Most every parent recognizes the scene: “Yaayyy! It’s summertime!” inevitably morphs into, “I’m sooo bored…there’s nothing to do.” It’s mind-numbing for parents to attempt to plan entertaining, meaningful activities for a nearly three-month stretch. When those dull summer moments eventually arise, they beckon even the most resourceful kids to turn to electronic gadgets to fill the boredom. The result? Summer skill plunge.

In multiple studies, research has demonstrated that our children lose up to 30% of their learning from the previous school year over the long summer break. Admittedly, students in other countries continue their schooling through the summer, giving them a distinct academic edge over many of our graduates.

Well those are disheartening statistics, you may be thinking. But they don’t have to be. There is a solution to the summer skill plunge.

When parents partner with teachers, we can keep a child’s mind active with learning activities that are low-stress, fun, and productive. Chester County offers myriad summer workshops and programs for youth. We are home to several published authors and professional writers who are dedicated to inspiring young people with a love of reading and writing. Our county hosts several summer workshops led by professional writers. Whether it’s math, reading, writing, or a foreign language, a quality tutoring program can also make summer learning an exceptionally effective way to target and fill skill gaps.

Lest you think your child may mutiny at the thought of doing schoolwork in the summer, I find that many students actually appreciate having a structured learning activity in their day. Not only that, but the boost of confidence that comes with starting a new school year on top of their game trumps any momentary grumblings. Inspiring a lifelong love of learning will reap rewards for a lifetime.

Practical tips:

  • Reading: Encourage your child to select and read books on topics that interest them. I’m surprised by the number of students whose idea of reading is “I only read what the teacher assigns.” Trips to the library for children of all ages open up whole new worlds to them. Designate a “Reading Hour” each day. (Tailor the time so it’s age appropriate.) Talk to your child about what they’re reading. Draw them out with leading questions. Master the parental art of being an active listener. Show your child you value his or her “thinkings” and feelings.
  • Writing: Group writing workshops and literature discussion clubs for kids can be both challenging and inspiring. I’ve had students who would rather clean a bathroom as write a paragraph. But put ‘em in a collaborative group setting with their friends, and writing becomes dynamic!
  • Math: Studies show that one-to-one attention with a qualified instructor is the most effective way to boost math skills. Small group skill-builders can also be a ton o’ fun.
  • Cell phones are “Public Enemy #1” to meaningful learning. Don’t be afraid to establish your home as a “Cell Phone-Free Zone” for periods of time. After the initial shock and withdrawal tremors, I’ve found that many students actually LIKE ditching the constant distraction and drama of their cell phones. The trick is to suggest meaningful activities to replace the time spent on phones. Brainstorm alternate activities with them. There are always projects around the house with which to help a parent. Or neighbors—including Seniors and single moms—who could use a willing helper around the house or yard. My personal favorite summer activity? Send the kids outside with a bucket of water and paintbrushes—and have them “paint“ the house, the garage, the deck, the mailbox with water. The best part is, an hour later, the house will need to be “painted” again! And you’ll have the cleanest house on the block!

Whether your child is a reticent learner or an enthusiastic, accelerated learner, summer is the perfect time to exchange the summer skill plunge with a lifelong love of learning!

Karen Davis, Director
Above-Grade Tutoring – Chester County, PA