In the United States and Canada, public education officials constantly look at practices and models applied by other countries with regard to managing their school systems. Quite a few aspects of education from proper attire to dress codes and after-school to standardized testing differ from one country to another, and it is important to evaluate how these practices fit within the socioeconomic reality of a jurisdiction.
The academic year is one topic that American school administrators and education officials often question. Both students and parents are conditioned to a school year separated by Christmas break, spring break, and summer break; this is the way it has pretty much been since the 19th century, and it is deeply ingrained in the fabric of American life. Some private schools and academies in the U.S. deviate from this academic calendar as a means of making their institutions more attractive to parents who dislike the idea of the phenomenon called the academic summer slide or summer slump.
In essence, the summer slide refers to the loss of academic achievements students made during the school year. Naturally, this is not always the case for all students since many of them are able to attend summer camps and special programs that actually enhance their learning experience. As can be imagined, students in low-income families stand to suffer greater learning loss during summer vacation.
Not all countries adhere to the highly seasonal academic year of the U.S. In the following jurisdictions, the school year is longer but the number of classroom hours per day are shorter:
- Costa Rica
- Parts of Mexico
Each of the countries above has valid reasons for shortening classroom hours and making the academic year longer, but there is a consensus about the importance of keeping children engaged in learning throughout the year as much as possible. In these systems, classroom instruction and experiential learning are major aspects of the curriculum, and home learning activities are nothing like graded homework; they are more attuned to the philosophy of learning along with parents and other household members.
With all the aforementioned in mind, the summer slide should not be considered to be inevitable. If there is something that teachers around the world believe in is that home learning can be as efficient as classroom work under the right circumstances. Constant engagement and cognitive development can continue as long as children’s minds are kept in the game, so to speak. Taking a break from the classroom is important, but this does not mean taking a break from learning.
Here are seven recommendations for making the most out of summer vacation and avoiding the dreaded slide:
Make Your Home a Summer Classroom
Academic and lifelong skills do not have to be exclusively acquired at school. Setting aside time for students to learn something new at home is an excellent method to minimize the effects of the summer slide. Not all students will be enthusiastic with the idea of a classroom environment at home, but the key to succeeding with this effort is to do things differently. Instead of setting up a whiteboard in the kitchen and putting your student through language arts and math exercises, think about introducing a new subject. Since musical education is ruefully lacking at many American schools these days, summer would be a good time to get students into it.
A musical classroom is easy to set up, and it is inherently more fun for students; however, you should also establish academic goals such as learning music theory. The Prodigies Music system stands out because the curriculum is designed with more than just the socially beneficial aspects of music learning. There will always be cognitive benefits of music instruction, but you also want your children to gain insight into theory and the more technical aspects of music learning. Learning the solfege and note structure can go a long way in guiding children towards thinking of music in terms of performance, creation, and production.
Never Stop Reading
A loss of reading comprehension is the last thing you want to face during the summer slide; to this effect, you will want to encourage your children to read as much as they play video games. Here are some useful tips to foster summer reading:
- Audiobooks: Listening to a skilled reader is an overlooked academic activity. Research shows that children who pay attention to good readers will more than likely want to emulate them.
- Reading Aloud: This activity goes hand-in-hand with the gist of listening to audiobooks, but it should be collaborative in the sense that an adult will read a few paragraphs before letting the student do the same.
- Library Activities: Librarians are excellent teachers, but you will not find them in school because the library is where they love to be. Find out what activities your local library has during the summer and let your student choose the one that he or she is more interested in.
- Daily Reading: Even if it is a daily webcomic or a blog post, your children should not go a single day of summer vacation without reading.
Some parents like to set up reading goals along with a reward; for example, four books read over the summer would get a nice present or a special trip.
Motivate Students to Do Research
With the advent of internet technology, this recommendation is pretty easy for children to get into. Wherever you are planning on taking a trip to, have your children do research about the place before getting there.
Don’t Forget About Math
Similar to reading loss, you do not want your children to get rusty with regard to their math skills. Whenever possible, try to incorporate a practical math activity on a daily basis; for example, adding up the prices of items at the supermarket, figuring out how much paint will be needed to remodel a bedroom, or completing a few sudoku boards.
Become a Home Teacher With Fun Lesson Plans
You do not have to be a home schooling expert to deliver a lesson plan over the summer. Quite a few websites offer free lesson plans along with materials to enhance the learning intent, and all you have to do is some Google research to find them. One example would be the plans offered by the National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum; the pizza lesson plans therein have a little bit of geography, math, agriculture, and even nutrition.
Summer Day Camps
The Hollywood image of sleep-away summer camps in the outdoors is pretty much out of date; in fact, these traditional summer camps have fallen out of favor. Modern summer camps tend to be more along the lines of academic learning, and some of them combine events with home activities. Students will have the final say with regard to the type of camp they are interested in, but they will not have a shortage of options. From robotics to coding and from basketball to painting, children have a greater range of interests to choose from; the idea is to keep them active with instructional and challenging tasks. For many parents and students, the summer day camp experience is probably one of the best measures to mitigate the summer slide, but not all families are able to afford them.
Educational Video Games
Many students associate summer vacation with long days spent playing online shooters such as Fortnite and PUBG, but the reality of these popular games is that they do not teach much beyond reflexes. It is up to parents to control how much time their children spend playing Call of Duty, but they can also take advantage of educational titles such as Professor Clayton, Civilization, Scribblenauts, Astroneer, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, and many others.