The Fate of Summer Vacation
(Written by Stacey Jannis) Recently, there has been a lot of discussion around the issue of summer learning loss during the summer vacation for students. The arguments to do so can be quite compelling, with studies showing that taking three months away from formal education can leave some children severely set back in their learning. These effects are particularly pronounced for those students who do not have intellectually stimulating opportunities during the summer months, generally students of low socioeconomic status for whom education is already an uphill climb. While summer vacations are still a part of our society, however, parents have the opportunity and responsibility of making sure their children get the most out of their summer vacation.
Hit the Books
Reading for pleasure is one of the great joys and opportunities for children on summer vacation. Most local libraries sponsor summer reading programs where students are rewarded for reading. Several public schools are also developing similar programs, and some even distribute books for low-income students who do not have access to reading materials on their summer vacation. To help your child get even more out of their reading, have them write book reports, do related art projects, or simply discuss what they have read with you.
Today’s children are prone to seek out a computer or television whenever boredom sets in, so be careful with your child’s screen time during their summer vacation. Setting time limits on screen time, or making sure that programs are educational, helps to minimize the negative effects of vegging out in front of the television. Conversely, technology can also be incorporated into summer activities to supplement any educational endeavors. Let your child research vacation spots on the internet, read e-books or go to the websites of their favorite authors, or document their summer fun with a blog or emails to family members.
Some who preach the benefits of keeping students intellectually engaged during their summer vacation dismiss the positive effects that simply playing outside have for children. Unstructured play not only helps children to get the exercise they need, it also helps them to learn important interpersonal skills like conflict resolution. Summer is a perfect opportunity for children to gain the balance of “book smart” and “street smart”, so don’t keep them inside all day. Let students play outside with neighborhood children or schedule outdoor play dates with your children’s school friends to maintain those peer connections during the summer.
Vacations can be an excellent way to engage your children’s minds during the summer. When considering destinations, look for places with rich historical background, museums and zoos to visit, or other opportunities for your child to learn. Letting your child help in the planning process can help expose him or her to geography, history, and other meaningful lessons. Selecting multiple inexpensive day trips or a tour that allows you to visit multiple locations helps to maximize your child’s exposure to new and intellectually stimulating experiences.
Summer camps have also evolved to be very intellectually engaging for children. Interpersonal skills are quickly developed in a setting where children are away from their parents and must quickly bond with other students. Additionally, many summer camps specialize in academic pursuits. If your student has a particular interest in robotics, astronomy, creative writing, or any other discipline, look for a summer camp where he or she can pursue it further.
It’s Still Vacation
The most crucial summer vacation rule is to make sure your student is able to have a fun experience while maintaining intellectual engagement. It’s important to remember that summer vacation is a break from the go-go-go mentality of society, so it’s ok to give your child some time off to relax. Educational opportunities can be fun too, so try to find the activities that your child can truly enjoy.
About the author: Stacey Jannis is the proud parent of a 5th grader and a 1st grader, and is a contributing blogger for America by Rail, which provides fun and engaging train tours for vacationers of all ages!