It’s (finally) here. Summer break 2021.
Moms, dads, caregivers, teachers, and kids -- you did it. You survived one of the most unstructured, unpredictable, curve-ball-throwing school years in recent history. Whether you tried your hand at homeschooling for the first time or navigated masked in-person learning, remote learning, or a hybrid approach -- you made it.
Before you fill your family’s summer calendar or dare to look ahead to the fall -- take a moment to reflect on all you learned about the young learners in your life this past school year. Breathe in. Breathe out. Smile.
Lurking beyond the challenges, celebrations, tears, and triumphs of the 2020-21 school year are likely new fears. Fears that your child or children have “fallen behind” or have missed out on critical cognitive, social-emotional, and creative milestones.
The truth is they have. And they haven’t. In place of the traditional benchmarks they might have hit in a typical school year, they experienced a less structured, less scoped and sequenced year of learning.
But rest assured -- learning happened.
Whether you want to capitalize on the “soft skills” your student(s) practiced or seek to support a return to a new but more familiar “normal” in the fall, here are seven strategies to stop the summer slide while still enjoying a stress-free summer together:
Explore the natural world. One of the “pandemic perks” that emerged in our neighborhood was an increase in outdoor play. Summer is a great time to explore nature -- from your backyard to your neighborhood park to road-trip or more distant vacation destinations.
Whether you travel a few steps or several hundred miles this summer, notice and appreciate your natural surroundings as a family through walking, talking, biking, hiking, swimming, or other physical activities. Or simply sit on the front or back porch and breathe in summer sunrises and sunsets.
Read something every day. Make regular reading a part of your summer schedule. Most local libraries host a “summer reading program” to encourage reading across different ages and developmental stages. The number of books is less important than the routine of reading.
Summer is a great time to read for pleasure -- in whatever form, genre, or modality your student prefers. This might include read-alouds before bed, breakfasts with books, listening to your student read to you, or creating a ritual or routine (like audiobooks in the car or reading in between swim lessons). Older students might enjoy forming a book club with friends and meeting regularly in-person or online to talk about texts and plan their next selection. Create a regular time and space to read in whatever format works for your family.
Look for numbers, patterns, and ‘real-world’ everyday math. While exploring the natural world and creating a reading routine, look for math in everyday places. Find patterns in nature or take a math walk. Create a DIY at-home math camp or simply put your child in charge of everyday activities: cook a meal together (recipes are a great way to reinforce measurement), ask them to estimate the bill while grocery shopping or figure out the gratuity when visiting a restaurant, or put your child in charge of planning a budget if you travel this summer.
Learn something new (or practice something old). Summer is a great time for passion projects and hobbies. Does your child like to build? Get their hands dirty in the garden? Make art or music? Move their body through organized sports or informal games? Design things online or on paper? Unstructured, creative play is valuable learning, too. Look for local neighborhood service opportunities or teach your child a life skill like lawn mowing, babysitting, or pet care, that can turn into a part-time job or lead to new interests. Summer is a great time to get your child involved in meaningful household chores or projects that build independence, problem-solving skills, and responsibility.
Capture and document memories. Whether your summer is full of travel and adventure or you’re staying close to home, have your child(ren) document this summer through photos, videos, journaling, or collecting artifacts. These can be turned into a summer shadow box, short film, scrapbook or digital memory book that can be shared with friends and family and revisited in the future. Listing, documenting, and capturing footage or photos of strategies #1-4 will ensure the memories from this summer last well into the next school year and beyond.
Rest. It’s called summer break for a reason.
When the daylight hours are long and there’s more flexibility in your schedule, it can be restorative to stay up late, sleep in, or grab an afternoon nap on a sweltering day. Make sure there is ample time for children to rest, recharge, and relax - indoors, outdoors, at the pool, with a book (or without).
Practice gratitude. This past year has taught us that the little things (handshakes, hugs, unmasked smiles, and face-to-face interactions to name a few) are precious. Practice gratitude as a family at the dinner table, around the campfire, while on the road, or through documenting memories, and continue this practice beyond summer break to ground the new school year in positivity and possibility. Gratitude is a key indicator of happiness and it tends to yield cumulative and reciprocal benefits when practiced regularly.
Bonus Strategy: If you are looking for additional ways to stop the summer slide contact the team at Hopkins Education Services today. We work with students of all abilities and their families on personalized goals that range from mindfulness and social skills to academic support across a range of subjects and grade levels.
Breathe in. Breathe out. And make this summer one to remember.