Summer Learning Loss: Four ways kids approach summer vacation
It’s always interesting to me when an old topic takes on new urgency – as though it were a new phenomenon. “Summer Learning Loss” is one of those.
Educators have known about this as long as there have been school calendars with long summer breaks. Mastery in reading, math, science and history somehow vanish for certain students. Why do some kids return to school in the fall having forgotten so much of what they knew back in the spring? A recent survey of Asheville City School middle and high school students found 42% of them characterized their school as BORING. When summer comes, it’s exciting to think about a large open span of time where they can do what they want. They want a break in the routine; they want to work less and play more. But just having the break doesn’t make it a good one.
4 ways to go:
1. Vegetate – sleep late, scrounge for food in the kitchen, watch TV, check cell phone for messages, chat with some friends, take a nap, play computer games until late in the night.
2. Care-take – when parents go to work, fix breakfast for younger siblings and set them in front of the TV or get them to a neighborhood summer program, help grandparent get up and dressed and to the doctor’s appointment – then sit for two hours leafing through old magazines in waiting rooms. Do laundry, pick up around the house, and fix supper.
3. Agitate – Wake up angry and pick a few fights with family members. Roam the neighborhood looking for something to do, catch up with some other roamers and aggravate younger kids or anyone who seem vulnerable. Look for ways to start a fight somewhere just to break the monotony.
4. Investigate – Be curious, find some different activities to pursue – check out flyers, newspapers, libraries, and the internet for unusual art classes, poetry slams, computer games or website design, certifications to lifeguard or babysit, sport clinics, clothing construction, farming/gardening, woodworking. Bring a friend or do it alone, but take a little risk and try something new.
Most youth will do a bit of all of this – but the ones who pursue their own curiosity about learning will lose less over the summer and will gain some new knowledge.
The best answer to this problem is to change the school calendar to provide more frequent breaks throughout the year. The success of such a change depends on more than a single school or single school system. It means the community needs to offer a variety of resources for programs in that time youth are out of school. And it is definitely worthwhile to find out what youth are interested in first and then offer something that matches the interest.
It’s an investment we should make because what happens to them matters to us - sooner or later.