Children in North America will spend, on average, more than 900 hours attending school in a given year. The average school year in the United States lasts 1,016 hours, the equivalent of 42 continuous days. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, many developed countries begin their academic years in September and end them in June. Some, like Australia, feature four terms with two-week breaks in between each term. Others go to school for most of the year – with various holiday breaks in between – and then get the bulk of their time off during the summer.
As much time as kids spend in school, there will be times when they are left to their own devices, and during these times it’s easy for them to forget classroom lessons. Sometimes called ‘summer learning loss’ or ‘summer slide,’ this forgetfulness sees many students fail to retain all of their lessons over prolonged breaks from school. Studies indicate that students score lower on standardized tests at the end of the summer compared to their performance on the same tests at the beginning of summer. Anywhere from between one to three months’ worth of educational achievement can dissipate during prolonged breaks from the classroom. To help ensure that those hard-earned lessons are not so easily forgotten, parents can help children remain intellectually engaged in various ways over school breaks.
Stick to a schedule. Try to maintain a schedule similar to school, with children waking at the same time each day and going to bed at similar hours. This will make it much easier to get back into a routine when a new school year begins.
Encourage reading. Set aside time for reading each day. All it generally takes is 15 to 30 minutes of reading per day for kids to remember their vocabulary lessons and maintain their fluency and comprehension skills. Children may enjoy picking their own books rather than having a required reading list.
Keep a math book handy. On long car trips, children can do a few math problems to keep their skills sharp. This will help keep learning loss to a minimum. Math workbooks may be available at bookstores, or parents can look online or ask a teacher for a summer to-do packet.
Plan educational trips. Vacations and day trips can be fun, entertaining and educational all at the same time. Science centers, museums and living history locations can bring to life information learned in the classroom, even on family vacations.
Learn at camp. Many children attend camp for a portion of their school breaks. Look for camps that do not simply babysit children, but engage them through enrichment activities.
Take a class. Children and families can learn together by exploring new skills. Enroll in something educational and enjoyable, such as a music or dance class, a STEM seminar or something else that engages the mind and body. This gives everyone a chance to learn something new and have a great time together as a family.
Parents and educators can reduce lesson loss over school breaks by encouraging families to remain intellectually engaged in any way they can.