The summer break often leads to a loss of learning. Children can have months of lost math skills and fall behind in reading. Summer school can help your kids so they don’t trail behind their classmates. It can also be an excellent time to explore interests and gain new skills.
Traditional Summer School
Traditional summer school is offered by school districts nationwide. What is offered and who can attend will vary among districts. Some districts focus on helping elementary students get an early start for the next year with an emphasis on increasing grade-entry readiness in reading and math. These programs are offered for children entering kindergarten through fourth grade.
Traditional summer school can also focus on assisting kids who struggled with the previous year’s work. Summer school allows the child to study one topic in an environment where the teacher can provide more personalized attention due to a smaller class size. These classes allow for different teaching strategies that may be especially helpful for learning math or science. Summer classes can help relieve the stress children experienced as they fought to keep up in class during the school year.
If your school district does not offer summer school or your child does not meet the criteria, you might consider exploring a local for-profit tutoring or summer academic camp. These can be found in your local phone directory or through online searches. You can also research home schooling sites that you can adapt to direct your own summer school based on your child’s needs and interests. There are many free resources available. One fun place is Pinterest, with hundreds of boards to explore using search terms such as home school and summer school.
Challenging Academic Development
Summer is a wonderful time for your child to be able to focus on new or more challenging learning topics. You can find options at many universities and community colleges, as well as local museums, zoos and conservation districts. These summer courses allow for exploring special interests in-depth, providing hands-on experiences and meeting other youth. Some programs even offer college credit. Online searches show a wide variety of topics to choose among at programs across the country — including science, geometry, reasoning, geography, ancient world, writing, civics and global issues. By participating in university or community college educational settings, your child can also benefit from imagining a future in higher education.
The World of Languages
As the world is increasingly global in nature, our children will need to be able to communicate and understand languages beyond English. Spanish is the second most common language in the U.S., but other languages that might be beneficial to learn include Arabic, French, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, German and American Sign Language.
As children learn languages beyond their native language, they experience increased cognitive, creative and problem-solving skills. Summer classes for languages are not as readily available, but consider checking your local school district and area colleges for their offerings this summer. Or build your own in-home plan. Your local library will have book based mini-courses. You can also find a free online course by checking out the links on Omniglot, an online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages (http://omniglot.com/writing/languages.htm).
Another popular approach includes buying a packaged language program that utilizes principles of self-instruction — often found in your local bookstore or online. Learning platforms include CDs and digital downloads that can be accessed through computers, tablets or smartphones. Language education is a fabulous opportunity to engage not only your child, but your whole family, in learning. Challenge your family to study every day during the summer and, if possible, include field trips to sites where you can practice your new skills.
Creativity Through the Arts
Opportunities for creative expression fall behind academic priorities during the regular school year in most school settings. Summer can be a terrific time for your child to focus on creativity in different visual art forms and/or performance arts. You can find summer programs at local university and community colleges, museums and local art associations. Music summer camps may be focused on individual learning or group production. Theatrical programs usually culminate in live performances and explore all aspects of the production process, including acting. What better time than summer to embrace painting, photography and sculpting! Creativity is enhanced through focused learning and time for perfecting skills. Your mature high school student might be ready for an intensive residential program at an art institute or even a foreign immersion experience.
Our children are growing up in a world where information technology has been a part of their existence since birth. They are engaged with it on a daily basis — from their classes at school to their electronic gaming at home. Summer presents many opportunities to take their learning to new depths. Academic programs may offer robotics in addition to the more traditional subjects. Coding courses that offer the opportunity to learn about developing video games or animations can be found at universities, community colleges, for profit academic programs and online.
One national technology education program for kids you might want to check out is iD Tech (https://www.idtech.com), which is available at over 150 prestigious campuses nationwide. Summer courses may include programming, video game design, robotics, web design, 3D printing and filmmaking. Offerings vary by age and location. Imagine your child immersed in learning about Java coding while creating Minecraft mods. TechRocket, which was launched by iD Tech, provides an online learning environment with interactive courses and fun tutorials on programming languages, game design and graphic design for kids and teens (https://www.techrocket.com).
Whether your child needs to conquer an academic topic that has been frustrating throughout the school year or is ready to delve deeper into a topic of interest, summer learning opportunities abound in your community, nearby locations or on the Internet. Summer can be a time for playing hard outdoors, exploring the world with your family and having great aha moments while achieving new learning.
Dr. Elizabeth Gephart, DNP, is a board-certified PNP with more than 35 years of child and family nursing experience. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Millikin University in Decatur, IL.