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Jul 242014

Do you remember the exhilaration of simply sliding down a slide?  Do you remember the joy of exploring a new playground with an unconquered slide waiting for you to try out?  Slides seem to be a staple item on playgrounds, parks, or even back yard play structures.  But not all slides are beneficial to our children.  Summer is in full swing, but an all too common slide is lurking waiting to hurt our children more than we can afford. 

The summer slide, in which I refer to, is the documented drop in academics that happens particularly in summer due to the long vacation.  Students are forgetting the lessons learned in the classroom making the transition back to the academic year harder to maneuver.  However, with a bit of imagination and a little intentionality the bumps and bruises left by the summer slide are not as noticeable and in some cases irrelevant.

John’s Hopkins University is trying to influence the nation’s thinking regarding summer slide and encourage parents and care-givers to keep children learning over the break with the National Summer Learning Day.  They are teaming up with many organizations across the country to not only tap into traditional learning, but also tap into learning that can happen outside of the classroom.  The primary focus is on keeping students sharp by continuing their reading and math skills, while also reminding that each day has an opportunity to learn and grow.

Not all learning can happen in the classroom.  With a little imagination and intentional planning, learning can happen every day without even leaving your home.  Think of the science lesson that can happen with a simple hanging of a bird feeder.  You can casually or formally watch which birds come and which seeds they seem to prefer.  Simply watching the activity on the bird feeder can spark conversation that leads to learning.  Come inside and Google the questions that may arise.  Be intentional as you model “I wonder” questions and then discover the answer together.  Reading and researching on the computer is still valuable.  Cooking with your student is another outside of the classroom learning experience.  Experiment with different recipes, temperatures in the oven or on the BBQ.  Again, model the thinking that happens behind these tasks when you are not being pressed to finish them and homework that is looming.  By taking a moment and making regular occurrences a teaching opportunity, you are also modeling the joy of slowing down and enjoying the best parts that summer has to offer.  You model the simplicity of taking time and smelling of the roses.

Plan field trips.  Perhaps you live in an area that is rich in history, yet you like so many have not explored these treasures.  Even if you have explored the local points of interest, evaluate when it was and if your children are older, perhaps visit them again to gain a richer appreciation and understanding.  Museums across the country also have summer incentive programs.  Not only will you escape the heat of the day, but learning can happen in a fun and experimental way.

Remembering the basics is always beneficial for keeping the slide of learning from happening.  Having your children read should be a staple.  Read a book with your child and discuss the characters you like or dislike, making sure they comprehend the story.  There are several math sites that allow the practicing of math skills in a fun way as well.  The following are some places where your children can go to keep their skills sharp.

By being purposeful in your activities this summer you can help your child continue to develop into a lifelong learner.  Also, your child will reap the benefits of time spent with you while maintaining important academic skills at the same time.