Summer vacation is almost upon us (says the parents who still have another full week of school before our kids even get to experience Spring Break…and boy are we ready for our vacation and a week of no sports, school, and early mornings!). The summer slide sounds like a good time. Is it a water slide? Do we order one for the pool deck and hope no one breaks their neck or busts their head open on it? Is the summer slide located at some kind of resort? No, actually, the summer slide is nowhere near as delightful as it sounds, I’m sorry to say. The summer slide is a term used to describe the things kids do not retain or learn during summer pertaining to their education.
Summer slide is not a “hold my beer” kind of activity…it’s an academic nightmare for kids who do not retain much of what they learned during the school year. The 12ish weeks of summer vacation are a good time, but not when your kids lose the knowledge they picked up during the school year prior. Some experts argue that the summer slide is not nearly as bad as it sounds (not to brag or anything, but all four of our kids pick right back up where they left off when a new school year begins, and so do the rest of the kids we know).
Others argue that school should become year-round to prevent the summer slide. Regardless, there are ways you can help your child deal with the summer slide (not the fun one) by keeping them on their toes and continuing to learn – but not in a way that feels boring or school-like.
Helpful Ways You Can Reduce The Effects of the Summer Slide and Keep Your Kids Learning
1. Require summer reading
2. Have kids pick a long book to read and then present a short presentation about it when finished
3. Use math in the kitchen (measuring, cooking, baking)
4. Use math when shopping (let kids calculate sales tax, etc.)
5. Use math when planning trips (how many hours, incorporate time zones, flight times, drive times, etc.)
6. Utilize science on family walks (identify trees, plants, animals, bugs, etc.)
7. Take field trips together to the zoo, museums, etc.
8. Learn a new language (sign language is a fun one to learn!)
9. Let children do some gardening (it’s science, and it’s beautiful, and being outside in nature and in the sunlight is so good for them)
10. Take a hike in a National Park (and learn all about the park as you go)
11. Visit a historic landmark
12. Do some crafty artwork and projects
13. Build something DIY (this is a great way to incorporate math)
14. Have your kids write in a journal 2-3 times a week about their favorite/least favorite part of each week
15. Work out (get the kids moving in a fun way so that they are getting their physical education in)
16. Download some learning apps and let the kids have some game-playing competition on their iPads (everyone likes to win)
17. Play scrabble (it’s a great way to bond as a family and to make sure the kids are practicing their vocabulary and spelling skills)
18. Watch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune while making dinner (spelling and knowledge)
19. Schedule time to learn (however it works for you and your kids, but do schedule a little time each day or every week to learn something new in a way that is fun and exciting for your family and children)
20. HAVE FUN (summer is all about the break, the fun, and the pleasure of spending time together as a family enjoying yourself. Don’t take the summer slide too seriously…your kids won’t to back to school completely lacking. Remember to have fun or nothing is worthwhile.)
What is the Best Way to Prevent Summer Slide?
Truly, it’s important to understand that the summer slide is not a big deal for most kids. Some kids, of course, might struggle more than others. Some kids retain information easily, but it’s also imperative to remember that the best way to prevent the summer slide is to converse with your children. Kids who live in a household in which conversations occur, books are read, time together is spent…they have a better chance of retaining more information.
It’s perfectly natural for a child to forget things after learning. Take yourself for example, do you remember every single thing you learned in school? No, of course not. Do you remember much of the general information you picked up in school? You probably do. As a writer, nothing I learned in my ELA courses is forgotten. However, don’t ask me a thing about the periodic table. All I know is that it’s there, there are some things on it, and H2O is the periodic symbol for water. Math? Yeah, no. But my husband remembers everything he ever learned about math because he uses it. Ask him the difference between a verb and an adjective, however, and he’s going to need to think about it.
Most kids will forget a lot of what they learned during the school year during the summer simply because it’s not being applied to their everyday life, which is why the above lessons are some of the best. Your kids will return to school in the fall and pick right back up where they left off, and summer slide is no concern. Talk to your kids. Help them learn by incorporating learning into their everyday lives. It helps tremendously.
Was Information Truly Obtained if It’s Easily Forgotten in Weeks?
