How can I help my child over the summer?
This is a question most parents ask themselves at some point during the summer. Is my child going to lose what they have already learned? We all want our children to succeed, but sometimes, we aren’t sure how to help them. There are a few simple ways to help your child be ready for the upcoming school year.
What is your goal?
What grade level is your child going to next year? How old are they? Are they struggling with a particular subject or skill? Or do you want them to excel and become an advanced learner? What is your goal? Even if your child is a preschooler, there are things you can do to help them be school-ready.
You probably already know your child’s weaknesses and strengths. But if you are unsure, email last year’s teacher and ask for advice. (Remember though – teachers are in recovery over the summer, so they may not check their email regularly.) You could also check any end-of-year test results, benchmark tests, or data you may have kept from the previous school year.
How can you help?
The Internet is your friend! Pinterest is an excellent resource to find all kids of activities, games, blogs, and links to help ensure your child is successful! Do a Google search to find learning apps, games, free worksheets and all sorts of helpful aids.
Does your school district have parent resources? Call the administration office and ask them for help. They may have a parent center with ready- made materials to assist you. You may also want to check your local library, newspaper, or news stations for information on kids’ summer camps. These are fun, interactive options for keeping your child engaged over the summer; many will even have an academic focus and can easily fit around your family’s summer plans.
But if you want to take on the challenge yourself, here are some suggestions for core subjects:
Take a trip to your local library and check out books, magazines, or other resources. Be sure to ask the librarian for help determining reading/grade level appropriate texts. Many libraries conduct even summer reading programs or camps. Some communities and neighborhoods may house a Little Free Library, as well, which is a great free way to provide your children access to literature.
Read, read, READ! Provide your child with daily opportunities for reading. Help them keep those reading muscles strong!
Research shows that students who read over the summer tend to gain a month of reading proficiency, while children who do not read during the summer can lose up to 2-3 months of reading skills.
Additionally, make a point to read aloud to your child as often as you can. Have them read to you. Take turns reading to each other. Even 5 minutes a day has an impact on their reading ability and comprehension skills. But remember, though reading for pleasure important, so is reading for understanding (at any grade level).
When Reading Fiction: Ask your child: Who are the characters? Tell me about the characters. Where are they? What are they doing? What is the problem in the story? Was the problem solved? Answering these questions will help them with understanding characterization, setting, plot, etc.
When Reading Nonfiction: Ask your child: Why did the author write this text? What did you learn while reading it? Was the author providing information about a topic, trying to persuade you to do something, or telling you how to do something? Why do you think the author included bold print, subtitles, images/photographs, maps, graphs, etc.? These questions help your child’s understanding of text features, author’s purpose, and author’s craft.
Number sense is one of the most important mathematical concepts your child needs.
Children need confidence with numbers to advance to more complex mathematics in upper grades. Thankfully, this is something you can help with at home! Children need to know numbers like they do letters. They need to know that when they see the number 8, it means one group of 8 items. Additionally, when they see a number, they need to know how many ways they can calculate it (e.g., 4 can be calculated by 0+4, 1+3, 2+2 and eventually 1x4 or 2x2). They need to be able to order numbers from greatest to least/least to greatest and make number comparisons (e.g., 8 is greater tha,n 6, 7 is less than 9, or 4 is half of 8). Building these skills is key to your child learning multiplication and division, so make sure your child is fluent in number sense before moving on.
For parents, flashcards are essential. They can be made using paper, notecards, etc. You can also purchase flashcards at most of your local bookstores and marketplaces or even online. Carry them with you in the car, to a doctor’s visit, or anywhere you have extra time to review. You may be surprised by the amount of practice you can get in when you take 5 minutes here or there. Look at your local teacher store or online to find workbooks with the grade level skills your child needs. There is a wealth of information in these ready-made workbooks, and in some cases, there may be scripted how-to pages that will take the guess work out of teaching a skill.
There are so many math apps and websites that can help your child practice number sense skills, also. Some of our favorites that cover multiple skills are Splash Math, the grade level Learning Games apps, Cool Math 4 Kids, abcya.com, Fun Brain, and Multiplication.com.
Many parents feel they don’t remember the English “rules” and don’t think they can help their child. Students from pre-K to college all struggle with the same basic things: capitals, ending marks, and complete sentences. These are the foundational skills for any grade level and for the rest of their lives. Don’t stress if you can’t remember rules like: “change the y to i and add es” or “two complete sentences joined by a conjunction need a comma before the conjunction.” These are skills the teachers can worry about, and they will appreciate the fact that your child understands the basics of a sentence!
Students can practice this in something as simple as sending a text message or post card to Grandma and Grandpa, daily diary or journal writing, a blog about a family vacation, writing emails to family members, or tap into their creativity with creative writing apps like Strip Designer, Toontastic, or Write About This.
Although, it may not be a graded subject or tested on standardized tests, handwriting is crucial.
Handwriting practice improves literacy and enhances overall learning.
Additionally, a student can be the smartest one in the class, but if the teacher can’t determine the answers, the grades may not reflect their ability. You don’t need to strive for perfection. It should just be legible and neat with spaces between words.
You can have your child practice their handwriting in so many simple ways at home – writing grocery lists, writing with sidewalk chalk on the driveway, writing in the dirt with a stick, writing in shaving cream on a table with an unsharpened pencil, downloading free handwriting activities online, and various apps such as LetterSchool or iTrace (if possible, use these with a stylus to practice penmanship).
But, if you don’t have the time or feel you’re not quite equipped -
HIRE A TUTOR
Education has changed, and is constantly changing at a phenomenal pace. It’s hard to keep up with the lights, camera, action of a flashy classroom and an online learning game. Sometimes, as parents, we don’t feel we have the ability to teach the latest math or reading techniques. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Find someone who can help and is an expert in the field. Contact your school and ask if any teachers offer tutoring. Make a post on your social media account asking about tutors. Most of your friends probably know an excellent teacher, and they won’t be shy about their opinions, good or bad. There are also businesses that specialize in tutoring; however, be wary and check them out thoroughly, so you aren’t throwing your money away on a sub-par tutor.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
Expose your child to the world. Ask them real-world questions at the grocery store, such as, “If I buy this bread and this cheese, how much will I spend?” Give them a few dollars and see if they can determine how many items they can buy. If you are in the car ask, “What is 5 x 5?” or “If I have three apples and Johnny eats one, how many do I have left?” If you travel to a museum, “If the artist painted this in 1903, how long ago was that?” Or even something as simple as, “What is another word for ____?” or “How do you spell _____?” Keep their brains active and thinking.
Did you know – Einstein didn’t speak until he was 4 years old? He failed his college entrance exam the first time, and he did very poorly when he finally did get into college. He was considered a major failure until his groundbreaking work in physics and mathematics helped us understand the world around us. Even if you feel like your child is struggling and beyond help, don't give up. There is plenty you can do to help your child's achievement during the summer.
AND REMEMBER - You don’t have to be an expert! We have enough pressure about our jobs as parents. You are taking the right step just by trying to help your child succeed, and IT WILL PAY OFF!!
Do you have any other creative ideas you use to help your child during the summer? We'd love to hear from you! Please comment below.