Summer Catch Up: 5 Strategies & Tips for Families

Aug 23 2021

covid-learning-slide-(featured-image)

With summer of 2021 in full swing, children and families are no doubt relishing the opportunity to step away from screens, get outside, and begin to enjoy the typical joys and activities of the season.

The ability to rest, relax, explore, and reconnect are especially critical for children this summer. With a new school year approaching, however, parents and caregivers may be concerned about whether or not their young learner is prepared for the academic year ahead, and the potential learning loss brought about by the previous unorthodox school year.


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Fortunately, the flexibility and freedom of summer make it a perfect time for kids to naturally build the social, emotional, and cognitive skills necessary to succeed in school. Additionally, the autonomy and time away from screens and schedules allows children and their families to pick and choose which opportunities to take advantage of, guaranteeing a summer break that is not only fun, but productive and an active part of the back-to-school preparation process.

Tips for Catching Up Over the Summer

This year, many parents are expressing concern about their children experiencing the “COVID Slide,” or some amount of learning loss over previous, more traditional school years. A lack of typical educational consistency, the need to adapt to a more fluid learning style, and the removal of traditional social and emotional connections brought on by the global pandemic has taken a measurable toll on many students’ academic progress.

Fortunately, summer provides many excellent opportunities for children to catch up while enjoying the typical fun of summer vacation. Parents should look to the possibilities and offerings available to them, to help their young learner have fun and enter the upcoming school year on strong footing.

1. Reading

Reading for pleasure is a simple way parents and caregivers can foster a sense of enjoyment and learning in their young learners this summer and beyond. The benefits of pleasure reading for children are endless. Some of those benefits include stimulating imagination, increasing social skills, and improving the vocabulary, spelling, and critical thinking skills that children have learned during the school year.

Parents may also find that encouraging their young learner to explore topics and genres of their own choosing can unearth new interests and create enthusiastic, lifelong learners.

2. Camps

Both day camps and sleepaway camps are incredible resources for summertime learning, and most of the typical summer camp offerings promote ongoing childhood learning. Activities like nature walks, climbing walls, team sports, creative arts and crafts, and even swimming provide children with a fun outlet to practice their fine and gross motor skills, critical thinking skills, and social-emotional behaviors. Simply having the ability to reconnect with their peers and participate in some of the more traditional elements of summer camp offer children an outlet to continue learning whilst having fun.

This summer however, many summer camps are expanding their programming to incorporate some traditional academics into campers’ days as well. This initiative offers campers additional opportunities to learn, including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities, and arts programs to help address “lost instructional, social, and extracurricular time students have experienced as a result of the pandemic.”

Always a great opportunity for enrichment, summer camps appear to be joining the effort to ensure children spend this summer learning and growing.

3. Travel

Parents and caregivers can approach travel this season with their eye on childhood enrichment as well. Planning family vacations and trips around opportunities to visit museums, different cultures, and areas of geographical and historical significance can help ensure that their children are exposed to history, science, languages and concepts they might not otherwise experience. Expanding their horizons and worldviews in this way helps turn young learners into curious, knowledgeable global citizens.

4. Subject-matter Prep

It may not sound glamorous, but the simple act of identifying your student’s areas of weakness, and dedicating time to practice throughout the summer can have a big impact on getting them caught up for the year ahead. Speak with your student’s teachers to learn which areas they recommend for strengthening, and be sure to follow through on their suggestions.

Be sure to keep this as simple and stress-free as possible, and use the resources most easily available to you to help them focus on specific skills. For example, if your child is behind in reading comprehension, setting aside 30 minutes per day dedicated to reading can help you see improvements. Likewise, picking up simple math workbooks and committing to completing 2-3 pages per day is a quick and relatively easy way to help them improve those skills.

And making this learning fun by charting their time and efforts and rewarding them once they’ve hit certain milestones or quotas can help instill a sense of enthusiasm and positivity as they progress. Remember that the goal is to see improvement while allowing young learners a much-needed break from the typical school-year format.

5. Summer Schools and Programs

Many schools and institutions offer summer programs for those students looking to catch up or strengthen their skills. Often, these programs are offered free to current students, and cover a wide variety of programming and focus in both traditional academic settings, and adapted, summer-friendly environments.

Friends Central School (FCS), for instance, offers “Summer Scholars” programs to Lower, Middle and Upper school students. These programs are cost-free for enrolled students, and offer opportunities for kids of all ages to explore an interest, review skills from the last grade level, or preview skills from the upcoming grade in a one- to two-week intensive format. All Summer Scholar courses are taught by FCS teachers. The Summer Scholars program fosters increased academic readiness for the next grade or course level, and it also provides an opportunity for students to maintain social connections, build relationships with new teachers, and keep their "student skills" fresh during the long break.

Setup a Smooth Transition for your Child

It is natural for parents and caregivers to worry that the past year has caused their young learner to fall behind. The good news however, is that with every aspect of the global pandemic, we are all in this together, and parents, teachers, administrators, providers and policymakers are all working hard to address and tackle these concerns. Armed with a comprehensive list of strategies and activities to help combat learning loss this summer will help parents smooth their child’s transition into the upcoming school year, and should help ensure that these summer months are not wasted time.

It’s also important to remember that play is a crucial component of a child’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive growth. The unstructured activities that are hallmarks of summer vacation—climbing, running, playing with friends, arts & crafts, participating in sports, meeting new people and reconnecting with familiar ones—give young learners a chance to continue learning, and take a much-needed breath after a difficult year. That is to say, give your kids time to be kids this summer, and you’ll find they enter the school year refreshed and ready.

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