Summer learning loss 2021: What you need to know

Updated: Sep 13, 2021

(Looking for free or low-cost summer learning resources? Grab our list of top picks here!)

Students enjoying reading together.

As the school year starts to wind down, you’re probably looking forward to a break from the school chaos that has taken over many households over the past year (and I bet your kids are too!). But before you get too deep into summer plans, there’s one thing you’re going to want to factor in to make sure the next school year goes as smoothly as possible - learning!


I know it doesn’t sound like much fun. You’re probably picturing the untouched summer workbooks from the years past and the struggle to get your student to crack a book and read for fun. But if there was ever a summer to make an effort to incorporate learning, it’s this one. In this article, we’ll cover the impact of summer learning loss, how you can mitigate it, and some practical tips for making it fun and easy.


What is summer learning loss?


Summer learning loss is already a very real thing under normal, non-pandemic circumstances. Kids can lose as much as 2 months’ worth of learning over the summer, and if they were struggling at the end of the school year it could be even worse. Add in the turmoil and (let’s face it) less effective instruction with virtual learning that most kids experienced for a majority of last year, and the learning loss is even greater. The data collected from testing in Fall 2020 showed that students lost more ground than usual following the shift to virtual schooling in Spring 2020 when this all started. And 62% of parents said they think their children are behind where they would be during a normal school year (via AP news).


The good news? You can flip the script.


How summer learning helps


The best way to describe summer learning loss is to equate it to athletic training. By the end of the school year, your child has trained to be the best athlete they can be for 180 days. Math facts are at the forefront of their mind and they can easily sit and read for extended periods of time. Then summer comes and their training abruptly stops for two months - from hours per day to virtually nothing. Much like an athlete who stops training, your student loses ground and comes into the next school year a bit out of shape academically.


And not only is it a struggle to get “back into shape” with academic performance, it can also be tough mentally. If you’ve ever been in good shape and then fell off the wagon, the very idea that you used to be in great shape and are now struggling can make trying again harder. The same goes for your child! What was once easy is now challenging, which can be frustrating and defeating.


Middle school female student sitting at a device attending online summer learning program with The Learning Room.

The remedy? “Exercise” those muscles in the summer! Much like the body, even SOME activity is much better than stopping completely. Learning is similar. Like metabolism, even staying in practice for small amounts of time can keep the material fresh, top of mind, and your student “in shape” for when school starts again.


You may be asking yourself, “How much time are we talking about?” Ideally, your child would be reading 30 minutes per day and practicing math 15-20 minutes per day. That’s it! Even a fraction of the time they’d spend in a school day can make an impact and set them up for success.



Easy ways to incorporate summer learning


Before we talk about how to practically incorporate learning into your summer routine, it’s important to recognize that kids DO need a break. Summer can be a great time to refresh, relax, and connect with your family. What we’re suggesting here is to find simple ways to encourage learning in conjunction with your normal summer plans. You can have your cake and eat it too!


Reading and math are the most crucial areas to keep sharp in. Let’s dive into ways you can include each in your summer learning plan:


Reading:

Reading is a much more complex skill than people think. It is not just decoding words. The ability to sit and read for extended periods is a skill that has to build gradually. Children can't just sit down and read for hours without practice. Over the summer students not only lose the ability to decode words, but also their ability to sit and read for extended periods. Here’s what you can do:

  • Get audiobooks you can play on car trips

  • Grab some graphic novels to encourage easy reading experiences - they work the same as traditional books when it comes to reading skills and kids tend to find them more fun and entertaining

  • Read to them! Even if they are capable of reading themselves. Getting involved helps spark the interest and keeps them moving forward in the book.

  • Introduce a series. These are becoming more and more popular and are a great way to build a habit of reading. Kids get invested in the characters and can’t wait to learn what happens next.


Math:

Some of this is staying in practice to avoid pain later. Students don't want to go through memorizing math facts again that they already memorized in the previous year. My best tip is to set a scheduled time for this to happen. Right after breakfast seems to work well - get them to sit and do it before they get distracted by anything else! Try these methods:

  • Have them play online math games

  • Try “everyday” math like measuring things for recipes, calculating tip, or adding things around the house

  • Try math-based board games

  • Get a practice workbook

The bottom line? Learning shouldn’t be relegated to the school year. Ideally, you’d foster a love of learning throughout the entire year and hopefully, throughout your child’s life. It can be adjustment at first, but in the end it can have a huge impact on your student’s academic success. Plus, your future self will thank you!


Need some help working learning into your summer? Grab our free & low cost resource list here. And if you're looking for something more hands-on, we offer a special summer program that works around your schedule. Check out the details and book a complimentary assessment to see if it’s a fit.


Sources:

US schools prepare summer of learning to help kids catch up - AP News

The Case for Summer Learning - American College of Education



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