Homeroom: How to Make Summer Learning Fun


squiggly pencil

Editor’s Note: Every week, Abby Freireich and Brian Platzer have taken questions from parents about their kids’ education. This is the last article in the “Homeroom” series.

Dear Abby and Brian,

This year has been really hard emotionally, but now that a much-needed summer break is here, I’m starting to worry about academics. How do we prevent a summer slide?

Thanks for everything,

Brooklyn, N.Y.

Dear Zoe,

After a year filled with disruptions, many parents are worried about how to prevent the “summer slide”—a significant decrease in reading and math skills over summer break, a phenomenon that hits poor kids particularly hard. The summer slide is a real problem, and we don’t want to diminish it, but particularly after the year that we’ve all just been through, kids deserve a chance to have fun, run around outside with friends, and relax. Now is the time, as much as is feasible, to let kids feel as little anxiety as possible. They’ve earned it. We all have.

Fun should be the priority, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid academic reinforcement entirely. Carve out some time for literacy and math, making both a regular part of your daily routine. By far the best single move you can make to reduce learning loss is to create an environment where your child reads for 20 to 30 minutes every day and that incorporates regular math practice. With reading, you’ll want to make it as interactive as possible, engaging in discussions about the text so your child can practice comprehension and drawing inferences. When it comes to math, try to connect concepts to real life, whether your kids are calculating ratios when making lemonade, or estimating how many scoops of sand might fill a pail or a sandbox.

And as in all things academic, the more active the learning, the better, and one thing that can really help students, both with their language skills and their emotional processing, is keeping a journal. Make it fun: Suggest that your kids react to what they’re reading or what’s going on in real life. Keep it creative or give some prompts. A journal can be a safe space to record thoughts, a series of book or television reviews, an adventure story—anything, as long as it keeps a child in the practice of putting words together to form sentences.

The next school year is going to require playing a bit of catch-up no matter what. But that catching up will not solely be academic: It will also mean reestablishing friendships, getting accustomed to a daily commute, and finding a new academic rhythm. So help your child avoid a summer slide—by shoring up not only their academic skills, but also their emotional well-being.