Summer break means a vacation for kids and parents from nightly homework, required reading and rushed mornings getting ready for school. But extended time away from the classroom does have a downside.
Decades of research shows that all children, no matter how well they do in school, can lose some of their hard-earned knowledge over the summer, particularly when it comes to math, where most students lose about two months of skills if not engaged academically. The summer slide is especially detrimental for kids in low-resource areas, who often struggle to have basic needs met over break, and can slip an average of two months behind in reading as well.
Matthew Boulay, founder and interim CEO of the National Summer Learning Association, encourages parents to talk to their child’s teacher before break for any suggestions they have on what to address over vacation, and to also ask their child about what they’d like to learn.
“We’re not talking about overwhelming your family with more schoolwork,” he says. “Learning in the summer is about finding new and fun ways to engage your children while keeping up those good habits you’ve set during the school year, like reading together and limiting screen time.”
Here are a few area programs and at-home ideas to keep kids sharp during summer vacation.
READING AND WRITING
Shake off the required reading lists of the school year by taking a deep dive into the topics your kids love. A Google search can help you find books and magazines to match even the most obscure interests, and library staff can help you track down resources locally.
Summer reading programs are also a great way to keep kids engaged over break.
● The Indianapolis Public Library: Kids, teens and adults are invited to “Read It & Eat” books during the library’s 98th annual Summer Reading Program. Running June 5 through July 29, readers can earn points to redeem prizes of everything from toys to buy-one-get-one free Indianapolis Indians tickets. More info: www.indypl.org/events/srp2017/kids/
● Carmel Clay Public Library: The Summer Challenge allows families to earn points by reading books and taking part in a list of activities, such as visiting area parks or going screen-free for 24 hours. Points can be tracked online, and prizes include toys and art supplies. The program runs May 22 through Aug. 14. More info: www.carmel.lib.in.us/challenge/
● Hamilton East Public Library: Families will help Build a Better World with this year’s Summer Reading Program. Kids 11 years old and younger are tasked with reading 800 pages, while kids 12 to 19 must read 1,600 pages to complete the program. Prizes include goody bags, T-shirts and books. The program runs June 1 through July 31. More info: http://hepl.lib.in.us/reading-programs/
● Westfield Washington Public Library: Build a Better World is also the theme of this Summer Reading Program, which encourages kids, teens and adults to read throughout the summer and win prizes along the way. It runs June 1 through July 31. More info: wwpl.lib.in.us
● Johnson County Public Library: Another Build a Better World-themed program encourages children to explore far-off places at story times, discover hidden talents and create through new STEAM, that’s STEM + art, activities. The program runs through July 31. More info: www.pageafterpage.org/summer-learning-program
● Greenwood Public Library: The newly revamped Summer Reading Program encourages readers of all ages to track what they read between May 15 through July 29. Points collected can be used to vote on a variety of community prizes. More info: www.greenwoodlibrary.us
For struggling readers, consider IUPUI’s summer reading programs for 4-year-olds and older. More info: www.iupui.edu/~solctr/business-corporate-resources/summer-reading-programs/
Practicing math problems over the summer is no one’s idea of fun. Fortunately, there are ways you can help keep your kids’ skills sharp without bringing out the worksheets.
Marian University’s Summer Learning Institute and the Indianapolis Algebra Project (www.indianapolisalgebraproject.org) both work with area summer camps to run math games with students. Also, consider day camps that focus on math, such as Junior Achievement’s BizTown Summer Camp (www.juniorachievement.org/web/ja-indy), where kids learn financial literacy and entrepreneurship in a real-life setting, or the University of Indianapolis’ Math Beyond Numbers camp, which offers coed and girls-only options (http://uindy.edu/summer/academic-camps).
At home, cook together to figure out fractions and measurement conversions, or set up a family store where kids can buy and sell items to learn about currency. Give older kids the chance to tally the tip at dinners out or budget a family vacation. Also consider apps that hone math skills, such as Operation Math, Mathmateer and Bedtime Math.
From weather and space, to nature and robotics, science covers so much ground that every kid can find something of interest. Give your children the chance to experiment more in the summer months, from melting ice cubes to playing with magnets or taking a hike, and supplement what you know with books, websites and educational apps.
There is no shortage of day camps with STEM themes. Camp Invention (www.campinvention.org) offers hands-on activities on topics such as circuitry, robotics and coding, while 1st Maker Space (www.1stmakerspace.com) will host 3D Printing and Design Camp at schools across the city. Or get outside with Marian’s camp series on STEM in the natural and living world (http://marian.edu/about-marian/nina-mason-pulliam-ecolab/summer-science-camps).
Not only are kids at risk of losing academic knowledge over the summer, studies show that they tend to gain weight more rapidly when they are out of school. Experts urge parents to keep control of screen time and find opportunities for daily fitness, such as trips to the playground or biking around the neighborhood. Explore more structured programs at the YMCA (www.indymca.org) and your local parks department, and check out sport-specific camps, such as those through the Indiana Pacers (http://tnbabasketball.com/programs/pacers/?register=Camp) and the Indy Eleven (www.indyeleven.com/indy-eleven-youth-soccer-camps).
The key to avoiding summer learning loss is getting kids engaged, active and thinking critically – and it doesn’t have to feel like school. With a few ideas in place that appeal to your child, you can keep those academic juices flowing and get next school year off to a great start.