As parents, we wear many hats. This spring, parents were asked to wear yet another hat: teacher. For many parents, distance learning was a struggle; we felt like our teaching efforts just weren’t enough. And now, we’re in the thick of summer, with the eponymous “summer slide” serving as a big, ominous elephant in the (class) room. We made it through spring homeschooling, and now summer is here, so… now what?
Cincinnati Parent talked with local educators to better understand the summer “slide” and get tips on how to continue learning over the summer… and it’s a lot easier than you might think!
Summer learning 101
Simply put, the ‘summer slide’ is a decline in academic abilities and skills that occurs over the summer when school isn’t in session. The summer slide happens even in the most ‘typical’ of years — but this year, this phenomenon is even more of a concern, since kids have effectively been out of school since mid-March.
“Given this year’s predicament, it’s important for parents to be proactive in continuing to keep their child’s skills fresh,” says Alyssa Hoffman, a third-grade math and science teacher at Maple Dale Elementary. However, Hoffman adds that summer learning doesn’t have to be super regimented. “Anything that is keeping students’ brains engaged and using critical thinking skills is great!” she says.
Chelsie Hoskins, a high school English teacher at Cincinnati Public Schools and adjunct faculty member at Miami University, adds that, in addition to academics, parents should also focus on their kids’ social-emotional well-being. “It is important to remember that children are dynamic entities that can absorb and retain skills and information with ease,” Hoskins says. “Promoting a caring, open environment in which students feel equipped to ask questions while staying safe is, in my opinion, the most important thing parents can focus on this summer.”
Here are a few ways parents can encourage summer learning:
Read every day
Reading is one of the easiest ways to keep kids engaged and learning through the summer. Most educators recommend at least 20 minutes a day of reading, and this can be anything from e-books and games to even recipes or instructions.
This year, local libraries are making summer reading easier than ever. From online resources to virtual reading challenges, Cincinnati’s local libraries are stepping up to keep kids reading all summer long. And be sure to make reading a family activity — the library’s programs are open to everyone from babies to adults!
“As much as is able, I would encourage parents to take part in activities with their students,” Hoskins says. “Learning isn’t just for [kids], and the more [parents] take part with their students, the more fun [everyone] will have.”
Make math matter
Math is one of the skills that suffers most during summer break, so make sure to carve out time for this important subject every day. This spring, your kids’ teachers likely emailed lessons or sent home course packets, so take advantage of those resources! Your kids also have access to online resources from school, Hoffman says, adding that many of these websites stay active through the summer.
Simple things like counting money, measuring ingredients for cooking, and even LEGO building, all encourage math skills. “Learning over the summer doesn’t have to be complicated,” Hoffman says.
Explore the world from home
Technology gets a bad rap, but this spring, it literally provided kids a gateway to the world. From Cincinnati Museum Center’s STEM-spired Wonder Zone videos (think Bill Nye the Science Guy, but with CMC) to The Cincinnati Zoo’s “Home Safari” sessions on Facebook Live (videos of fan-favorites like the flamingos, giraffes, elephants and, of course, #TeamFiona), take advantage of these educational resources.
Embrace the Great Outdoors
There’s no better classroom than the Great Outdoors. “There are many opportunities for students to learn about the world around them,” Hoskins says, and lots of fun ways to turn the outdoors into easy lessons! Hoskins suggests taking kids on backyard scavenger hunts and then having them write a descriptive paragraph or draw a picture about the experience.
For parents looking for a more structured experience, the Great Parks of Hamilton County’s Parks@Home series brings nature and conservation education straight to Cincinnati homes, 24/7. And in lieu of traditional summer camps, Great Parks is offering virtual day camps, which include online meetings, at-home activities and live video interaction.
Virtual camp FTW
Speaking of summer camp, many places have moved their camps online (thanks, Zoom!). From dance and theatre to STEM and the arts, your kiddo can enjoy a top-notch camp experience this summer — from home. For example, the Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati has moved all its camps online, offering half-day camps in the morning or afternoon. These online offerings are convenient for parents — and let someone else do the “teaching.”
Don’t forget PE!
Physical education is just as important as mental, so get moving! If you’re looking for some at-home options, check out Cincinnati Ballet Company’s fitness classes offered through CB at Home, or the YMCA’s “Y Virtual” videos, which offer options from Barre and yoga to bootcamp.
However, you don’t have to sign up for classes to make physical fitness part of your summer — take the kids to a bike trail or go hiking at a local park. Cincinnati is full of outdoor options!
Parents: You’re amazing! “You didn’t sign up for homeschooling and it’s a tremendous responsibility added to your plate,” Hoffman says. But with a little effort, your kids will start the upcoming school year right where they need to be.