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Picture this: Your child has just successfully completed another school year, earning top grades (or at least passing grades) in all of his or her classes. The lazy months of summer break follow. What happens to all that knowledge that was packed inside your child’s brain during nine months of school? Researchers at Johns Hopkins University estimate that about two months of learning are lost during the summer months. This is known as the summer learning loss, or “summer slide”. Homeschooling parents often combat this academic slump by extending the school year into the summer. But how can your public or private school student reap the same benefits?
When someone mentions “summer school,” do you picture delinquent students trying to make up failed assignments? Instead, imagine school without grades, testing, or time constraints. That’s what summer learning is designed to be. It’s education disguised as fun. School day camps typically run for 1-2 weeks long, and are a fun way for elementary or middle school aged children to see their friends and combat boredom. While learning is very much the focus, the activities include outings like trips to museum or the zoo, hands-on science experiments, and art projects that allow your child to make something he or she can showcase at the end of the camp. Camps are designed to pique your child’s interest in subjects such as robotics, musical theater, web design, or gardening, just to name a few.
Do you have a recreation center, library, or park near your neighborhood? You might want to pop in sometime and find out about their summer day camps as well. Like school camps, these are usually low in cost (or free) and offer open-air activities and field trips. These camps typically focus on fitness or the outdoors—think nature hikes, swim school, or reading camps. Just as it is important for your child to use his or her brain during the summer months, it’s vital that exercise is on the list, too. Childhood obesity risks increase when parents are at work, and television or computers are the only entertainment around.
Many colleges use summer camps and academies as a recruitment tool for high school students, offering scholarships for students to come and stay in their dorms while taking coursework to earn college credit. Some even target lower-income students, such as the Upward Bound Program. In addition to high school camps, some universities also work with younger children, offering academic enrichment camps similar to those offered by public schools. While each program differs, you can expect some type of entrance essay test score for admittance into the program, as there are a limited number of spots available.
If your child has an interest or hobby, there is probably a camp for it. Recently, academic camps are striving to go beyond the classroom and offer memorable experiences in a way that regular school never could. Check out camps for marine biology, engineering, or foreign languages to give your child a jump on the upcoming school year. The only drawback is the cost: out of town camps are the most expensive option for summer learning. Fortunately, many camps offer scholarships for a certain number of attendees. Your school counselor may have more information.
For students who struggled academically during the school year, tutoring is an excellent option. Math, science, and reading are the most common areas of learning loss because many children barely learn the basics before school is over. You can try a local tutoring center, or you even hire a tutor online. If you have the time to tutor your child yourself, home-school resources are available at most bookstores. One simple way to help is to read with your child. Regular reading over the summer months has been shown to improve reading skills, especially in elementary school children.
There are more summer learning activities available than most parents realize. You could choose one camp or program, or one for every week of the summer. Just be sure to begin scheduling programs a few months before the school year ends, as many programs fill up quickly or have restrictive deadlines. Believe it or not, you can take charge of your child’s learning and prevent the academic slump. While everyone may not agree on just how to prevent learning loss, statistics are clear that highest achieving students are the ones whose parents take an active role in their education.