What you should know about Summer Learning Loss and what you can do about it

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Also known as the summer slump or summer slide, summer learning loss is what your students forget between the end of one school year to the beginning of the next.


Public school teachers say they have to re-teach a MONTH or more of what kids had already learned the previous year. Just to make up for summer learning loss. Yikes! And just because we are homeschooling families, we are not immune.  Especially if we follow the traditional public school year and take the summer off.


How much learning do your kids lose?

The biggest loss seems to be in arithmetic computation. As in about one to two months’ worth! Yikes! That represents a lot of work, doesn’t it?

If you spent hours last year quizzing addition, subtraction, multiplication or division facts, you don’t want to lose all that! So let’s work a little math facts’ practice into your relaxed summer days!

Second to numerical computation, reading and spelling are affected.  Especially if you don’t or can’t involve your kids in summer reading programs or other summer enrichment programs.


Summer learning loss can be cumulative.

What is really scary is researchers say this loss is cumulative (!) possibly putting students further and further behind as they move into middle and high school years. In fact, those summers before and after 8th grade are particularly critical.


What can I do about summer learning loss?

This summer slide is so preventable.  If you homeschool year ’round, you probably don’t have to worry about this at all. But the rest of us need to plan activities to minimize its effect.

Of course, summer should be a time to do some relaxing, get outdoors more and have fun.  But working in some regular academics here and there is critical to keep the momentum going during extended school breaks.

(Mom, even if you use the summer to work inside/outside the home, you can still put some steps in place to keep your kids’ skills sharp over the summer.)

Here are some ideas at different ages for avoiding the summer slump:


Get preschoolers ready for homeschool

I know, preschoolers can’t have a summer slump until they are actually in school, but why not use the summer to get them ready for school?

[ctt title=”Surprisingly, one of the BEST things your preschoolers can do to prepare for school is PLAY.” tweet=”http://ctt.ec/tu6_P+” coverup=”tu6_P”]That’s right. Engaging in very active play – running in different directions, rolling on the ground, spinning, hanging upside down on a swing and just MOVING. A. LOT. is crucial to your preschooler’s development and learning readiness. It has something to do with inner ear development that takes place with these kinds of activities (they need “rapid vestibular input”) and it CUTS DOWN ON FIDGETING later when it’s time to start homeschooling. (Or any kind of schooling).

In addition to lots of movement, expose your preschoolers to books by reading aloud to them daily and talking about what you are reading. Let them participate in cooking, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, and making their beds. Yes, I know it will be messy! But it’s so worth it. And you’re making such wonderful memories, too.

Also, this is the time to start that habit training that Charlotte Mason talked so much about. Start getting your littles ready for school by teaching them to listen to you and be obedient right away, to take care of their own belongings, and to do tasks well.


Keep primaries from losing ground

If you have pre-readers, let them work on their letters by using their bodies to form letters (and have you or a sibling guess which letter), write them in a pan of sand or in a sandbox, or build letters with blocks. Anything to add a hands-on element.

If your primaries are beginning readers who are solidifying their skills, now is not the time to let them lose ground! Take them (and all of your kids, actually) to the public library once a week, if at all possible, and participate in their free summer reading program that will help you track your kids’ reading (or your time reading aloud to them) and get stickers or little rewards when they reach certain milestones.

Don’t insist on making them read things that are terribly challenging to them, just let them read for the joy of reading. Help your kids find books and magazines in areas they are interested in. This is especially helpful for any reluctant reader. Spend some time in the morning when they are used to doing school or in the afternoon when it’s too hot to play outdoors to have a “reading time” when everyone quietly reads their books and look at their magazines.

Primaries can do a lot around the house, too. One of the best ways to reinforce arithmetic is to let them help with meal preparation. How many forks/knives/spoons do we need? How many utensils is that altogether?

And, If we are going to make twice as many cookies, we need to make the recipe ‘twice.’ But we don’t have to actually make the recipe two times, we can just make it once. If we use double the amount of the ingredients. So if we need two cups of flour and we want to double the recipe, how much flour do we need? We can figure it out by making this number sentence: 2 (cups) + 2 (cups) = 4 (cups). 

And just like preschoolers, primaries need to spend a certain amount of time each and every day moving.  Going for a walk, swimming lessons, dancing, and other active, whole-body experiences help children learn.


Keep your Later Elementary students thinking in the summer

The last comment about moving applies here as well! Actually, it applies to all of your children, no matter what the age.

Reading: Have your elementary school children work up to reading  3o minutes a day. Even if what they choose is beneath their reading level. They are still building reading fluency by just putting the time in daily.

Make sure you and dad are modeling reading as well. Let them see you reading: for pleasure and/or to learn something. Also, talking about what you’re reading and why you’re reading it will help a reluctant reader to see the value in reading.

Math: In addition to cooking and working with recipes, it is not a bad thing to do some daily math drills with this age. Anytime you can, make this into a game:

  • It might be as simple as standing in a circle with your kids, saying, “4+6”, and then throwing a ball to someone. Whoever catches the ball to answer the question. Then that person gets to come up with a problem and throw the ball to someone else.
  • Another fun game is “Math War” with cards: This is so flexible and can be so much fun! Here’s how: Two at a time can play. First, divide up the cards into two piles, with each person getting a pile. Each person takes her top card and flips it face up at the same time. The first person to add the numbers together gets both cards. You can also subtract the smaller number from the larger, or multiply the numbers. If you have a younger and older child, one can add or subtract and the other one can multiply. To make this more challenging, you can even have another person sit alongside to call out the numerical operation that needs to be performed.
  • Drill math while walking outside while you’re walking. Simply skip count by twos, threes, fives, tens… so easy and useful when it comes to learn or practice multiplication facts!

Writing: Look for opportunities for your students to write. Have them write Grandma a letter. They can write instructions for taking care of a pet, or directions from your house to their best friend’s.

Or have them keep a journal and write a few sentences in response to a daily prompt, or record what they did that day. Be creative and use as many ways to write with ‘a real purpose’ as you can.

And I recently came across Myra Johnson’s downloadable journals. She has two that are full of fun writing prompts with colorful graphics, perfect for your late elementary ‘tweens.

summer learning loss middle school

Avoiding the summer slump with the upper grades

Learning loss becomes a little more serious as your student moves from elementary school into middle school and then into high school. Find out how to immunize your older children against summer learning loss in parts 2 and 3 of this series!

If you have a middle schooler, make sure to see Part II in this series:  Summer Learning Loss for Middleschoolers.

If you have a high school student, definitely read Part III to see just how important those summers are!

summer learning loss for high school

So, what are you doing this summer to hedge your bets against summer learning loss?

dana- summer learning loss

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