Don’t Slide This Summer

Today I want to chat about what all teachers dread at the end of vacation. No. It’s not that vacation is over; it’s the terrible, horrifying “summer slide.”

The “summer slide” is the regression of progress made by school-age children throughout the school year. Loss of learning can be devastating for children and adults. According to Megan Kuhfeld, PhD., writing for the NWEA, the loss of learning increases as students age, and by the 8th grade, a child can unlearn up to 50% of their math gains from the previous school year.

That information is shocking, and very worrisome to educators and parents. I think it’s safe to say we could all take measures to stop the slide in our own learning. How do we all prevent “summer slide” and sliding in general?

read year round

Reading just 30 minutes a day will improve vocabulary, memory, and critical thinking skills.

Creating a literacy culture at home is one of the most important steps you can take to give yourself and your family the best head start…literally.Reading aloud helps you create more neural pathways and better memory retention. Educators also support reading aloud as a way to make personal connections and discuss life lessons as they emerge in stories.

Everyone in the family benefits from silent reading, but especially reading aloud. You can read aloud even to yourself!

This summer, why not start a read-aloud routine? For ideas about implementing a literacy culture at home, check out some resources here.

Looking for some encouragement for adult reading? Check out Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club. Also, check in with me, as I will be posting great family, parenting, and self-development books.

play year round

Structured learning games can help you retain what you have learned.

There are two types of play: structured and unstructured. Most people are familiar with the former. Structured is the kind that tends to be also the easiest for parents to use. It includes any type of activity where there are rules and, generally, a desired outcome. For example, board games, Simon-Says, capture the flag, etc.

Unstructured play includes open-ended play; it often incorporates building blocks, clay, coloring, and make-believe. Both are crucial to developing social and executive functioning skills; however, structured play is usually given priority in schools, clubs, and social groups.

Through structured play, children are taught how to follow directions and chronological order. They also develop communication, leadership, and teamwork skills. As adults we continue to practice these skills through our jobs, household management, and some social interactions. So to keep progressing throughout the year and not lose these very important skills, we all must practice consistently.

For your young children, some fun ideas I found for structured play here. Also, for all ages of children, you can find some fun resources here. More mature board and card games would benefit adults and teens. For example, we love Carcassonne (strategic tile placement), Seven Wonders (resource management), Exploding Kittens (strategic card game) which we’ve played with a child as young as 11.

explore year round

Exploring independently builds skills that are not taught in school.

Additionally, what I like to call exploration, or non-structured play, is one of those privileges that our parents, unfortunately, did not pass on to the next generation. Unfortunately, out of fear, (you can read about the historical changes here), parents closed their children indoors, and separated from an environment where we could explore a very important evolutionary behavior: self-directed executive functioning skills, a.k.a. the ability to make critical decisions and calculated risks.

Thus, if we let children explore their world, they will build those self-directed executive functioning skills, and grow into capable, critically thinking adults. These skills include “organization, long-term planning, task initiation, and the ability to switch between activities,” according to this article.

If we force them to skip these important lessons on their own, it can possibly lead to detrimental habits and behaviors later on. We all know careers, relationships, and health could be affected if you don’t know how to resolve interpersonal problems.

In addition, if you want to prevent sliding, you need to address these less academic skills as well. Give your child and yourself time to explore the world throughout the year and over the summer.

Not so keen of letting go of all the control? Create buddy systems or semi-supervised situations, and most of all, unstructured activities. Some of these may fit well in your family culture. You could simply put out some arts and crafts supplies for everyone to enjoy, take a nature walk, play in the mud or sand, or collect rocks.

Wishing you a year of learning,

Caitlyn A. Minns


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