Parent Corner: Avoiding Summer Regression

          last day of school

                School’s out for summer…which is glorious for educators. Teachers across the country are slapping the last piece of duct tape over a box containing classroom library books imagining the relaxation of a good book, cool pool, and crisp glass of wine (in between days or weeks of summer trainings, or course.) Principals are signing the last pages of what has added up to thousands of pages of paperwork for the year while they look to the quiet of a school building emptied of teachers and students.  Students are trading the last of yearbooks with hopes that their bestie will write something more profound than “H.A.G.S”, and parents are clutching coffee cups thinking, “What in the actual world am I going to do to entertain these creatures that I love with my whole heart 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for two solid months!?”

                So let’s talk about those two months, the magic and what’s tragic.  The magic is in the fun. Hot days filled with outdoor play be it at the pool, on the ball field, in the back yard, or toes in the sand.  Nothing makes me happier than children being children left to imagine and laugh, to spend time with their siblings, parents, neighbors with time to be loud and silly and full of exploration. It really is a magical time, but for educators there’s also an amount of tragedy that comes with summer, and not just because we miss our students and we do, even if it is hard to see through our cheers as the last bus pulls away on the last day.  We know we are sending some children home to a summer filled with longing. Longing for 3 meals a day, for companionship, for entertainment, or even structure and security. Educators do their best to help combat this longing by sending bags of food home with students, handing out books and games that have been used throughout year, exchanging emails and phone numbers for students to reach out if things are really bad.  Many school districts even set up summer meal programs and offer free or inexpensive camps and other summer programs.  But there’s another smaller tragedy that we all have in the back of our minds. 

              We know that regression is coming. Research shows that on average students lose about 1 months of learning over the summer but often times as much as 30% of the prior year’s learning, and while it’s obvious why it happens, there’s little schools can do to prevent this. However, there are several things families can do to help promote a summer that is well balance with fun and productivity without breaking the bank. 

1.       READ. The number one thing you can do to help prevent the regression is to engage your child in reading.  Everyday your child should read. For elementary children this should happen in 20-30 minute increments.  Consider having your child read with you, to you, with a sibling, and alone twice a day.  For middle and high school students they should read for at least an hour a day, and don’t underestimate the benefits of reading a book with your older child.  During the school year, students read with each other and their teachers every day.  They discuss their reading and write about it, and the summer should be no different.  Find a book that you can both enjoy, and schedule a time to read together each day, as well as, a time for them to read independently.  If purchasing books is difficult, make sure that your child has a library card and access to the library at least once a week.  Find more about encouraging your child to write in point 2.   

2.       WRITE.  This one is harder, I won’t deceive you by saying it’s not, but writing is an essential skill that impacts your child’s academic progress in all subjects.  The easiest way to encourage writing is by having your child keep a daily journal. Not the mushy gushy ‘Dear Diary” kind (although that’s beneficial too), but a journal with prompts and structure. For example: Monday- Book Review, Tuesday- Math prompt, Wednesday- Creative or Informative Writing prompt, Thursday- Book Chat (adult writes a letter about the book your reading together and the child responds, Friday- Free write.  There are dozens of websites that will give you journaling ideas. Here are just a few:

          Math prompts for elementary children: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B86bxhFxYKGzaGVmLVNHZk9FaTA/view

          Math prompts for all ages:

http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson820/MathPrompts.pdf

          Math prompts for upper elementary, middle, and high:

https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED544239.pdf

          Creative writing prompts for all ages:

https://www.creative-writing-now.com/journal-prompts.html

          Informative writing topics for all ages:

https://bestessayhelp.com/essay-topics/informative-essay-topics

3.       Sign up for free/ low cost programs.  Most public libraries have summer reading programs with built in incentives.  When children read a certain amount of books over the summer they can win prizes often nice ones like free water park/zoo/museum passes ect. Libraries often have summer activities planned throughout the weeks for many different ages, as well. Story hour for younger children, book clubs, writing groups, and craft hours for all ages.  Check to see if your local community center has summer programing, as they often do.  Make sure to look into programs/camps that your child’s school district may be offering.  These are often free or much less expensive than private camps and can include some exciting skill development like coding, engineering, or drama.  Reach out to your local parks.  Many have weekly events like theater in the park or nature classes or low cost day camps filled with nature, wild life, and exploring.  Summer is also a great time to consider memberships if they are a budget friendly option for you.  Local zoos, science and art museums, live theater etc. provide a rich educational experience that your child will embrace without even knowing that they are learning. 

4.       Engage your child in community service.  Good schools spend the year teaching your children English, Math, Science, Social Studies, foreign language, art, music, PE, but great schools also spend the year teaching your children social and emotional learning curriculums that help them develop empathy, compassion, social skills, etc. When students regress in this area, it is arguably more damaging than academic regression because it can impact all aspects of their lives.  Finding age appropriate activities that help model these behaviors is essential to their development.  For young children, this may be as simple as gathering toys and taking them with you to donate them or going to a common area to pick up trash.  For older children this may be a weekly volunteer hour at a soup kitchen, helping with the landscaping of an elderly neighbor, working with Habitat for Humanity etc.

5.       Make a schedule and stick to it.  But before I go into my schedule spiel, all children need a break. Give them a week, a comfy pajama wearing, sleep until 10AM, no requirements kind of week.  And trust me, they will still have a break from school throughout the summer because they won’t have 7-8 hours a day of rigor, but a schedule will make everyone in your family feel like they have made the most out of their summer.  Have a daily schedule and a weekly schedule.  Make it realistic but productive. Balance the fun with the education, and bonus points every time you accomplish both at the same time!  If you know you need a lazy day once a week, then schedule it.  This helps children learn that “me time” is healthy and important, but being idle for two months is not. Find friends with similar aged children to “summer” with.  Two birds with one stone: You have an adult to stay sane with and an adult who will become your summer accountability partner saving you from a summer of guilt because you didn’t accomplish any of the things you had hoped.  Nobody’s schedule will be exactly the same because families have different needs, however an example of a summer schedule is included below.

Daily Summer Schedule:

8:00- Breakfast, get ready, adults drink coffee

9:00- Quiet Reading/Journaling (I give my children the choice about when they will do each, but they know they will have to do both things)

9:30- finish getting ready and pack any items needed for today’s activity, get out of the house and head to the fun.

10:00- Out of the house activity

1:00- Lunch if not while you were out

1:30- Quiet Reading or shared Reading/Journaling

2:30- Independent/sibling/neighbor outdoor or indoor playtime

3:30- Device/TV time

4:00- Family time (board games, bike riding, crafting, ect)

5:00- Dinner prep/chore time

6:00- Dinner

7:00- Family TV/movie time

7:30- Bath/Bed/Reading time

 Weekly Out of the House Summer Schedule:

Monday:                                     Pool

Tuesday:                                     Cheap/free movie theater day

Wednesday:                               Community Service

Thursday:                                    Field trip (zoo, splash pad, museum, live theater, park ect)

Friday:                                         Pool/Lazy Day

Saturday (No daily schedule): Library

Sunday (No daily schedule):    Family day (church, errands, other events)

               Obviously, summer is more laid back as it should be, and no parent should beat themselves up for not providing the perfect summer experience (there’s no such thing).  Choosing a few intentional areas of enrichment for your child over the summer and creating a plan that ensures they have time and opportunities to engage in it will help fight summer regression, and it may even help you enjoy the 24/7 time with your children.  Coffee helps too. May your summer be ever in your favor. 

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