Monday, January 18, 2021

What’s everyone doing this summer? For most of us, the answer is still a big fat question mark; how upsetting is that? It’s a challenge to try to make plans for something that is truly out of our control and balance returning to normal work hours, all while we have our children home—especially children who are disappointed that camp was canceled and seem to be in a constant state of boredom.

This summer we are faced with the mountainous task of helping our children navigate a new kind of summer—one that includes wonderfully fun and freeing activities, while still keeping them sharp and in touch with learning.

Although it’s always important to give our kids a break from class and screens and get them outdoors, this summer it may be more important than ever. After sitting in front of a computer from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the last 3+ months, we all need a breath of fresh air. There are many ways to incorporate sunshine and fun into your child’s day, and each family will do what works for them. What I want to share with you are strategies for learning/review that won’t detract from summer vacation plans but will provide structure and ensure confidence and success when school resumes.


In many countries around the world, schools run on a “year-round” calendar. Learning doesn’t just stop abruptly for three months. For example, most European schools are typically in session for 45-60 days, followed by two-week breaks, during which teachers provide voluntary tutoring sessions. Summer vacation lasts four to six weeks. This is drastically different from the U.S. educational pattern. We are accustomed to a complete stop leading into “summer break” for 10-12 weeks. Honestly, that could lead to academic suicide.

Research shows incredibly high percentages of academic knowledge that just—poof—falls out of our children’s brains during their beloved summer vacation. A recent study* of third to fifth graders also showed that students lost about 20% of their school-year gains in reading and 27% in math. And to make matters worse, studies also show that this learning loss becomes cumulative with each passing year.

That. Is. Insane! And yet, the U.S. academic school calendar is embedded in our culture, with no change in sight, despite facts dating back to 1906 of the devastating effects our country’s schooling calendar has on our children. As a result, we must take their learning into our own hands and do what we can to stop this “summer slide.”

What if there was some learning or “maintenance review” built into their week? I’m not suggesting daily reinforcement of math and literacy; bi-weekly may just do the trick.

Specifically this summer, it might not be such a hard sell. Learning has been altogether different over the last three to four months, so summer also being a bit different this year shouldn’t exactly shatter our children and their dreams of summer. You can start by having a frank conversation with your child about this summer being different. Talk about how COVID-19 affected school and the importance of keeping up with the learning, even in small amounts, to best set ourselves up for success in the coming year.

If your child needs extra support, in general or short term, over the summer, give it to them! Two hours each week to keep their brains sharp will not hamper their summer vacation, and it will certainly help their academic growth. There are so many options for all different budgets. Depending on your child’s needs, you may sign them up for 1:1 sessions or match them with a group of kids with similar learning styles and needs. Believe me, you will be happy you did.

If your child doesn’t typically need extra support, it’s still vital to keep them sharp and at the top of their game. Take advantage of some online resources; this doesn’t mean learning online, rather finding creative ideas for summer learning/review.

Summer break from school is a marvelous time for exploratory and experiential learning, creative endeavors and fun outdoor activities. It should not be a time when math, writing and reading skills slide backward. To this end, Tamar’s Learning Center is proud to announce a new Summer Learning Incentive Program!

As part of TLC’s exciting new program, students will be earning raffle ticket entries and prizes all summer long for almost any kind of summer learning they take part in. Raffle entries can be earned for things as easy as learning a new vocabulary word and writing it in the dirt while going on a hike, or reading a book and posting a review about it online. Simply snap a picture and send it my way. Children will earn ticket entries for bimonthly raffles all summer long, and a grand prize drawing at summer’s end. Get excited to not only learn, but earn slurpees, giveaways, gift cards and even a Kindle! TLC’s Summer Learning Incentive Program is open to ALL STUDENTS, whether you are currently being seen by us or not. To sign up just send a quick email to [email protected] with your child’s name, age, school and the town you live in, then wait for a follow-up email with details of how to start winning!

*studies discussed in this article:

Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., & Greathouse, S. (1996). The Effects of Summer Vacation on Achievement Test Scores: A Narrative and Meta-Analytic Review. Review of Educational Research, 66(3), 227–268. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543066003227

Thum Y. M., & Hauser, C. H. (2015). NWEA 2015 MAP Norms for Student and School Achievement Status and Growth. NWEA Research Report. Portland, OR: NWEA

John Hopkins University founded the National Association for Summer Learning http://www.summerlearning.org.

By Tamar Hardy