In most instances, it is not. But there are other factors to consider. Number one, kids who are uninterested in a subject are less likely to remember much about it. If it’s boring and not of interest to a child, they’re unlikely to pay much attention in the first place. When it’s a subject your children are interested in, however, they’re going to retain far more information. If a child is able to learn something and then promptly forget what they learned, some experts question if they ever learned it at all. What happens when they become adults? Will they forget every single thing they learned in school? No, they will not. The simple fact of the matter is that kids will learn things, forget some of that, learn more, and hang on to things that they truly enjoy or experience.
On the flip side of things, school is not the end all, be all of life. Yes, school is important. Yes, children need to go to school to learn. However, school is important for so many reasons that don’t include the things that they are learning in class. Here’s a good example – a child who learns to read and can do basic math is going to be set up for life. Why? Because you cannot learn anything if you cannot read it. If you cannot read, you cannot learn. If you cannot learn, then what? Reading is the most basic, most essential skill, so that’s why educators push reading so hard. Being a reader helps kids learn to understand their vocabulary, which allows them to understand what they are reading. Reading is essential.
Life Teaches More Than School Teaches
Before you freak out on me, go ahead and read what I have to say. Summer slide…is it really an issue? Perhaps for some kids, yes, it is. Going back to school way behind where you need to be is no good for anyone. However, the most important thing you’ll learn in school is the basics. It’s the shapes, the colors, the reading, the comprehension (though, here’s another devil’s advocate situation…you should be teaching your own children these things long before they go to school for the first time). School also offers kids a lot of life lessons. It helps them understand and learn about structure, friendships, relationships, situations with other kids, peer pressure, other personality types…etc.
Sports and clubs help kids learn the same things. Additionally, it’s life experiences such as dealing with a bully in class and dealing with people who are very different from you that are some of the most valuable lessons a child learns in school. Life lessons are some of the best lessons, and summer vacation is a great way to help your kids learn life lessons as well as the basics. You know what makes math fun, for example? Math and science are far easier for me to understand when they are related to baking.
When I’m measuring a quarter cup of flour, it’s easier for me than figuring out a math problem about Susie having 76907 apples and giving Johnny 1746 of them and then figuring out what percent Susie gave to Johnny. Eating the results of my math problem is far more interesting. Life lessons are the best lessons, and summer slide times allow you to teach your kids some basic life lessons.
Use Summer to Teach Life Lessons
Absolutely keep your kids reading during summer. Reading is the most essential lesson a child can learn, and you only get better at it the more you do it. Make reading fun. Read with your kids. Read to your kids. Pick a book and read it at the same time, and then reward your kids with something fun for finishing the book and discussing it with you. But also use summer to teach your kids some life lessons. Teach them to bake. Take them to museums to learn about art or history. Take them to the ocean and teach them about the cool things the ocean has to offer. Teach them to drive the boat. Teach them about water safety. Let them learn how to calculate how often sunscreen should be reapplied.
Book a great vacation for your kids. Maybe take them on a Midwest road trip and see the Grand Canyon and up to Yellowstone to see the National Parks. Stop in South Dakota to see the Presidents’ faces on Mount Rushmore. Book a fancy hotel and some spa services and room service. Let the kids calculate room service gratuity and learn how to tip the bellman and the concierge. Make reservations at an upscale restaurant and let them learn which fork is the salad fork and which is their dinner fork. These things might sound silly, but they are life lessons your kids will take with you forever. It’s imperative kids learn how to function and behave in every situation life has to offer so they’re familiar with it rather than out of place. It’s life lessons that count.
Should I Worry About Summer Slide?
In general, no; you should not worry about summer slide. Your kids will be just fine so long as they are reading and playing and you talk to them every single day. Of course, only you know your child. You know if your child suffers from a learning disability or an impairment, and that means you know what needs to be done. Does your child need to see a tutor a day or two a week during the summer? Perhaps. Does your child need summer school? Maybe. You know if your child needs it. And if you don’t know, make an appointment to speak to your child’s teacher and guidance counselor for some input. They can help you figure out if your child is at risk for suffering without school for three months.
At the end of the day, however, your job during summer is to do your best. Have fun, make memories, and teach your kids to use their education in ways that are fun for them. When kids are having fun and enjoying their time, they have no idea that they are learning. Experience is the greatest teacher, and fun is the best cover-up for a lesson.