5 Simple Habits to Prevent the Summer Slide
By Adam Herman, Virtua
Even before school lockdowns and the move to remote learning, one of the most persistent challenges for American parents, students, and educators has been the “summer slide.” Students lose many of their proficiencies over the course of the summer, causing them to enter the new school year flat-footed. The brain is like a muscle, and just like a muscle when it is not used for an extended period of time it becomes weaker. Students may forget their multiplication tables or struggle to write a paragraph when that was a simple task in May or June. Thankfully, there are simple learn-at-home strategies for not only preventing a summer slide, but also preparing your student to be ready to hit the ground running in the fall.
Building learning into daily activities: Learning does not have to be a formal exercise. There are opportunities to learn in many day-to-day activities. Cooking can lead to a discussion of fractions and ratios, a trip to a local park may enable a conversation about local history, or simple activities like the marshmallow challenge can teach your child to think like an engineer. By encouraging this type of thinking in your child, you are teaching them to actively engage with and learn from the world around them without having to fundamentally change routines.
Have Set Routines: People generally, and children specifically, thrive when they have set routines. It may be challenging in the middle of the summer to tell a child that they need to study an hour a day. What is easier is establishing small habits that encourage learning early and remaining consistent with them. And do not think your child has to be studying calculus during this time, in many ways developing the habits of having time for learning is as important as the learning itself. A great way to ensure that your child has a set learning routine is by signing them up for one of our Virtua Book Clubs. Virtua Book Club is a virtual learning tool that will guide your child through fantastic books and enrich their experience with engaging prompts and activities. While in a Book Club, learners interact with other club members and a club leader as they explore the text. Learners have the opportunity to not only improve their reading and analysis skills, but their 21st Century Skills as well. These are skills that prepare learners for the present and future job market, reinforcing skills like communication and collaboration, which can only be strengthened by working with others. (Please note we expect Virtua Book Club with live club leaders to launch in October 2020, although students may check out digital books and materials from Virtua Library already).
Have your child read 30 minutes a day: According to research conducted by Reading Rockets, reading at least 30 minutes a day is the simplest and best strategy for preventing regression during the summer. When I was a high school English teacher, I was often asked by both parents and students how to improve reading and vocabulary. I of course provided strategies, but what I always wanted to say is that the best way to ensure a child has a robust vocabulary by the time standardized tests come along is to have them develop a habit of reading in elementary school. A barrier to reading for many families is making sure there are relevant and interesting books around the home. Thankfully, subscribers to Virtua Library have access to over 25,000 titles. Ranging from comic books to classic literature, there are titles that would be appealing and accessible to all kinds of readers.
Encourage your child to develop a new skill, like coding or beginning a new language: Oftentimes learning is most effective when it is self-guided. Consider encouraging your child to develop new skills around one of their interests. This can be a variety of different skills, such as drawing, coding, or learning a new language. To introduce choice while still maintaining routine, consider this an “Optional-Mandatory” time. Your child will have several options for what kind of enrichment activity they would like to do, while it being mandatory that they do something. This practice is inspired by the practice of “20% Time” at Google, during which employees are given a portion of their day to pursue passion projects. A version of this practice has been integrated by many educators to great success. The gift and curse of Summer is how much time learners have, this is a great way of channeling that time in a meaningful direction while still respecting their interests. If your child decides to develop a new skill or learn a new language, connecting them with Virtua Language and Virtua Videos is a great step to guide them in pursuing their interests. You can find more information on these resources and other Virtua offerings on our website.