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Summer vacation offers kids and families a chance to unwind and enjoy a much-needed break from the demands of school-time schedules and routines. But, as sweet as summertime is, there is also a potential downside to less structured plans and more free time: summer learning loss.
Summer learning loss, also known as the "summer slide," refers to the loss of academic skills that children experience over summer vacation due to a lack of educational stimuli. The phenomenon leads to children often starting the fall school year at a lower instructional level than they finished the previous year.
Research shows that, on average, most children lose one month of learning over the summer break, and children from lower-income families may experience an even higher level of learning loss. Once in the classroom, it can take a teacher from four to six weeks to get students back on track. And over time, summer learning loss can accumulate, causing some children to fall further behind academically.
It's important for parents to prevent summer learning loss by creating a manageable learning plan for their child during the summer break from school. Luckily, utilizing your internet for online learning can help prevent the summer slide.
Students who lose academic skills over the summer months do not lose these skills at the same rate. Factors such as socioeconomic status, class subject, and grade level all play a role in how much learning a student actually misses over the summer.
Research shows that during the school year, children across all income levels share similar academic performance. During the summer, however, lower-income students do not have the same opportunities to extend their learning. By the end of the fifth grade, higher-income students had added 47 points to their test scores, by engaging in summer learning over the years, while lower-income students lost two points.
The loss of reading comprehension tends to be more pronounced in lower-income students, while children from higher-income families see gains in reading measures over the summer. Math skills, on the other hand, don't seem to be as affected. This is because children are naturally more exposed to reading at home than practicing math, yet children from lower-income families tend not to have the same reading exposure as their higher-income peers.
Not all grade levels experience the summer slide equally either. Overall, decreases in math seem to be the most prominent, followed by reading, and students in the upper grades experience a higher level of learning loss than those in the lower grades. In the elementary grades, 70% to 78% of students lost math skills over the summer, while only 62% to 73% lost reading skills. During the summer, when a lot of students are transitioning to middle school, 84% of fifth and sixth graders have lost their math skills.
According to research, the average student loses anywhere between one to two months of reading and two to three months of math skills every summer. Since summer learning loss is cumulative, by the time a child reaches middle school, he or she has lost two years of learning.
Many schools have considered modifying their academic calendar to offset summer learning loss. Some have extended the school year while others have adopted a year-round calendar. However, there is little evidence these models actually help prevent the summer slide.
A review of current research revealed extending the school year had a minimal impact on academic achievement over time, and there are no academic gains for those using the year-round model.
While these approaches are still evaluated across school districts, parents are taking advantage of online learning options. In summer 2020, online learning will become even more important for all types of students to foster and maintain academic skills until schools can reopen.https://www.ntia.doc.gov/blog/2018/digital-divide-among-school-age-children-narrows-millions-still-lack-internet-connectionsLuckily, 96% of households across the U.S. have internet access, at least in the form of a smartphone. This type of online access is vital for students to supplement their education throughout the summer months.
There is a lot to consider when creating a summer learning plan for your child. First, you need to understand your child's current instructional level and define their academic goals. Then, you can create a summer routine that's conducive to learning and communicate any summer learning plans with your child, as well as with any caregivers, to make sure everyone is on board and excited to learn.
There are a few things you and your child will need to do to prepare for a summer of successful learning:
You are not alone in planning your child's summer learning program. Your child's teacher can be an instrumental part of the team, and so can your child's caregiver if you have one. Your child is also a part of this team, so open and honest communication throughout the summer will keep them motivated and on track.
Despite debates about screen time disrupting learning and the need for regulation, exposure to screens amongst children continues to grow. Luckily, it has become easier to integrate learning on mobile apps, internet games, and TV shows — shifting the experience to an enriching one.
Educational television shows, for example, teach young children basic math and reading skills, while older children can immerse themselves in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities and critical thinking skills without compromising entertainment. Likewise, online games and apps teach younger children the basics through play, such as hide-and-seek games that teach phonics, while older children can test their skills in coding, physics and engineering games.
However, parents may have a hard time deciding which apps and platforms are the most appropriate for online learning. It's important to ensure the technology matches your child's needs, abilities, interests and developmental stages. Useful apps and games get two things right: they help your child learn age-appropriate skills and engage them in the process.
However, It can be hard to differentiate between online learning and general screen time, so parents should try to set boundaries. You can achieve this by determining how much your child's screen time will be for recreational and educational purposes.
You can also incorporate technology-based learning into your summer family outings and vacations. When visiting historic sites, museums and aquariums, you can grab your phone or your child's tablet and ask them to look up the history of your destination, map it out or set the agenda, highlighting what you'll see and learn.
Your child can also use educational apps to explore everything your destination offers, from the animals and environment to the culture of its people. For long trips, it's a good idea to have educational videos and app-based games on hand to help pass the time. Any outing can turn into an educational experience — the key is to facilitate discussions around the experience.
According to Safe At Last, 70% of kids encounter inappropriate content while researching for homework assignments, and 75% of children would share personal information with someone online in exchange for goods or services. Luckily, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA) allows parents to designate what information is and isn't collected about their child. The rule was enacted by Congress in 1998 to enforce regulations concerning children's online privacy.
This is because websites and apps continuously collect information about their users; in this case, your child. COPPA puts the parent in control of the information that is collected. In addition to understanding COPPA, parents should also set general ground rules for online safety. Some examples can be limiting online use to shared spaces where parents can monitor screen time, utilize parental controls and ensure all usernames and passwords are shared.
Here are some other ideas to help keep your child safe online:
Understanding your rights and establishing parental safety controls are prerequisites for summer online learning. Parental safety controls allow parents to monitor their child's internet use; prevent children from accidentally accessing inappropriate content online. Some parental controls you should consider implementing are:
According to a study released by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education, 40% of children talked to a stranger online, 53% revealed their phone number, 15% tried to meet the stranger and 6% revealed their home address. It is not enough to set up parental controls and expect that to do the job. Our kids also need to understand the dangers online and how to stay safe. Here are some tips:
If you think your child's personal information has been compromised in any way, take the following steps:
There are so many online learning resources, that choosing the right one can feel overwhelming. The following is a list of recommended educational apps, online games and TV shows to get you started.
Ages 7 to 10
Summer learning loss is a slippery slope. Once your child starts sliding, the dangers of continuously falling behind are real. Luckily, it doesn't take much to keep your child engaged and learning throughout the summer. By incorporating online learning into your child's daily routine over summer break, they can continue learning in fun and practical ways. Use the resources and tips above to help your child achieve their summer educational goals and motivate them to try it again next year.