Tips to Avoid the Summer Slide

Summer Homework?As you plan your family outings, vacations and general summer fun, what will you do to ensure that your child does not fall behind in school? Yes, you heard me correctly – even as those school buses drop off your precious cargo one last time – some parents are already thinking ahead for their summer plan for maintaining academic skills.

The “Summer Slide” is defined as the academic slump that occurs during and after the summer months. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “on average, students lose the equivalent of two months of math and reading skills during the summer months.” Even more sobering is that the outcomes of summer reading loss is cumulative.  According to Reading is Fundamental, by the end of 6th grade, children who (consistently) lose reading skills over the summer will be 2 years behind their peers.  Although some regression is anticipated, students will more easily make up this deficit if it is smaller in the first place. Interestingly, some even say that learning a musical instrument helps students avoid the summer slide.

There are many different approaches to help students flex their academic muscles. The approach you choose (if any) will depend on your child’s learning style and needs, your parenting style, and philosophy. From light maintenance to more in-depth strategies, here are a few to consider:

  • Read every day.
  • Work a little bit each day or a few times per week.
  • Practice a new skill – such as learning cursive or keyboarding.
  • Attend summer enrichment programs with academic emphasis.
  • Attend tutoring or skill camps.
  • Summer School

My personal philosophy is that kids work hard during the school year and get a much-needed break from school in the summer. However, I also value maintaining skills. Although we plan to focus on working just a little bit each day or a few times per week, we went in a few different directions. Here is what summer has in store for our clan:

  • We will check out various cultural experiences, including parks, art museums, science museums, and historic sites. Although many of these can be related to the SOL, we make a conscious decision not to explore that specifically.
  • We will practice functional skills, such as counting money for making a purchase, writing or typing grocery lists or letters and my youngest will practice spelling by using our portable labeler to help organize our home (win-win)!
  • Reading, reading, reading! Daily reading is always on tap for everyone in our family. And, this summer, my husband and I plan to read aloud to our boys classics such as Jules Verne’s A Journey to the Center of the Earth or Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book  (okay, full disclosure, these are the books I am hoping to read to them, but we will let them choose from a variety of classics). Reading books aloud that are of a higher reading level or what reading experts call “dense” material that requires greater “stamina” can expand vocabulary, learning, and a wider context, as well as brings family together for a communal task.
  • Practice a new skill. My rising third grader is excited about learning cursive, since it is easier for him than manuscript printing. We will incorporate practice of cursive into some functional activities.
  • Hands-on Learning . My kids learn best doing through hands-on activities. Activities such as science experiments, nature hikes, and scavenger hunts, and even gardening, foster skills such as problem solving, math, reading, and more.
My youngest playing on the playground slide.

My youngest playing on the playground slide.

So here’s to hoping that the only summer slide you will experience is the one on the playground. What do you have in mind to encourage your kids to maintain their skills?

Additional Resources

The #1 resource for summer learning is your child’s teacher. Teachers are the experts on the curriculum that has already been covered this year, and what will be introduced next year. They also know your child and what they might need to work on specifically.

Secondary students will likely have specific assignments to be completed over the summer. Read on for additional resources.

Stopping the Summer Slide

Reading is Fundamental – Reading Summer Slide 

Top 5 Ways to Prevent Rusty Summer Readers

Keep Your Kids Learning This Summer

Tips to Avoid the Summer Slide -Video



Fiona Bessey-Bushnell

Fiona Bessey-Bushnell is an occupational therapist and writer. A former archaeologist, she now enjoys digging up great stories right here in Richmond. She has an unusual affinity for Venn diagrams and post-it notes. Fiona lives with her husband and two young sons.

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