10 Jun 2022

Setting up Summer Learning

Growing up in New York State, summer camps were popular – both day camps and sleep-away camps. Kids generally went to the same camp for 1-2 months, building relationships and learning to swim. Families usually took vacations at the end of the summer.
When I moved to Virginia, I was surprised to see that camps are quite different here. First of all, I couldn’t find any dedicated camps. Summer camps were at private schools and community centers, and rarely had swimming pools. Many community centers, like ours, offered swim team, but practices were in the morning, so children couldn’t also go to camp. Also, northern Virginia specializes in specialty camps for one week each, so kids can explore their areas of interest. Tutoring For Success set up a tutoring program at one of the camps that had a consistent schedule and its own pool. Our challenge was that many of these kids went to camp for only 1-3 weeks, receiving only a few hours of tutoring. After that, we moved our tutoring programs to students’ homes. Our goal is for every child to keep up with academics in the summer, with or without a tutor.
Keeping up with the specialty camps, summer job schedules, and vacation schedules for the whole family can be a daunting task. Some parents have gigantic calendars that outline each week’s activities for each family member. Some families are not so scheduled and offer their children a lot of free time to relax and play with friends in the neighborhood. Either way, some sort of structure is important for our children’s well being. What I did not want as a parent was for my children to sleep most of the day, never get dressed, and spend the remainder of each day on their screens.
Last month’s newsletter pointed out Summer Slide, a well documented phenomenon. Many studies have shown evidence of significant learning loss from the year for students who don’t do any maintenance work in the summer. Luckily, it is easy to fit in reading, math, writing, and educational activities into your summer schedule. As I always say, if it isn’t on my calendar, it won’t happen.
Setting up a manageable plan for summer academic success:
1.   Talk to teachers. Before the school year is over, talk to your child’s teachers to receive guidance on how to best use academic review time this summer.
2.   Work with each of your children to set up academic goals. For example:
  • Improve reading comprehension
  • Read 5 books for fun
  • Master multiplication tables
  • Complete at least 50% of a grade level math review book.
3. Purchase a summer math review book.
I recommend a review book that has mixed skills practice so that students are forced to think for each problem, do not do problems by rote, and are continuously challenged. Summerskills.com offers a summer review book for each grade level for $18 each. Each book provides a review of the grade level just completed. Other benefits:
  • Contains 30 to 35 lessons of mixed-skills practice. This means children are exposed to important concepts over and over in small doses throughout the summer for the ultimate in reinforcement.
  • Is meant to be used 3 – 4 times per week for 10 weeks so that concepts are reinforced from the beginning of summer to the end.
  • Because most lessons only take about 20 minutes, students can easily fit them into their busy summer schedules.
  • Includes tutorial help pages for students and parents to review the mechanics of each type of problem encountered in the book. An answer key is also included for grades 1-3. Solution pages are included for 4th grade and up.
  • Is written to the standards of all 50 states and the Common Core. [Source: summerskills.com]
4.   Go to the library, bookstore, or online bookstore to choose a few high interest books to read during the summer. Check out your county’s library programs that promote summer reading. Most have incentives and prizes.
5.   Create a master calendar for your family. You can do this online or purchase a giant calendar that has room for all the camps, vacations, and extra-curricular activities. You can color-code this calendar by family member.
6.   Add academics to the calendar. For example,
  •  20 – 30 minutes of reading for pleasure most days (before dinner, before bed, or first thing in the morning?) You can even fit this in during down time while on vacation and by using recorded books for car rides.
  •  20 minutes of math practice 3 days a week. This can include workbook activities, making a recipe, or building a rocket.
  •  20 minutes of writing 1-2 days per week. Write a diary, movie review, or comic strips.
  • 3 visits to a historic site
  • 3 science experiments or gardening activities
  • Tutoring once per week to review basic skills – to sign up, go to Get Started (tutoringforsuccess.us)
7.   Keep your calendar structured, but not too structured. Everyone should wake up, get dressed, and have some activities planned for the day. But there should also be plenty of unstructured time.
8.   Limit screen time. We all know that being in front of a computer or phone screen all day is not good for us. The best way to limit screens is to offer fun, enhancing summer activities.
9.   Schedule in Chores. All family members should help with daily housework and cooking. Some chores can be part of what is expected, and other chores, perhaps mowing the lawn or weeding, can be paid.
10. Add rewards to your academic program. This can include praise, extra screen time, special snacks, or special outings. Your children will be happy to help you come up with ideas.
Summer is such a great time for families to bond, for explore the outdoors, and have fun. Incorporating reading for pleasure and other academic skills will pay off in a big way.
 By Cheryl Gedzelman, President, Tutoring For Success, Inc.

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