What is the summer drop-off?
This describes the regression or loss of academic skills during an extended break in academic learning (like the summer holidays). In a best-case scenario, children will remain at their current levels in math and literacy but generally they tend to lose the majority of their skills in mathematical computations and spelling. Current research shows ‘academically vulnerable’ children are more at-risk of losing these skills.
Which subjects suffer most?
Mathematical skills are more at-risk from the drop-off effect, but for those vulnerable students, literacy is also a concern. The more abstract a skill-set is, the less likely it will be recalled after a longer period of time. This is because the individual makes fewer personal connections to the information. For example, if a child does not have opportunity in their real life to divide and multiply fractions, then that skill will likely be forgotten over time.
How much time can you expect a child to study during the holidays?
Reasonably between 10 to 20 minutes per day for basic skills. The trick is to make the studying seem like fun if possible (such as through kid-friendly websites). Focusing on areas the child needs to develop is a better use of time and energy. If there is a goal to achieve (a summer study assignment or extra credit) then there would obviously be more time dedicated to that project, so it would need to be fitted around activities.
At what point in a child’s education does holiday study become important?
At the point where they are becoming ‘readers’ and ‘writers’, since this skill develops only through continual practice and application. Even so, this can be accomplished with a reading book that matches the child’s level and perhaps a travel journal. Similarly, children need to master their basic numeracy skills to consolidate them and commit them to memory
Kids rarely listen to their parents. How useful are tutors in this situation – and how do you find a good one?
Tutors are not generally a good idea because they often do not set specific goals or targets that they are working towards, so parents can get into a trap of spending a great deal of money with limited results.
However, there are several tutoring companies here that can be of assistance in helping parents identify what they need. If the company can tell you how they are going to achieve an outcome and in what time frame, then you know they have a plan in mind that will be providing focused support.
What’s your take on educational summer camps?
Educational summer camps are only as good as the quality of programmes and the instructors. Some parents might find a good programme and feel it meets a particular need for their child. There are also some children who are naturally more inclined to be academic than athletic or ‘arty’. I think that being aware of your child’s needs is important. If they have worked extremely hard over the course of the year, then it might benefit them more to have a real break and let the learning ‘sink in’.
What kinds of activities encourage learning, without a child actually knowing you are making them swot?
Parents who spend time talking, reading and asking children questions are actually paving the way for the child to seek out answers to new questions they have. If children see their parents reading and learning themselves, this has a powerful effect on the child because they will pick up on these values.
The value of play should not be taken lightly as it has so many benefits for learning. Children build and create things, which builds up their creative problem solving skills; they collaborate, which involves them learning valuable social and negotiation skills; they use materials and toys which support their motor skills; and they also talk together, which is critical to their language development, especially if they are learning English as another language.
Taking a step back as a parent and letting the kids organise their play or activities can be one of the best things to do. It does not always come easy to children but they need to learn how to engage themselves without adult direction.
World Wide Wisdom
Check out these online learning resources for parents and children
• www.internet4classrooms.com – a K-12 website with hundreds of links to subject-based games and learning activities
• www.linktolearning.com – an educational site for K-12 which offers specific links to online games, resources and activities including activities for ESL (English as a Second Language) learners
• www.storylineonline.net – has a nice collection of stories that are read by an actor to children and is an excellent resource for parents of primary-aged children
• www.bbc.co.uk/children – has several collections of online resources, learning games and activities for very young children and primary-aged nippers