Right now in Texas, most schools are closing the books on the 2013-14 school year and turning the kids loose for a much needed break. And kids aren’t the only ones who are relieved – we as parents are grateful for a reprieve from the spelling tests, math flashcards, and other school-related activities that have dominated our weekdays (and weekends!) for the past nine months.
Still, it doesn’t look like we actually have much of a break. Prior to the end of school, both of my children were issued formal reading assessments. My youngest, a kindergartener, was assessed by her teacher using the Texas Primary Reading Inventory (TPRI). She recorded a level 3 on the assessment, meaning that she is basically on track with her peers. But I was shocked to find that when she starts first grade in three months, she is expected to already be reading at a level 6!
My older daughter was also given a formal reading assessment before school let out. She took the Development Reading Assessment (DRA), a test that determines the grade level where a child is currently reading. As I examined her results, I noticed a similar phenomenon – she is leaving second grade at the correct grade level, but she is still expected to jump up a level by the time school starts again in the fall!
Reading isn’t the only subject in which teachers and educators expect children to advance over the summer. One of the main tenants of the Common Core math standards is that students will retain all of the learning from the prior grade level so that teachers do not have to spend the first month or so re-teaching old lessons. Both of these expectations – that our kids will advance in reading ability and retain 100% of their math abilities – seem to ignore recent studies on the summer learning loss that’s affecting our kids while school is out.
So if the expectation is that our kids will improve academically, but the research shows that they are most likely losing ground, what should we do? As parents, the burden is on us to ensure that our children are prepared for the next school year. But before we all rush out to hire summer tutors, here are five activities that will help our kids avoid losing ground this summer – and actually continue their forward progress:
- Join a Summer Reading Program – Since school is out, kids are no longer compelled to read by the task masters we call teachers. However, as I have noted above, they need to keep reading in order to be prepared for the next grade level. One way to motivate them to read is to sign up for a summer reading program. We identified five summer reading programs in a previous post that will help keep kids reading this summer.
- Learn About Real World Math – The Motley Fool has an interesting learning program designed to help teens learn the secrets to becoming a millionaire. One way to keep kids keep practicing math this summer is to encourage them to spend some time learning about money management. Then, to solidify the learning, have them teach the principles to you.
- Keep a Journal – In order to keep writing skills sharp, encourage your child to write daily in a personal journal. Alternatively, you could encourage them to write a daily blog to keep friends and family informed about their summer adventures.
- Learn to Cook – Surprisingly, cooking and math go hand-in-hand. Cooking involves fractions, measurements, time, and temperature. With a little help, meal time can also be turned into math time.
- Geocaching – Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity where participants use a GPS or mobile device to navigate to hidden treasures. It involves geography, geology, and math, and perhaps best of all – it requires the kids to get outside and experience nature.
Another option that incorporates all of these ideas (except cooking) would be to sign your child up for the Brain Chase Summer Learning Challenge. Brain Chase is an online summer program that incentivizes participants to do a little bit of math, reading, and writing every day. If they do, they’ll unlock exclusive animated content that holds the clues to the location of a real treasure that’s been buried somewhere on earth. With Brain Chase, your child will not only get the summer academic diet that will prepare them for the next school year, but they’ll have a blast in the process.