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Summer Learning Loss: Use It or Lose It

This Moms Talk post is about summer learning loss, where students every summer actually lose knowledge and have to waste valuable time re-learning every fall.

Well another school year has ended and the summer is swiftly approaching. I am sure the kids are already chomping at the bit to be done with school and begin the lazy, crazy and hazy days of summer, but...

Should they really put away those pencils and books?

According to experts, children in our country experience what is called “Summer Learning Loss” and have been experiencing this for ages and, according to The National Center on Time & Learning, there were studies done on this subject way back in 1906, where second graders were tested for this learning loss (White, 1906).

More recently, last June First Lady Michelle Obama, hoping to combat the "summer learning loss," launched the second annual United We Serve: Let's Read, Let's Move summer service inititative, where she said, "A lot of kids sometimes find that they forget some of the things that they learned throughout the school years and as a result, if they stop learning through the summer, they can fall behind and then they are struggling throughout the year."   

Summer learning loss is an actual, proven phenomenon that occurs during extended absences from learning activities. It has been researched and proven as fact that children who are not involved in either summer tutoring or other summer programs that encourage academics lose at the very least 2.6 months of learning or more, depending on their economic status (lower-class families slightly more loss then middle-class families). Even worse, many children can be at a loss for up to six months every calendar year because from mid-May to end of August, most academic learning comes to a halt.

As many parents know, the first month of school is used as a “catch-up” month where they spend this time re-learning what they covered back in the previous year. Standardized tests also prove that there is a marked drop in test scores in the fall as compared to spring scores.

Local communities in Rhode Island are very involved in sports and gymnastics and millions of dollars are put into enrollment fees, uniforms and numerous other related expenses so that children can be active all year. So, why is that any different when it comes to your child’s academic needs? Lack of physical activity can lead to obesity and general other physical weaknesses. Lack of intellectual activity leads to mental weaknesses. Is one more important than the other? Absolutely not.

Other countries who do not have these long school vacations do not have this learning setback issue. That is why they score higher on tests and have the reputation of being ahead of American children when it comes to academics. Britain, New Zealand and Australia have four 10-week terms with three 2-week end of term vacations. Other countries have schooling year round.

It surprises me that with all the research done on this summer learning loss that we haven’t done anything about this. Let’s face it, farming is no longer the mainstay of country anymore where the hours for schooling had to be adjusted so children can farm during the daylight hours. The need for babysitters during the summer months and vacation times are also not easy for the working parents that have to work year round.

So, doesn’t it make sense to revisit educational policy in this area? And, yes, I am going to say this out loud…maybe this will hinder some college grads from wanting to choose teaching as their profession simply because they would have summers off. We can’t deny there has been a trend of lower quality teachers in the system. (I am not talking about the few good ones, and you know who you are!)

I guess there is plenty of room for those discussions but for now, there is a way to help our children one family at a time and a way to help them now without having to wait for Congress to make important changes in the educational system.

What is a parent to do? Plain and simple, get your children involved in academic activities and make this a priority. Do not depend on the school system to give your child the best opportunity for only an adequate opportunity. If you want the best, do it yourself. Run, do not walk, to the nearest library and enroll in a reading or math/science program, or better yet, get a private tutor who can not only engage your children in high quality learning activities but who can also work on any lapses from the past. They can actually teach your child how to learn more efficiently depending on their own learning style. Your child can benefit immensely from learning how they learn best and they don’t have to necessarily have learning disabilities to benefit from this. A good tutor can motivate any child to become a lifelong learner and will also make them like to learn and seek out these opportunities on their own.

Turn off the television and read books outside under the trees and find something in nature to learn about.

Do your children really know where that food in the grocery store comes from? Not just from what area it was grown or what animal it came from, but teach them by planting a small garden and have them weed it and work it. Not you! Teach them about genetically-altered food, like bananas, and maybe they will also end up learning about politics and what we can do to save our food sources.

Visit a nursing home and play chess with an elderly person. It is good for both mind and soul. Leave those video games in the drawer and experience life and learn about it.

History is only boring if it has no relation to your children’s life, so you be the one who connects it and makes it relevant. Teach your children every chance you get and when you can’t be with them because you have to work, get them to someone else who can teach them for you. Do not waste time having someone just “sit for them” or just watch them.

Summer learning loss does not have to exist if each parent makes a commitment to education. Too much money is spent on their sports and all you have to do is ask parents about their children’s schedules. Monday it’s football, karate on Tuesday, gymnastics on Wednesday, and honestly, all you end up with are tired, ungrateful kids who don’t even want to go.

You get stressed out, whiney kids who only want to watch television and play video games all day on their high tech cell phones. We all constantly hear money is tight but pay attention to what people are spending it on. Children do not need an activity five days a week. Without downtime to relax and with too many electronics being used non-stop in between the overloaded activity-hopping, they are losing their ability to think and even socialize with other human beings in person. Some children are even considering dropping out of school because they are so lost or feeling incompetent. If they are not reading well by second grade, do not wait. Do not let anyone tell you no matter what their position is, that your children will “catch up" or "they are doing just fine." If you notice in kindergarten that they are not catching on or receiving those remarks, get help for them.

Promise to make this summer the first in a long list of future summers to change your child’s life. Make learning a priority (at least two hours a day) and by taking care of your own children. The difference you can make will not only be in the lives of your own children but also in our whole society. American children will be smarter on the whole and, believe it or not, happier.

How do I know this? Surprise! I am a private tutor. I love my job and I will never, ever quit teaching. What do I teach? I teach children of all ages how to learn, how to motivate themselves, and how to make the best life for themselves that they can. Ask my students. They know.

If interested in learning more about my services or want ideas that you can do at home, contact me at (401) 662-3140 or email me at: thetowntutor@gmail.com (private or group lessons available) Educational counseling for those at risk of quitting or repeating a grade. Specializing but not limited to students with learning difficulties. For profile on The Town Tutor go to www.directoryoftutors.com (02878)

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