School’s out. The kids can take a few months to relax and parents get a reprieve on the homework vigilance, right?
Increasingly, educators are trying to combat the summer slide, the phenomenon that has kids avoiding books and embracing mindless screen time for two months.
Teachers now ask, beg, plead with parents to at least have the kids read, or read to them, daily.
On the flip side, the academic approach can go too far. Tutors and school books during summer — not unheard of in some of the more competitive pockets of the region — may lead to burnout.
I asked Marina Koestler Ruben the D.C.-based author “How to Tutor Your Own Child: Boost Grades and Inspire a Lifelong Love of Learning — Without Paying for a Professional Tutor,” for her thoughts on the best approach to summertime learning.
She said the key is to make summer, and the learning that comes with it, fun.
“For the average student, the school year is packed with mandated assignments. Let summer break be just that — a break,” she said.
“Observe your children, listen to their preferences, and help them learn by pursuing their own interests. They’ll still build skills, but the buy-in will make all the difference in their enthusiasm for the process.”
Here are Ruben’s top 10 tips:
1. Explore. Give your child a guidebook and encourage him or her to plan a summer day trip or part of a longer vacation. Your whole family is bound to learn from the adventure that ensues, whether strawberry picking, snorkeling or just exploring the streets of your hometown.
2. Read. Regularly set your child loose in a library or bookstore. Besides encouraging individual selections, also ask your child to pick a book, play, collection of poems or audiobook that your entire family can read at home, in the car, or during travel.
3. Solve. Stock your home with books and magazines of logic and crossword puzzles. As ongoing summer projects, let your child select 2D and 3D jigsaw puzzles and then devote a space in your home to their ongoing completion.
4. Build. Bring sand toys for even the oldest beachgoers. At home, designate a building location stocked with LEGO pieces, Magna-Tiles, blocks, planks, build-your-own marble run and Rube Goldberg machine components, and other open-ended construction supplies, loose parts, and fort-building supplies.
5. Sightsee. Set aside a day for regional sightseeing and give your child advance notice that you’re open to a museum exhibit, aquarium, historic site or park of his or her choosing. Since your child will be the expert on the outing, ask him or her to tell you anything you need to know to get the most out of the visit.
6. Move. Ask your child to map a walking or biking destination; then accompany him or her on it. Even strolling the same route you usually drive will provide a noteworthy new view. For longer adventures, share a picnic.
7. Ask. If your child could learn about any subject in the world this summer, what would it be? Find out. Then brainstorm ways to make this education a reality, whether through books, magazines, documentaries, shadowing a professional, travel, or hands-on research.
8. Cook. Reading recipes, inventing meals, and experimenting with ingredients will give children of any age lessons in practical life skills. Provide access to the kitchen and encourage young chefs to make popsicles, fruit salads, smoothies, and anything else that piques their taste buds.
9. Collect. Turn a shelf into a makeshift in-home nature museum, stocked with nature guides to encourage scientifically accurate labeling of specimens. Encourage your child to collect and display rocks, leaves, flowers, and shells.
10. Volunteer. Find out where your child most would like to make a difference, and then make it happen. Whether serving needy people, caring for animals, bettering our environment or even lending a hand at a friend’s business, children will learn as they give.
— From Marina Koestler Ruben, “How to Tutor Your Own Child: Boost Grades and Inspire a Lifelong Love of Learning — Without Paying for a Professional Tutor.”
What do you think? Can summer be both carefree and educational?