Every Day is Kids’ Day: Keep your kids learning throughout the summer

WASHINGTON Summer gives kids a much-needed break from the structure of the school year. But while a little bit of freedom from textbooks and pop-quizzes is necessary for their well-being, you don’t want them to backslide and forget everything they learned over the year in just a few short months.

There is a way to balance leisure with learning over the summer. Ann Dolin, author of “Homework Made Simple” and president of Educational Connections Tutoring, shares tips:

Reading for fun

Having your kids read is one way to ensure they aren’t letting their brains rust in the summer sun.

“Studies show that when kids read four books over the summer, they completely eliminate that summer learning slide,” Dolin said.

“When kids do nothing at all in math and reading, they can lose two-and-a-half months of learning over the summer.”

Check your local library for an age-appropriate recommended reading list. Some teachers also hand them out at the end of the school year, or you can search on popular websites such as Amazon for suggestions.

No matter how you go about finding a list of books, let your child choose which books he wants to read.

“It’s not your responsibility as a parent to pass judgment and say, ‘You know what honey, this year you’re not reading a graphic novel. You can only read books with words, no pictures.’ We don’t want to do that as parents. We really want to let our kids decide, because when they’re invested, they’re much more likely to meet that four-book [goal] over the summer,” Dolin said.

Stay busy, avoid busy work

Some parents turn to summer workbooks as a way to have their kids review what they learned from the previous year and preview skills for the upcoming year. But these books don’t work for every child.

“What they tend to be is a lot of busy work,” Dolin said.

If you have a kid who’s reluctant to this type of work, Dolin says go in a different direction — and you don’t have to look too far to find a more engaging activity.

“Living in the D.C. area, there are tons of opportunities for kids. There are sleepovers at the Natural History Museum, there are camps that kids can attend, there are lots of activities that kids can become involved in that don’t feel like learning to them, but actually are learning,” she said.

Get kids to write

The more you get your kids to write over the summer, the better.

“Our kids, honestly, they don’t write like they used to,” Dolin said. “Nowadays, kids won’t take the time to write in a diary or a journal like they did when we were kids. That writing for pleasure doesn’t exist much anymore because kids are on their phone or their iPad much more often.”

As a teacher, one thing Dolin loves doing with her students, and also with her own children, is a “dialogue journal.” Each day, before you go to work, you write your child a note in his journal.

“It could be something like, ‘I love the way you passed the ball to Jimmy and he scored that goal. How did you know he was open?’” Dolin explained.

Then, your child will write a response back to you. Dolin says it’s important that you don’t criticize spelling and grammar in the exchange.

“You just want to allow it to be a free-flowing dialogue,” she added.

Tech that teaches

There are plenty of apps and programs that help kids learn, but Dolin recommends saving screen time — even educational screen time — as a reward for the end of the day. She says if you let your child get on the iPad first thing in the morning, it’s hard to pull them away from electronic devices.

Before your child begins watching a movie or playing another game on the device, have them spend a few minutes playing a math game.

If you’re looking for a good website, Dolin suggests Funbrain and multiplication.com, both of which have a number of interactive learning games and activities.

“Pretty much every elementary schooler is going to need to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication or division facts over the summer,” Dolin said.

Don’t delay

Summer reading, writing and math activities shouldn’t be crammed in at the last minute. Dolin says it’s best if they’re worked into the daily routine from the beginning.

If you have older students, they may come home with a summer assignment that’s due at the beginning of the school year. Do not put this off until the last minute. Map out your summer schedule and help your child make a plan for getting the assignment done.  

Find more of Dolin’s summer learning tips when you play or download the full podcast episode.

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