Summer Learning Loss for Highschoolers

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summer learning loss for highschoolers

Do you have a rising ninth-grader this year? Do you know that THIS SUMMER is one of the most critical transitions in a young person’s academic career, according to the National Summer Learning Association?

It’s true.

If you’ve read the first two posts in this series about summer learning loss with your elementary and middleschoolers , then you’ve read this:

What your student FORGETS from the time the school year ends until he or she starts school again at the end of the summer = 1-2 months of math and some measurable degree of reading and language arts learning.

It just…vaporizes… during the summer.


Unless you plan math, reading, and writing activities to keep that from happening.

What’s even more amazing is research shows that often this learning loss is cumulative.  Yikes!

Please don’t be fearful about this. Just make a plan right now for your highschooler to work on math, reading, and writing during the summer.  It doesn’t have to be hours a day.

This isn’t rocket science, but it takes determination and planning to put a system in place. And follow up. Don’t forget to follow up.

Your system needs to keep your highschooler working on math, reading, and writing on a daily or almost daily basis. During  most of the summer.

I know that schoolish things are the last things on teens’ summer list of to-dos. But it’s important and doing it will save time your time and energy as well as your highschooler’s next fall.


summer learning loss for high school

What I recommend you do for your high schoolers to avoid summer learning loss

With this age group, it helps to discuss what work you want them to do. But let them help decide the “when.”  In other words, it is not negotiable that they are going to be doing some math, reading, and writing during the summer.

What is negotiable is when it’s going to be done.

But before we talk about “when,” let’s talk about “what.”

Because high school work should be more challenging and time-consuming than previous work, and it’s much harder to get everything done during this important four years… consider getting a head start on next year’s work during the summer.

I know YOU need a break, so try and choose things that your student can do by himself, with your husband if he’s amenable, or maybe even an online class where someone else does the teaching.

With those ideas in mind, let’s get specific.


How to avoid summer learning loss in math

Just like in the younger years, the easiest thing to do is just to keep doing math during the summer. Either finish last year’s math text or begin next year’s.

Again, if someone other than you can work with your student, all the better. If you don’t want to supervise, perhaps a neighborhood college student would be happy to do so for a small fee.

Because it’s the summer, after all,  you certainly could choose to go at a slower pace than you usually do.  Maybe do two or three lessons a week instead of five, for example.

Another benefit of working on math during high school summers is that your student may be ready sooner to take the S.A.T./A.C.T college readiness exams. This may provide additional time to retake the exam which is helpful to most students. (Plan on having your student take these tests at least twice.)

If you don’t want to start a curriculum yet for next year for whatever reason, have your high school student try his hand at this site  (easier) or this site (more advanced) for some regular math practice.  (I didn’t check out everything on these pages, so please do your due diligence here and check them out before he does.)

Normally, If you have a mathematically gifted student, I’d suggest sending him or her to a math camp for part of the summer.  Here are some online math camp ideas. If you need to plan ahead to do this, consider it for next summer.


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How to avoid summer learning loss in reading

summer learning loss Highschoolers how to readI recommend all high school students read this book during the summer before ninth grade, or whenever they can fit it in.  

I’ll tell you upfront – it will not be their favorite book.  They don’t even have to read the whole thing to benefit from reading it.  (Have them at least read through most of Part III)

The easiest way to accomplish this is to have them read short sections at a time and narrate (tell back)  to you about what they read.

The second easiest way is to have them take reading notes.

But the best way to make sure they are actually reading and understanding the book is to read it in short sections along with them, then listen to the narration and talk about anything missed.  

If you look at this book at, you can see by the comments that it is an excellent but rather tedious book to read –but it’s worth it. So worth it.

Why? One reason is that you’ll help prepare your high schooler by having him experience that high school work is harder than middle school.

Secondly, part three of this book will teach him how to read fiction, nonfiction, poetry, plays, and more. This will help him get the most he can out of his reading — in high school, in college, and beyond. If you read this along with your student, it will help you, too!

If your student has already read How to Read a Book, I recommend ordering your high school curriculum early enough to begin the reading earlier. Alternatively,  you could have your student combine the reading and writing with the suggestion below under the ‘Writing’ section.


If you want to take a break from a curriculum this summer, then do this.

If you want to take a complete break from curriculum this summer and don’t want to tackle the books above, have your highschooler spend about 45-60 minutes reading most days. It’s best to choose books from different genres.

For example, if your student is interested in mountain climbing, she can choose a non-fiction book about mountain climbing, a fictional story about it, a biography about a famous mountain climber, an autobiography written by a mountain climber… you get it.  Be creative.

Important: Whenever you can align a student’s interest with their work, it makes their work so much less painful.

But if you have time — please consider reading How to Read a Book AND reading books in your highschoolers interests. You’ll be so glad you did.  Note that the above link is to a newer version that I have not read. The link above the one in this paragraph is for the one I have read. The newer one has new material. The reviews are for the older one, I’m sure.


How to avoid summer learning loss in writing

Frankly, writing is the area that we’re most likely to skip during the summer. After all,  it’s more effort for many students and definitely more effort for you to have to evaluate.  But since writing is the foundation for a large part of high school work,  I’d make the effort.

Here are some ways to make it happen.

  • Have your student choose a classic novel or more from the ones you suggest. He can keep a reading response journal daily after reading. (Have him choose a quote from his reading and copy it with the page number. Then he writes a paragraph about why he chose that particular quote, how it moved him, or what he liked about it.)
  • Want to get one English elective (½ credit = about 60 hours) out of the way this summer as well as giving your student a firm foundation in writing the five high school essay types?  Have him begin or complete our Essay Styles for High School course.  Designed as a one-semester course written to your student, if your student started it during the summer he could either finish it in the fall or just spend a chunk of time on it and get it out of the way this summer.   This is the course we recommend all 8th graders ready for high school work or beginning high schoolers take before any of our other English or history courses.
  • Have your student keep a journal during the summer and respond to writing prompts.


Again, let your student weigh in about when he’s going to be working during the summer.

Working regularly is important. But your teen might prefer to get it out of the way first thing,  or sleep in and do it during the heat of the afternoon, or before going to bed.

Math and writing could also be on alternate days. It doesn’t matter when it’s done, just that it’s done.

By the way, I suggest you check your student’s work at regular intervals, too, especially if you aren’t teaching.  You are slowly teaching them to be more independent, but this does take supervision.

However you set up your summer learning program, it’s a good thing. Know that your highschooler will benefit greatly by you taking the time and effort to make it happen!

So what’s your plan this summer with your highschooler to help avoid summer learning loss?

dana- summer learning loss

P.S. Do you have a high schooler that could use a solid review of math prior to beginning high school?  I’m talking fractions, percents, ratios, etc.  See my post about avoiding the summer slump in middle school.  Grab some of the math resources mentioned there to catch your high schooler up quickly.


summer learning loss middle schoolsummer learning loss elementary

Have younger kids? Don’t miss the first two parts of this summer learning loss series!

Part I, concerning preschool through elementary,  and Part II covering what you need to know about summer learning loss for middle schoolers.




1 thought on “Summer Learning Loss for Highschoolers

  1. Thank you for sharing this great information. I had no idea!

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