We’ve almost done it, y’all! The kids have just a few more weeks of school, and then we can celebrate the completion of another grade and slide into all the summer fun. As a teacher and a mom, I am HERE FOR IT. The month of May is bonkers. Kids, teachers, moms — we all deserve a well-earned rest.
I do, however, want to gently remind you that summer is only about eight weeks long and then the kids will head back to school in all its early morning, scheduled glory. Those eight weeks are such an opportunity.
I hate the term “learning loss.” It’s been way overused recently, but temporary skill loss over the summer is definitely a thing. We usually call it the “summer slide.” Teachers expect it and account for it at the beginning of every school year. However, there are some things you can do to keep your kids fresh all summer and ready to start the new year in August.
Here’s what I’m doing with my own elementary aged kids this summer:
1. We’re keeping a schedule.
This isn’t exactly academic-focused, but it’s the foundation for a good academic school year. ALL kids thrive when they have a consistent schedule from wake-up to bedtime. Am I going to make my kids wake up at the usual 6am start? Absolutely not. I like my sleep too. But they won’t be sleeping until noon all summer. We let them stay up a little later in the summer, but lights are still out at a reasonable time. Around mid-July, we start bringing bedtime up a little at a time so that they are back to their usual school-year bedtime by the first week of school. We did this last year, and it made going back to school such a breeze.
2. We’re reading every day.
My kids are just finishing up first grade and third grade. I’ll be having my first grader read aloud to me for around 20 minutes every day. He has just gained this skill, and I know it’s one we need to practice regularly to keep it. My third grader doesn’t need to practice reading aloud anymore, but she’ll have some time to read chapter books. We LOVE the public library during the summer. The kids always participate in the summer book club and love earning prizes. I try to make reading time fun by letting them read outside, in my bed, in a fort they build…anywhere that’s a little exciting.
3. We’re keeping math skills sharp, too.
Since I haven’t mentioned this yet, let me say it right here. Do not make your child do worksheets all summer unless they ask and want to. I know teachers sometimes send home workbooks, and some kids think that is so fun. I have one child who thinks it’s so fun to do the school workbook during the summer. The other…not so much. Summer is not for worksheets. It’s for play. We can still keep a lot of math skills strong by playing and having fun. I will be baking with my daughter because it’s something she and I love to do together. We have a big family, so we’ll need to double and triple some recipes. Guess who’s doing that fraction math? Not me. For both of my kids, we’ll be playing a lot of card games to keep their math skills strong. You can find a good list of card games for kids here but some of the classics you remember are great too. My kids are learning to play Cribbage, which is sometimes more math than even I can handle. Dominoes are also a fun game to play that keep math skills fresh.
4. We’ll be pursuing passions.
I bet there are some things your kids love that they don’t get to spend a lot of time learning about. My daughter loves horses and art. My son loves Legos and snap circuits. They’ll both have opportunities to learn more about those things and spend time figuring them out on their own. As a teacher, I would love for my students to spend their summer doing things they love so they are more prepared to learn things that maybe aren’t their favorite. Fill their cup all the way to the top!
5. We’ll be outside.
I know this is my teacher showing, but please please don’t let kids sit on devices for eight hours a day all summer. There are no professional organizations that recommend that. We all know the benefits of physical activity, but the benefit to sensory regulation may be even more important. In fact, there is lots of new (and old) research that shows how much our sensory/nervous systems are regulated by being outside. Doctors even recommend simply going outside as a strategy to help newborns with colic. Summer is the perfect time to spend lots of time outside because the weather is usually nice. My own kids are more regulated and well-behaved when they have spent time outside. Join a swim team, visit the zoo, or just send the kids in the backyard, but get out there. Kids will come back to school in August better regulated for learning.
As always, I know every family situation is unique and everyone should do what is best for their family. These are just some ideas of ways you can give your kids a fun summer while still keeping school in the back of your mind. It will be waiting for us in August whether we like it or not.