By Dr. Kenneth Shore
Schools may close their doors in June but the summer represents a window of educational opportunity for children. During this period, children may have the chance to discover new interests, pursue familiar topics in greater depth, or brush up on academic skills. Many communities offer a range of learning opportunities. While summer school programs may provide remedial help for students, they may also offer enrichment activities allowing children to pursue academic subjects in depth as well as leisure-oriented activities. They may have a choice of such subjects as science, music, art, drama, dance, photography, foreign language, and athletics. These programs may expose children to new areas of interest but also give them a chance to meet other youngsters with similar interests. While the last thing most children want after school is out is to enter another classroom, summer educational programs are very different from regular school programs. The content may be academic but the format is not. The teaching is informal, the pressure to perform is minimal, and there are no tests and little if any homework. And the students who are there usually want to be there so discipline problems are rare.
Children do not necessarily need the structure of a formal program to have a productive and satisfying summer. The summer can also be a time for resourceful and independent-minded children to explore new topics on their own. The following are some examples:
- designing and building a tree house
- starting a club
- learning a computer program
- writing a neighborhood newsletter
- learning how to ride a horse
- volunteering in a community program
- getting a job (for example, babysitting or mowing lawns)
- pursuing a hobby (for example, videography)
- growing a vegetable garden and selling the products
Children with academic deficiencies may use the summer to reinforce basic skills through tutoring. As a general rule, children lose some of the academic skills developed during the school year. Those with academic weaknesses are particularly prone to skill erosion. In gauging whether your child is a candidate for summer tutoring, talk with your child as well as his teacher. You may decide that even though your child could benefit from this support that he needs a break from schoolwork.
If you opt for summer tutoring, you may hire a tutor or you may work with your child on your own. Working with your child is fine as long as he has plenty of time to have fun during the summer and the tutoring does not become a battleground. Avoid traditional routines used by his teacher and try to find academic activities that are fun and practical. Consider checking with your child’s teacher before the close of school to learn what skills he needs help with and what methods and materials she recommends. You might also contact a teacher in the next grade to find out what skills will be taught in the coming year so your child can get a head start on the next year.
One final reminder as you arrange your child’s summer schedule: Make sure to build in some free time. Your child is entitled to some time when he can pursue his own interests and whims.