If there’s one thing guaranteed to divide opinion in the playground, it’s the great summer holiday debate. And with the UAE’s families preparing for the longest break in recent memory, concerns are growing about just how far behind our kids will be when the new school year starts.
So, while most of us would agree the big break is a golden opportunity for children to rest and really be themselves, some are determined not to let theirs lose ground, and are weaving work between beach breaks and playdates.
Kim Gerber, co-founder of The Study Room – a tutoring company specialising in offering KHDA-approved reading, writing and Maths skills to kids aged four to 12 – has already seen an upturn in enquiries ahead of the start of the holidays this year, but actually sees the extra-long break as a chance for kids to learn in a different way.
“At school, some students may feel like they are in survival mode due to overwhelming tasks, the volume of work or unhealthy social relationships and, for these students, the summer months will be the perfect time to find a more productive place to learn,” she says. “This could be at home or as part of a learning community where children are likely to learn more, to be open to new ideas and take more risks.”
The Sports City-based organisation, which opened in 2015, teaches children in small groups and believes in the power of continued learning, in a variety of forms, over the break. “It is evident that children who spend time on academic activities over the summer will have retained more and will therefore perform better than those students who have not,” Gerber explains. “And while the loss in learning varies across individual students, grade level and subject area, parents should be aware that students could slide one to three months of grade-level equivalency.”
Isabelle Marlin, a Dubai-based mum-of-two who works full time, is already looking into educational camps for her kids this year. “We just don’t have the option of spending the entire summer holiday overseas,” she tells us. “I have to go to work and my children have to go to camp but it can’t all be one long summer of tennis, swimming and dance classes – I’m worried about how long they are out of school this time.”
While Gerber acknowledges that summer education camps will help stem this slide, she also believes in the importance of downtime. “It’s all about balance,” she states. “Outside of the organised learning experiences, let your child explore the environment around them.
“Also, allow them some electronic device time, have available materials for art, building and crafting and, at times, let them be bored to encourage creativity,” she adds.
It is actually this necessity for balance that has driven The Study Room to offer a variety of camps, workshops and programmes this summer that don’t just focus on academia.
They start the holiday with a School’s Out fun camp, collaborating with the local Canal Residence restaurants, incorporating drama, art, craft, music, fitness, baking and games. Then there’s a mid-holiday Balanced Camp with morning CrossFit sessions, arts and crafts, games and some maths, reading and writing. Finally, at the end of summer, there’s a Back to School camp with focused workshops on maths, reading and writing. “And all of our camps, lessons and workshops are run by qualified teachers who love teaching, because teachers who love teaching, teach children to love learning.”
If you’re travelling all summer, enrolling in study camps can be difficult. Gerber has the solution to that, too, however.
“Learning is all around us,” she says. “Children do not need to go to school to have a routine, read a book or learn about the world around them because maths, language and science are everywhere. A break from school means a break from a particular style of learning.”
On the flipside of traditional subjects, Dubai is home to an impressive range of coding circles, science educators and language immersion schools to really mix up the skill set. Check out Time Out Dubai Kids Summer Camp Guide 2017, which is free with paid-for copies of this issue, to find out more. Happy learning!
Canal Residence West, Dubai Sports City, www.thestudyroom.ae (04 513 6620).
How to pick a summer Camp
Timing is important
Don’t overschedule everyone. Think about any short trips you’d like to make, any visitors popping over and if your child is interested in doing any other camps such as sport or music, so you don’t cram it all in back-to-back. A tired kid isn’t a happy one.
Talk to their teacher
What areas does your child need to focus on? Talk to their teachers before the end of term and see where the main areas for improvement are, then you can find the courses to support those. Your child will really feel the benefit when school starts again.
Choose your words
Make it positive
Talk about the upcoming camp with your child and encourage excitement about attending. You may want to stay away from terms such as “summer school” and build up a picture of somewhere new and interesting where they will meet other kids and learn new skills, ready for their new teacher next term.