Should children keep on doing schoolwork during the summer holidays or should they be given a break? This is not an easy question to answer and depending on who you ask, you will most likely get different answers.
Educators who advocate for children doing work during the summer do so based on research showing that when children do nothing at all in maths and reading, they lose two to three months of learning. So, it is basically as if they ended the school year in March. This is a reasonably well-documented phenomenon called summer learning loss or summer slide.
It is important to consider that summer learning loss does not impact all children equally. It seems to be worse for neurodivergent children as well as for children who don’t speak the same language at home and at school (e.g., in our case, we speak Spanish at home but my children attend a school in English). Not only may these children forget the academic material, but they may also need to refresh the language in which they are taught. Summer learning loss has also been shown to be worse for children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
Before you rush to buy workbooks for your child to do at the beach, however, it is important to note that other educators are not sure that summer learning loss is really a thing. This is because researchers have recently tried and failed to replicate past studies on this topic and therefore, the guidelines are not entirely clear.
So, what to do? We have carefully examined the research and our conclusion is that doing some work on maths and reading during the summer is positive for children’s learning. The key is how you approach it.
Consider that work does not have to be formal, especially in the case of the little ones. Support your child’s reading skills by taking them to the local library or bookshop and getting books, comics, or magazines they enjoy. Remember that the aim is not to learn new content but to keep up their reading skills. So, if your child wants to read about a topic that you don’t consider important or ‘serious’, let them! And even better, discuss their reading with them to show you care and that you value their interests. At the same time, you will be supporting their reading comprehension.
You may also support your child’s reading skills by reading signs when in the bus or the car, cooking together and asking them to read the recipes, or asking them to look for certain items in the supermarket.
To support your child’s maths, you can add car number plates when out and about, cook together asking them to calculate quantities, give them pocket money so they need to count coins, and play board games together that involve counting.
Other educators advocate that children should not do any work and just rest and have fun over the summer. We totally agree that the summer is the time for children to relax, have fun, and engage in activities they enjoy. However, there are plenty of hours in the day to allow for some reading or some of the maths activities we have mentioned. Having said this, summer work fails its purpose if it causes stress on kids and families. Resentment will most certainly not help your child’s learning. If engaging your child in any kind of schoolwork is damaging your relationship, it is probably best to leave it.
Whereas academic skills are very important, children’s socioemotional skills are also incredibly important, and the summer is an ideal period to practice them. Make the most of their free time by seeing friends and family, have conversations with them, and do things together. Allow your child to have free time when they can choose what to do. And remember that being bored sometimes is not a bad thing. Indeed, it can help develop their creativity!
Finally, the summer can be the perfect time to strengthen the relationship with your child without having to worry about schedules, music practice, or homework. Whatever you do this summer, have a great one! We hope that by the end of the summer you and your children feel refreshed and ready to start the new academic year.
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