Are You Worried About 'Summer Slide'?

The first few weeks of September were always manic when I was teaching: new class, tests to set and mark, new timetable, new targets to meet, endless meetings, it was never-ending.  The most disheartening part of it was that the tests would invariably reveal that 80% or more of the class were now working significantly below the levels they had been allegedly working at in June.  So not only did we have to get them up a level by the time of the next tests, but we also had to get them back to where they had been.

Was the previous teacher exaggerating?  Maybe, especially now her pay grade depends on those results!  Had each of the children undergone some kind of summer trauma which had regressed them?  Hopefully not, but they had become victims of what has been termed 'summer slide'.  I read recently that a study by the Rand Corporation found that children lose two to three months of reading and maths skills while on their summer break.

Why does this happen?  Well for a start the last few weeks of summer term are often largely pointless.  After May/June testing the whole school begins to wind down, teachers' attention is elsewhere, the focus is on fun rather than learning, a much-needed break after the hot-housing since Easter!  So essentially the children have at least two months off.

On top of this, the brain is a muscle and, like all muscles, it needs to be exercised and engaged consistently to make it work optimally.  Psychotherapist Dr Robi Ludwig suggests maintaining your child's learning curve over the summer downtime by ensuring they are engaged in some way every day.  This doesn't need to be through formalised learning and, as those following the beginnings of our unschooling journey know, that's not something I would encourage.  But there are lots of other more fun ways to 'engage brain' this summer, such as:

Puzzle It Out

Snap up some crossword or puzzle books at your local stationers, perfect for encouraging the mind to work differently, make connections and learn new vocabulary.  Detective books and riddles are also fun ways to challenge the brain.  Great for whiling away an hour or two on a rainy day, or in a shady area of the garden on a sunny one.

Get Outside

It will require a bit of preparation from mum or dad, but a treasure hunt can include written clues, or even riddles, for literacy; or how about a scavenger hunt based on the natural world to encourage some learning.  Or look out for organised activities in your local area at local wildlife centres or other venues.  Many put on summer holiday activities ranging from a simple tick sheet to a full-blown discovery adventure.  There's sure to be something to engage your child.

Hit the Library

Many local authorities run summer reading schemes which provide a fun way of maintaining reading skills, including those much-coveted badges and certificates!  Studies have shown that reading four or more age appropriate books over the summer can help children maintain the level of reading skills they achieved during the preceding school year.

You could even challenge your children to write their own stories, maybe to act out or just to 'publish' at home.  Or just encourage them to keep a diary or scrapbook about everything they do during their time off.

Challenge Your Scrapheap

Or at least your recycling box!  Challenge your children to design and create monsters, or birds, or cities, or a carnival costume, whatever, from the contents of your recycling box.  Work through the stages of the design with them, real thinking outside the box!  Then encourage them to overcome any problems that arise, finding solutions and ways to make things work.  This teaches great skills as well as keeping the synapses clicking.

This creativity could be channelled into Minecraft, designing and creating an art gallery, or making a film to upload to YouTube.  Want to make your own LEGO Movie?  Why not!

Embrace History

A home ed staple, visits to museums or historical sites such as castles or Iron Age forts can hep bring history to life.  So many sites have fun interactive exhibitions now which are guaranteed to engage your little learner on a variety of levels.  Or why not explore your own family history?  One of my blogger friends took her son on a trip to Edinburgh recently to follow in the footsteps of their ancestor, James Tytler.

Go On An Armchair Adventure

Ask your child where they would like to go in the world, or what animals or natural phenomena they would like to see.  Use all the resources available to you, e.g. the library, the Internet, friends and family, to create a project around this theme.  Read novels set in that place, or visit the local travel agent to plan a trip; find out all you can about meerkats or dinosaurs; talk to auntie about her trip to the Amazon, ask to see her photos.  Your child will love being in charge of their own learning and, actually, it will just feel like fun anyway!

All this should help your child keep their maths and reading skills up over the long summer holiday but, if you are really concerned, you could always hire a tutor either during the holidays or when they go back to school in September.


  1. I had not thought about this before. I shall try to keep my grandchildren's standards up this holiday. I did take them to a living museum last week and tried to educate them about social history matters then. Next we are off to a motoring museum.


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