By Dinah Whitton
After a long winter, most Canadians look forward to enjoying the warm summer months. If you schedule your homeschool around the traditional school year, your students are probably excited about taking a break from the workbooks for a few weeks. But, when the summer fun is over, many parents are going back to the drawing board to help their children remember what they learned prior to the long break.
The summer slide or summer learning loss is a reality for most students that have an extended break from academic studies. After spending the majority of the year learning new concepts in reading, writing and math etc. that newly obtained knowledge can be quickly forgotten during a two month break. Research on this matter shows that students can lose up to one month or more of learning and test scores are significantly lower. In addition, students in lower income families tend to experience the most summer learning loss due to the lack of resources to maintain their academic skills. Fortunately, for homeschooling families, this research does not have to be a reality. Regardless of your income, there are many ways to help your children stay sharp while enjoying some downtime in the summer.
While this may seem like the most obvious solution to summer learning loss, many parents get caught up with what their children are reading. Naturally, the first choice is quality literature but during the summer, let your children indulge in some ‘off road reading’. There are various kid-friendly magazines available at the library and online. Having the freedom to explore a topic of interest in a fun way, will likely result in reading more. Audiobooks and ebooks can also support your child’s learning throughout the summer. Browse HSLDA Canada’s digital library and get lost in a fictional adventure in the car during road trips, on rainy days and even at bedtime.
Sneaky Summer Learning
Since learning never really ends; use your summertime activities as an informal lesson. Whether you’re visiting a museum or taking in a cultural festival, ask your children to tell you about one interesting fact they discovered. Encourage your children to journal about their day or even draw pictures about their favourite activity of the week. If you’re going on a road trip, take plenty of pictures and look at them together. Consider printing them and creating a family album – let the kids put captions on them! Or, let your kids’ digital creativity flow and get them to make a slideshow or mini-movie of your adventures.
Frequent Breaks Throughout the Year
The beauty of homeschooling is the flexibility it provides families. It’s easy to fall in line with the traditional school year, but remember that this schedule is not mandatory. Create a schedule that works with your family’s overall needs. Consider spreading out your breaks throughout the year instead of one long summer break. Planning a vacation outside of the typical school year breaks is also more cost-effective. Frequent breaks give you a chance to recalibrate and can reduce the risk of learning loss over a longer period.
Online Academic Games
While it is important to limit screen time, there are definitely ways to use digital devices to support learning. Spend a few moments researching quality fun games that your kids will enjoy. Most devices have parental controls so you can set limits and monitor your children’s online activity. Maybe they’re already playing a game that requires critical thinking skills or encourages creativity. Find out what they like to play and use your creativity to incorporate a learning opportunity.
Soft Start Back to Homeschool
The transition from summer break to homeschool doesn’t have to be tedious. Keep the fun going as you begin another exciting year of learning. Silly object lessons, hands on science experiments and trips to the library are just a few ways to ease into a new school year. Some families even start with half days toward the end of the summer. For example, academics in the morning and leisure time in the afternoon, then add in additional subjects as September rolls around. However, if you do use this method, be sure to discuss when the full schedule will resume so the expectations are clear.
Home educators have a unique opportunity to support their children’s learning throughout the year and avoid summer learning loss. Plan ahead and include activities during breaks that support your family’s academic goals. Everyone can truly enjoy some much-needed downtime and look forward to a progressive school year.