Even though summer is a break from school, it shouldn’t be a break from learning. Children should continue having educational experiences to reinforce what they’ve learned during school.
A 2013 survey from the National Summer Learning Association found teachers have to spend about a month or even longer re-teaching students material they’ve forgetting during the summer.
Keeping up reading skills is key for younger students, according to Michelle Dickey, a first-grade teacher at Alta View Elementary in Sandy. To combat summer learning loss, children can participate in a family book club or reading programs at the library or just take frequent library trips.
Dickey said third-graders and older students would benefit greatly from doing math during the summer. She suggested using workbooks and online resources that correlate with the grade level just completed so a child can retain the past year’s learning.
Beyond that, there are some lessons your kids can learn more easily or differently on summer break than during the school year.
1. How to develop life skills
“There are things that we do during the summer that we don’t get to take advantage of during the school year,” said Dickey, the mother of 5-year-old Brett and 9-year-old Mikayla.
Dickey said she focuses on how they can have fun but learn new things all summer, like cooking and having a little garden the kids keep track of and be accountable for — planting it, watering it and watching it grow (or not grow).
“There are so many good mom clubs around and available, and honestly, with Pinterest, it seems like people do more of that kind of stuff that they used to than ever before,” she said.
2. How to enjoy the outdoors
Dickey and her husband also do a lot of camping with their children to learn about the great outdoors, to enjoy their surroundings and to practice safety with campfires, along with other activities.
“We try to do a little more with a nature approach. We’ll look at bear tracks and — this sounds funny but — the poop of different things … and see what surroundings we have. We usually make a little journal or something like that,” she said.
3. How to be a good family member
Because of a relaxed summer schedule, kids have more time to practice manners, be responsible for family pets, learn how to clean, help with chores and build relationships.
“In the summer I teach them how to clean a bathroom and that kind of stuff,” said Lindsay Ross, mother of five in Lehi. “I try to teach them how to be self-reliant. I tell them my job as a mom is to teach you what you need to do so I don’t have to do it for you.”
Children can bond with siblings and parents by going on family road trips, having lemonade sales together (bonus: they learn money skills, too!), going on fieldtrips to museums, running the sprinklers together, daydreaming on the hammock with each other or setting up a movie night in the backyard.
“I’m really big on my kids playing together. Yes, friends are important, but I always tell my kids that at some point your friends come and go, but we had siblings so you would have built-in friends, so they play a lot in the summer.” —Lindsay Ross
4. How to hone skills and develop talents
When school is out, children can dedicate more time to their skills, whether that skill is being on a swim team, practicing the piano, helping organize the house, redecorating a room, making jewelry, babysitting or running a summer camp for neighborhood kids.
Ross said her kids make a bucket list at the beginning of summer, and this year’s list is already written down and ready to go.
“They tell me things they want to do, then my husband and I add on a couple things they didn’t,” she said. “Usually if we make the list, print it out and put it up somewhere, they’ll make sure we do it.”
5. How to try new and sometimes scary things
Summer break is the perfect time to try out a new sport, pick up a new hobby, or master a new skill like braiding hair or gardening. Without the routine of the school year, there are summer camp adventures to be had, ice cream flavors to try, friends to make and foreign places to discover.
“I try to be aware of their interests, but I hate crafts and of course my girls love them, and so sometimes I’ll … find people who do enjoy it to do it with them, and then I just photograph it because I like taking pictures,” Ross said.
Ross and her husband try to push their children, ages 2 to 9, to do things they don’t think they can do, like getting in the water behind the boat instead of just sitting on the boat or hiking. They like to expose their children to a lot things, so they’re familiar with being nervous and trying new things for the first time. Ross said there’s usually a lot of protest, but she just says, “Buck up!”
“My requirement is anything that makes them active is big for me and stuff that scares them, which is so mean,” Ross said, “but I’m all about making them try things they’re scared of so they learn they can do hard stuff.”