23 August, 2021
The disruptive effects of the pandemic on yet another academic year are compounded by the so-called ‘summer slide’ that occurs during the school break. After so much time spent at home, returning to full-time education can be an exciting yet daunting prospect. How can you help your child gear up towards the new academic year and avoid learning loss over the summer?
To start with, here are some tips for getting your kids (and their parents!) ready for the new term.
Get back into routine: About two weeks before the school term begins, make sure your child is getting used to earlier mornings so that it won’t be such a shock on the big day! Try and have breakfast, lunch, and bedtime at the same time every day to ease them back into a routine.
Make mornings easier: Sit down with your kids and set some family rules to avoid the dreaded morning rush. For kids, these could be: every night before bed, pack your bag and lay your child’s school clothes out – no asking dad in the morning where your school shoes are! And for parents: meal prep breakfasts and lunches and track down your keys and wallet the night before.
Family calendar: Parents also need to gear back up for the new term. It can help to make an accessible family calendar for this. If there are some commitments that everyone needs to know about (sports events, parent-teacher conferences, exams) your kid should write them on the calendar. This means you’re not chasing deadlines or misremembering important dates.
No homework hell: Homework doesn’t have to be a tedious and argumentative process. Agree a time for your kids to complete their homework – the best time is immediately after school, so they can get it out of the way and enjoy their evening. If there’s one thing we learnt from the past year, it’s that having a designated work space is invaluable for concentration. If possible, set up your kid with a quiet zone where they can keep their school supplies and knuckle down with no distractions.
Don’t fight it: Accept that the first few days back to normality are going to be hectic for the whole family. Try not to enforce too many strict rules in that first week and let your kid ease into their routine. If they come home overwhelmed from their first day, be there to listen. Maybe plan to do something nice on the weekend as a treat for completing the first few days back at school.
Combat isolation: No longer do kids spend the summer roaming around with their friends. The summer months can be isolating for many children, cooped up with the company of just a screen. Make sure your kids have some face-to-face interaction with school friends before term begins, as it makes it less daunting to return to school if they’ve got a familiar face to turn to.
Plan some fun: Although most kids enjoy going back to school and seeing their teachers and friends again, the rigid routine can seem like a drag after the summer months of downtime. To help your kid to feel involved in planning their own day, sit down with them and choose some after school activities that they would like to do – whether it’s joining a sports team or learning a new skill.
The so-called ‘summer slide’ is difficult to avoid – and the pandemic has caused a cumulative loss of education. Now, more than ever, it is so important to make sure that kids start the new year feeling confident and ready to learn. But learning isn’t just about sitting down and studying. As we’ve mentioned, kids’ summers nowadays aren’t spent roaming around with their friends, passing the days with socialising, creativity and exercise. They are often isolated with just a screen. The summer slide can be remedied with anything which sparks their desire to learn and explore, and which gets them in a good physical and mental state to begin the new academic year. As this year has made abundantly clear – a happy child is a successful student.
Make learning fun: Combating summer learning loss isn’t limited to poring over textbooks. Your kid can learn by watching documentaries, visiting a museum, spending time in nature, reading fiction books, doing science experiments and playing games. To get back into the swing of things, designate a couple of hours each day for brain-stimulating activities.
Focus on their weak subjects: If there were some areas your child struggled with in the last academic year, take some time to review them before the return to school. Especially in higher grades, the progression can be quite a leap. It is disheartening for kids to return to school and face an academic jump combined with learning loss from pandemic disruption and summertime. If possible, find a tutor or an in-person/online summer learning camp.
Make the most of free activities: If a paid summer activity is out of your budget, then no problem. There are many free opportunities to keep your kids’ brains ticking over – a summer reading challenge, workshops and masterclasses at museums and libraries, and free festivals are just some ideas.
Get creative at home: Your kid’s summer learning will be even more fun if you can make it a family affair. Why not create your own learning challenge: design a star chart for your kid with stickers for reading books, completing summer break homework, watching an educational documentary, doing an online course etc. After collecting five stickers they could win a trip to the cinema or to their favourite cafe.
Don’t demonise screen time: If the weather is dreadful, you’re busy at work, and a summer learning camp is out of your budget, there are countless free online courses and games – coding, maths, science, art and more – that can keep your kid educated and entertained during the long summer days.
Learning isn’t the only focus: The summer slide can’t be tackled without considering your child’s overall wellbeing. Sleep and nutrition have a huge impact on a child’s concentration, confidence and mood, all of which impact their learning – a few tutoring sessions won’t make up for a whole summer of junk food and late nights.