your buck? Combine a few subjects at the same time. Have your child research where they would like for the family to take a trip. Give them a list of things you’d like to know to get them started. Give them a budget and see what they find! Start them with a list of questions to complete in their research as well, to get them started.
Include questions like:
- How far is the trip?
- What are a few things about the city we should know?
- What’s the weather like?
- What’s the crime rate?
- How much do accommodations cost?
- Are their availabilities for lodging?
- What activities would we do to fill our days?
- What restaurants are available?
- Is public transportation needed/available?
This will flex their little research muscles, make them plan, budget, document and then report back to you. Let them tell you the sources they used in their research. Have them give a little mini presentation about their findings. Maybe this is a trip you decide you should actually take! You might be surprised what your child comes up with!
If you go on the trip, you can ask your child to journal about the trip to enhance their writing skills too!
I think that real life practice should also be something you look at heavily over the summer as well. You should be practicing everyday life skills all the time, but you can really step it up a notch over the summer. Life opportunities can help them learn time management, money management, household responsibilities, manners and personal hygiene. I could go on for chapters about this subject. Make sure your teen gets the life skills they need to be good and productive humans. I beg you.
Summer Learning Loss – Wrap Up
To wrap this subject of summer learning loss up, just remember it’s so important to keep your child’s brain engaged and active over the summer. Certainly, he or she has worked hard over the school year and does need a good break too! However, there is most definitely a balance you can create to help your child continue to thrive in their learning environments. This is only an hour or so a day of activity, TOTAL. And most of it (I’m a nerd, I think ALL of it) is really, really fun!
I consulted two experts in the teaching field, and trust me, these ladies KNOW their stuff. 37 and 35 years of teaching between them means they have seen it all. Their suggestions of simple and fun summer activities can keep your child’s mind engaged with school skills they acquired most recently and will keep those skills honed and at the forefront of their minds.
So, get going! Go out and have some good and creative fun with your kids this summer, and just keep shuffling.