Water slide, playground slide, Slip N Slide…nothing more perfectly conjures the feeling of summer fun and freedom. The smiles, the giggles, the breeze whipping through wild hair…
But for some parents, summer slide invokes less positive feelings. That’s because the term refers to the dreaded loss of school-based learning that occurs from the end of one school year to the beginning of the next. The phenomenon has led to calls for year-round schooling and intensive summer educational programs to combat the effects of this particular (and decidedly less delightful) slide.
But before we get all hot and bothered, let’s take a look at the facts.
- FACT: Summer slide appears to be more of an issue at higher grade levels. In fact, a study by the National Center for Education Statistics found little evidence that it occurs at all between Kindergarten and first grade or between first and second grades.
SO: Lighten up on your 5- to 7-year-old, and let them play all summer! Sure, you should continue to read aloud to them daily, but you ought to be doing that anyway. Pay attention to the books your child wants to read, and read the favorites over and over. Let your child see you reading, too. The point is to build a love of reading into the experience.
- FACT: Studies on summer learning loss have found sharper declines in mathematics than in other subjects. However, when Peter Gray, Ph.D., delved into the studies as part of his research for a Psychology Today blog, he found that the losses in mathematical computation skills were more than made up for by the gains in mathematical reasoning abilities. Gray attributes the gains to the idea that children have more opportunities to be out in the “real world” during the summer and have to figure things out by reasoning through them.
SO: Don’t forget the importance of letting kids be kids. Summertime is the perfect opportunity to allow children a bit more freedom and independence. (Check out our blog on raising independent children for some more on this.) If you’re really concerned, involve your child in everyday activities that require mathematical reasoning—like baking, grocery shopping, and home improvement projects. Ask your child to help you double a recipe, make change, or measure a window for a new curtain. Playing together—with puzzles, building blocks, and games like Monopoly and Set—is another subtle and fun way to reinforce math skills outside of the classroom.
- FACT: The really troubling news from all the summer slide research is that the income gap is a major factor in determining how much learning students lose over the summer. Children from low-income families experience greater losses than those from better economic circumstances—and these losses becomes cumulative over time, contributing to the achievement gap. Researchers attribute this in part to the fact that children from lower-income families do not get to benefit from the types of enriching summer experiences—overnight camp, museum visits, travel, etc.—that more affluent families can afford to offer their children.
SO: If you really want to help with the problem, look for ways to assist those organizations working to minimize the losses for America’s lower-income children. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to educating the “whole child,” lists some successful programs here. Or start an effort through your local library to get books in the hands of children who might not otherwise have access to them in the summer. Research indicates that just six books per summer can make a difference in a child’s reading performance.
The Best Kind of “Summer School”
Meanwhile, we here at Kindermusik never want to miss the opportunity to remind you of the power of music in boosting all kinds of learning—in every season of the year! Our focus on whole-child development means that every Kindermusik experience is designed to strengthen not only your child’s music skills, but also their social-emotional, physical, and yes, math and language skills. See if you can find the vocabulary and math lessons hidden in this Kindermusik song—it’s one of our favorites!
Better yet, sign up for a Kindermusik class near you. It’s the perfect way to keep the learning going over the summer, without sacrificing one ounce of the fun.