Friday, May 18, 2012

Mitigating summer learning loss...while still enjoying your summer!

Summer is approaching! And many of us are looking forward to long, unstructured days, trips to the beach and pool, free time to get together with friends, host cookouts, catch-up on that interminable to-do list! In our era when everything is a subject of case studies and research, it is not surprising that the subject of learning loss during summer vacation has been documented thoroughly. Numerous articles have been written regarding this phenomenon and advice has been given, and programs formulated to try to staunch the loss. Doubtless, for students in a classroom setting, the sudden cessation of "formal" learning will have a more profound affect than for those students who study at home. These students have the advantage of living in a setting that encourages learning and exploration. While many homeschooling families take a break from their more structured studies, it is not surprising that they also see the summer as a time to take part in more elective activities that maintain an element of teaching and learning. But how does a parent balance the desire to ensure that your child is still learning and retaining information with the child's desire to have a well-deserved break from school?

Have fun with it! Summer is a wonderful time to relax and enjoy the world around us. Without having to worry about weekly assignments, test-prep, vocabulary lists, and all the other things that fill up an average home schooler's day, you will have more time to read, to do fun backyard science experiments, learn about all the wonderful and mysterious bugs and creepy crawlies one encounters in the backyard or local park. It may be tempting to formalize this, but I think summers are the perfect time for the more structured of us to embrace an "unschooling" approach. Perhaps this is the time to take a field trip to your local state park and let your kids lead the way. Ensure that your children have time to explore and read placards...without the pressure of a report hanging over their heads. Do that science unit study that you didn't have time for during the academic year, but focus on the experiments and literature, letting lab reports take a back seat.

The point is to maintain engagement in learning without the pressure. And, of course, allow lots of time to read. Again, limit the time your children spend online, playing video games, or watching TV. Make regular trips to the library and let your children choose silly books that they would normally not have time to read. And forgo the book reports. Many children discover that they really love reading...when they can do it just for their own pleasure. I loved reading as a child but I remember one particular language arts curriculum that made me absolutely despise the books I was assigned to read. The books themselves were great! It was the minutia of each comprehension question, the endless grammar assignments. I felt as though each chapter was ripped to shreds for the purpose of "learning." While there is a time and place for this grammar exercises and comprehension questions, it is not during summer.

If you are wanting some structure for your summer, sign up for your local library's reading program. I loved taking part as a child. The lists of recommended books helped me discover new authors, and I loved the prizes! We also have lots of recommended books in our "Family Read Aloud" series.

If you're looking for further direction, try our Teaching Character Through Literature study guide. The History of the Horse is a summer time favorite among our customers, as is The History of Classical Music. Our Geography Through Literature is built on the amazing Holling C. Holling stories that are sure to capture your children's attention. And the History of Science combines fun biographies with easy hands-on experiments so your children can explore scientific principles using household items.

I would love to hear how you plan on spending your summer! Do you worry about learning loss? Is schooling more relaxed?

And if you want more inspiration, don't forget to enter our giveaway! One reader will win a copy of Honey for the Child's Heart and For the Children's Sake, both books that will inspire you in creating a learning environment in your home that doesn't end when class does.

1 comment:

  1. Great reminder, Becca, on how important unstructured time is to the whole well-rounded child. Long leisurely reading in a tree-fort, long design time for building tree-forts!, and the freedom to just be. That is such an important part of nurturing a grounded and happy child. Great post!