I’m Not Stressing About Summer Learning Loss

Image courtesy of Joanna Mazewski
Image courtesy of Joanna Mazewski

My kids have been home for summer vacation for quite some time now. On the last day of school, my daughter’s 1st grade teacher sent out one final e-mail reminder to parents suggesting that we continue to practice our math facts for about 5 minutes a day and make sure our kids are reading before bedtime.

I made a mental sticky note in my head — fine, ok, we can do that.

While my intentions were solid on the last week of school, it’s now two weeks into our summer break and we’ve done nothing. Zilch. Nada.

Actually, let me rephrase that: we’ve been doing plenty, but nothing of the academic sort.

My kids — who will be entering kindergarten and second grade in the fall — have been spending way too much time playing games on their tablets and watching My Little Pony on Netflix. And because we live in Florida, we’ve spent every day either at the pool or at a Disney park and Sea World.

I’ve felt torn for some time, because like any parent, I want my kids to be ahead of the pack at school. But at the same time, they’re kids and they deserve a summer vacation full of childhood memories, popsicles, and Minecraft.

Little did I know that there are programs to help fight “summer learning loss.” Both educators and parents across the country are worried that three full months of summer vacation might have a negative impact on school-age children when there’s no rhythm of instruction. Experts say that children learn best when learning is continuous, meaning that the long summer break usually results in a counterproductive, hefty review of material when students return to school in the fall.

That right there would make any parent worried, right?

According to SummerLearning.org, kids experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer.

But is it really that big of a problem? Should I be worried that my kids will fry their brains so much that they’ll sizzle and forget everything they learned during the previous school year?

Looking back at my own childhood, my parents never bothered giving me impromptu math tests during my summer break, nor did they even sign me up for any camps. And you know what? I survived school. I made it. I graduated, and here I am working as a full-time freelance writer many years later.

I just feel that kids deserve a break. Their core memories from their childhood shouldn’t be of their heads buried in their books. As much as I would love for one of my children to be the next Junior Jeopardy champion, I also value the time we spend jumping in our backyard trampoline together and blowing bubbles in the wind.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to use the opportunity to incorporate learning in everyday activities such as baking in the kitchen or even reading instructions on a new board game (and that My Little Pony comic book counts too, right?) Just like teachers in the classroom, we can be a little creative at home, too. It just doesn’t have to be on pen and paper.

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