Avoid the ‘summer slide’ by keeping children engaged, learning

Researchers estimate that students lose the equivalent of one month of learning during summer vacation. 

Teachers nationwide can attest that the “summer slide” is a challenge. Educators often spend the first few weeks each fall reviewing what students already learned, but forgot, during the previous school year. 

This year poses an even bigger challenge, particularly for families in Immokalee, where COVID-19 is impacting both the health and financial wellbeing of families. Guadalupe Center’s sole mission is to break the cycle of poverty through education, so even though classes are not in session, teachers and staff have been working tirelessly to make sure this summer isn’t a total loss. 

Schools shifted to virtual education in March, and while teachers in Southwest Florida did a remarkable job given the circumstances, virtual classes are no substitute for the real thing. It’s difficult to maintain academic momentum with a sudden switch to distance learning. 

In typical summer, students can participate in academic-based summer camps to continue learning, but most are not operating this year. Family road trips to zoos, aquariums and museums also might be difficult to schedule this summer. Even public libraries are either closed or operating with reduced hours. 

But learning must go on. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis already has announced Florida’s plans for reopening schools in August. The first day for public school students in Lee, Hendry and Charlotte counties will be Aug. 10, followed by Collier County on Aug. 12. 

Knowing the importance of summer learning, Guadalupe Center has provided parents with the tools to make sure their children are still progressing over the summer including books, online resources and activities for home, as well as training sessions to help parents take a more active role in their child’s education. 

While most parents are not certified teachers, they can guide learning until classes resume in August. 

Below are five tips from Guadalupe Center’s credentialed teachers to help parents prepare preschool and elementary-age children for the first day of school: 

  • Summer programs: If possible, enroll your child in an educational summer program. In-person camps and activities are very limited, but virtual programs are widely available and often free. Many virtual programs cover science and nature and include hands-on activities that children can complete at home. 
  • Reading: Read aloud to your children daily to help develop their language and listening skills while also stimulating their imagination. Pre-school and elementary students also should read to their parents. 
  • Sight words: Children should practice their sight words, which are core words used in the English language – such as “the,” “and” and “it” – that should be immediately recognizable while readingMastering these words increases fluency and comprehension. 
  • Writing: While reading involves decoding messages, writing means putting thoughts onto paper. Have children complete basic writing assignments, like describing their favorite food, sport or cartoon character. Go deeper by having them explain why it’s their favorite. 
  • Math: School homework often involves a math worksheet, but there are other ways children can practice their math skills. Have your child count out food items, read numbers on a sign, count coins, calculate time on a clock or other math-based activities. These may only take a few seconds, but they keep a child’s mind sharp. 

The most important factor in preparing your child for the start of school is time. You must make time for learning. Block out specific times on the calendar or assign educational tasks before and after mealtimescreating structure to the day. 

August is quickly approaching. Much like an athlete, students need a preseason to get in shape for school, and summer is that preseason.

By Jamie Rossi, assistant director of schoolage programs at Guadalupe Center