Students can enjoy summers while still staying sharp
By Tracy Evans Boyd Special to Pioneer Press
Woman helping boy with schoolwork
As children say goodbye to the classroom for a few months, many parents fear the growing reality of learning loss during summer vacation. With thoughtful planning, however, students can enjoy their time off while still staying sharp for the next academic year.
“It’s a use it or lose it mentality,” said Laura Gaspardo, director of Barrington’s Sylvan Learning Center, who advises parents to plan activities that double as learning opportunities. “Anything you can do to keep kids in an academic realm to some degree is important.”
Make an impression early on
Parents should use the summer to explore new academic challenges for their younger children in a comfortable group setting. Young minds have the ability to absorb new subjects at a rapid rate and prepare them for future courses.
Lake Forest Country Day School, for example, has added summer programs to capitalize on these prime learning years.
“The summer can be great for academic growth in a more playful setting, and it can be a great way to begin tackling a challenge early on,” said Julia Wright, communications specialist at Lake Forest Country Day School.
For children age 2 to 6, Lake Forest Country Day School will offer bi-weekly violin instruction in June at its Summer String Camp. The school, as well as other Illinois locations, will also offer an independent program called Language Stars. This program capitalizes on the ability of children to gain language fluency in Spanish, French, German, Italian or Mandarin Chinese during the impressionable years between age 3 and 10.
Parents can also influence smart academic habits during the summer by setting an example as a family. Encourage reading for fun, and make regular trips to the local library.
Fill in the gaps
“If a student was floundering in a particular area during the school year, summer is a great time to catch up,” Gaspardo said.
Tutors can review conceptual disciplines, such as math and science, where progress builds on the previous year. Many tutoring companies work to accommodate flexible summer schedules. Gaspardo also said many teachers recommend the summer study.
At Northbrook’s Tutoring Resource Center, students can target core competencies necessary to pass subject exams and keep on academic track. In late July, students can join a three to four-week preview session to review last year’s work and begin learning next school year’s math and science curriculum.
“We arm them with the skills necessary to progress swiftly when they return in the fall,” said Dr. Sandi Ferguson, founder of Tutoring Resource Center and tutor at the Northbrook location. “I want my students to be the ones raising their hands. The ones ready to answer the questions first.”
A study-skills course, available at most tutoring centers, helps students prepare for a successfully managed school year. At Sylvan, the 32-hour summer program, popular with incoming high schoolers, teaches time-management skills, such as prioritizing and setting goals, to test-taking strategies. Note taking, Ferguson added, is another popular topic.
At the Tutoring Resource Center, summer is the perfect time to teach technique in a framework more enjoyable for the students.
“Everything is a learning experience, I tell my students, and it doesn’t matter what you use,” Ferguson said. “You can spark creative juices by providing them with assignments using what they already like to do, like taking notes from their favorite magazine, and you’re inspiring them to think differently.”
Make it fun
Bring learning opportunities on vacations and into family time. Ask your child’s teachers for upcoming curriculums, and plan experiences that relate to their subjects, such as a trip to Colonial Williamsburg or Yellowstone National Park. After all, the most memorable lessons are those children can experience themselves.
“Summer gives students a time to process what they have learned,” added Andy Sperling, Lake Forest Country Day School’s assistant head of upper school. “Rest, physical exercise and play are just as much part of the learning experience as studying and classroom time.”
Let your child explore their passions and creativity as they enjoy the summer months. It will help balance and enhance their learning experiences as they look forward to their next school year.