Homework & study skills

Should My Child Work on School Skills Over the Summer or Take a Break?

By Mark Griffin

My child has reading and math issues, and she’s worked really hard this year to make progress in these areas. Is it important for her to keep working on these skills over the summer? Or is it better if she has a real break?

Mark Griffin

Founding Headmaster, Eagle Hill School

I understand why parents want their kids to take a break and recharge their batteries. But it’s very important to find ways to keep working on these skills over the summer.

The long vacation doesn’t simply hit the “pause” button on reading, math and writing skills. It can actually erode these skills. When it comes to certain kinds of knowledge, kids really do have to “use it or lose it.” This is especially true for kids with learning and attention issues.

Summer learning loss can set kids with learning and attention issues back as much as two to three months. (This is why some students with IEPs or 504 plans may qualify for extended school year services.) So it’s essential to strike a balance between reinforcing academic skills and having lots of summer fun.

There are many ways you can help prevent “summer brain drain.” Here are some thoughts on how to put together a summer learning schedule that looks and feels very different from going to school.

A good tutor may be the single best way to maintain and perhaps increase your child’s skills over the summer. Talk with your child about when and where to schedule these tutoring sessions during a summer of fun. And look for a tutor who is skilled in helping kids with learning and attention issues.

Many school districts and community groups offer tutoring in the summer. Try to check into free or low-cost tutoring as early as possible. These options tend to fill up quickly.

Encourage your child to keep a daily journal. Together you can come up with a minimum length for each entry and other details such as correcting misspelled words. But give your child the freedom to choose what to write about. And have her share the journal with you each day so she knows it’s important to keep up with it.

Read the same book as your child and have an informal “book club” discussion. You may also want to try watching TV together with the sound off and the closed captioning on. Ask your child to read the captions. Pause the show every now and then and discuss what’s going on.

Cooking is a great way to work on reading, writing and math. Ask your child to write the grocery list, find items in the store and read the recipe aloud during cooking time. Measuring ingredients can also help keep math skills from getting rusty. Plus, you get to eat the recipe at the end!

Volunteering can help reinforce social skills. So can joining a kids’ theater group. Tapping into your child’s interests is a great way to help your child “smell the roses” and balance having fun with retaining skills. When she returns to school in the fall with her skills intact, she’ll feel rested and more confident about the upcoming year.

About the Author

Portrait of Mark Griffin

Mark Griffin

Mark Griffin, Ph.D., was the founding headmaster of Eagle Hill School, a Connecticut boarding and day school for children with specific learning disabilities.

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