Summer Slide; what’s that, then? The latest playground instalment, perhaps? A new water park feature? Sounds fun; somewhere the little ones (and bigger ones) can entertain themselves and burn off some of that energy when you’re wondering what on earth to do with them now and counting down the days until term starts again…
Unfortunately, the Summer Slide is none of these things. It’s a term coined by educational psychologist Harris Cooper, who found that US schoolchildren regress in all subjects over the summer holidays, by an average of a month – a whopping 2.6 months in maths.
Many will protest that the kids need a bit of R&R just now (especially if you’ve just gone through the agony of June exams). But for those experiencing a tremor of despair at the thought of all that algebra, so painfully installed in the offspring’s head, just trickling out again like sand from a leaky bucket: here are some tips for parents and tutors, to retain some learning over the summer.
1. Play not work
Summer learning should be fun. Whether you’re educating your children yourself, or enlisting the help of a nanny or tutor, take the lessons outside the classroom and discover activities that your child will enjoy. Find out about next year’s curriculum; just hearing about a topic in advance helps pupils to learn it quickly in the classroom. Create a treasure hunt with subject-specific clues – this has the added advantage of keeping them occupied for some time, depending on how tricky the questions are.
2. Riveting Reading
Cooper found that the poorest children lose the most reading skills, while those better off actually improved over the summer. The long summer break can be an opportunity for children to discover reading. Be inventive; even the most reluctant reader just need the right trigger.
For the tech-savvy paper-phobic child: I know a mother who bought a £30 Kobo from WHSmith, as a last-ditch attempt to get her 10-year-old reading. The child was instantly engrossed, constantly pestering her for more and more and more ebooks. The Kobo is now adorned all over with stickers, and the young girl’s prize possession. You could try the Summer Reading Challenge, which rewards children with stickers and certificates, or the Reading Chest – lovefilm for books, from under £10/month for up to 6 books a month.
3. Marvellous Maths
-Adapt recipe quantities while cooking to familiarise children with dividing, multiplying and using fractions. These questions crop up everywhere from primary school to GCSE Maths.
-Next time you’re begged for a trip to Thorpe Park, ask your child to calculate the cost for the whole family. For the cash-strapped parent, this might have benefits beyond maths practice!
-When your 6-year-old asks, again, how long till his best friend arrives: ask him to work out the time in hours and minutes (or days and hours, depending on how early the excitement starts to build…) Young children find time calculations a challenge, counting in a base of 60 instead of the normal 10s and 100s.
-Children are natural entrepreneurs: if it would be safe and you can keep an eye on them, a home-made lemonade stall requires plenty of maths practice. Just keep an eye on the recipe to make sure they produce something drinkable! Ask them to calculate the profit margin and hourly earnings - useful to know when employing a younger sibling…
-Puzzles like Kakuro and Calcudoku are a god-send to get children doing the four main operations (+, -, x, ÷) really quickly. It’s amazing how much even teenagers can benefit!
4. Whirlwind Writing
-Long car journey? As a pre-teen with 3 younger siblings, I had a whole series of car-time tales about Ruthy the rat who rode the tube around London with her ratty friends. Kill two birds with one stone: encouraging your children to pass the time telling stories develops their linguistic creativity as well as stopping them from pinching each other, kicking your seat and dropping banana skins down the driver’s neck (yes, I’m afraid we were that awfu). You can offer a prize for the best story.
-Sign up to Creative Writing 4 Kids (£4.99/month, first month free) where children write their own online book for themselves and their friends.
-Postcards are a cheap, appealing way of getting a child to pen a few lines to a friend.
5. Super Science
-Normally forbidden, night-time activities have a special thrill. Take your child outside on the 26th July to see the next New Moon (if you miss that one, you could start with the full moon on 10th August). Repeat every 7 days to see the whole cycle - or go more often to observe the gibbous and crescent moons. Check the moon phases and rising times. This summer’s full moons are perigee moons, so they will be even brighter!
-Take advantage of the British summer weather: after the next rain shower, draw chalk circles round a few puddles, to observe the water cycle. Even in our damp conditions, your child will see evaporation in action as the puddle shrinks.
-In the garden or park, ask your child to collect small (one leaf is good) samples from different plant species. Go over these samples together, discussing differences and similarities, and why one plant is classed as a different species from another.
6. Ghastly guilt-trips (for working parents)
If you’re reading all this wondering how on earth you could abandon your precious children for upwards of 8hrs a day, when clearly you should be at home educating them… Don’t beat yourself up. Children are remarkably good at learning in different environments with different people, and if you can afford some extra help, a tutor could be just what they need to inject some educational fun into the holidays. This doesn’t mean someone who will sit at home forcing algebra over the kitchen table! Most tutors are, by now, as fed up of painful exam-cramming as you and your children, and will be only too happy to rediscover the joy of learning over summer. If a tutor’s rate seems a bit steep for taking your children to the Science Museum all day, don’t be afraid to ask (politely!) about a possible discount; this is the tutor’s quietest time of year, and the work is much more enjoyable than chemistry cramming.
Some families even take a tutor away on holiday with them. While this will add considerably to the holiday’s price tag, it can be a fantastic way to keep up your childrens’ learning and physical activity, while you get to recover and relax over a cocktail… The usual arrangement is to cover all expenses and pay a rate equivalent to 4 hours a day, with additional payment if more teaching hours are required; but if the tutor has no other work on and you mostly want educational fun rather than formal lessons, you may be able to drive a bargain.
Check out some of our best-value tutors for the summer:
Egypt James N Mathilde
Joe L Carmela Sam W