How We Tackle Summer Learning Loss (No Workbooks Required)

This year, our elementary school offered families the opportunity to purchase workbooks intended to help prevent summer learning loss. The books were available from the same company that manufactures their regular school-year workbooks, so they would be consistent with the concepts the kids learned over the course of the year.

I didn't buy them.

I WON'T buy them.

Here's why. 

First of all, work books are boring (sorry, not sorry). Yes, they can be effective learning tools. Yes, they help kids practice concepts. But, let's be honest, there aren't too many people (child OR adult) who can truly, honestly say they ENJOY doing exercises in a workbook. Doing the same problems and answering the same questions over and over (and over) again isn't something I want to spend my own time doing, and I can't imagine that my kids really want to either.

Second, our kids spend SO MUCH time working during the school year. Not only is our school year long, but so are our days. Our kids are there for 6 1/2 hours during the day, and then they typically have homework every single evening- beginning in Kindergarten. On top of that, we have sports, extra-curricular activities (kids need to be well-rounded, you know), chores (have to teach them to be responsible!), AND we need to get enough sleep (kids should get between 10 and 12 hours of sleep per night to stay healthy). Don't get me wrong, ALL of these things are important. But even though we try to stick to one week-night activity per child, it can still be a lot, especially with a high-schooler. By the time the school year is over, we are ALL tired of being over-worked and over-scheduled, and we really just need the down time. Time to be together, time to relax, time to get outside and play.

Quite honestly, I am just tired of homework. I can't say it any other way. I don't remember having homework in Kindergarten- but my kids sure do. I don't remember having nearly as much homework as my kids do now when I was younger. And I certainly don't remember struggling so much to get it all finished. So, thanks, but no thanks on the summer busy work over here.

With all of that said, I still understand that summer learning loss is a real thing. And that practicing over the summer will help my kids be ready to jump in when school starts again in the fall. So. What do we do to prevent summer learning loss?

1. Read everyday. To quote my four-year-old, "Books make you smart." MY kids spend time reading at some point every day. Sometimes they read independently, sometimes they read to me, and sometimes I read to them.

2. Join a summer reading program. Most local libraries have summer reading programs that offer kids of all ages (and even adults!) incentives to read. Sometimes businesses offer them as well. These are fun for everyone, but especially helpful in encouraging kids who maybe don't enjoy reading as much as other things. Check out these four summer reading programs:

Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Program for Grades 1-6: Any child entering grades 1-6 who reads at least 8 books over the summer can earn a free book. Just print the reading journal, have your kids track their books (they're supposed to write down the title and their favorite part of each book), and take it to a local B&N store when it's complete. They'll each get to pick a free book from a list of selected titles.

Half-Price Books Feed Your Brain: Kids 14 & under who read for 300 minutes or more in June & July can redeem their reading log for Bookworm Bucks in August. Teens 15 & up can choose from a list of selected titles, read & write a short review which can be submitted online.

Chuck E. Cheese Reading Rewards: Download and print a Reading Rewards Calendar (or any of the other rewards calendars) and have your child track their reading every day for two weeks. Redeem at your local Chuck E. Cheese for 10 points/tokens. Be sure to check ahead of time and make sure your local restaurant participates. Also, note that, while each child can redeem up to one calendar per day, a food purchase is required.

Six Flags Read to Succeed: Any child enrolled in grades K-6 in a traditional or homeschool who completes 6 hours of non school-related reading is eligible for free admission to a Six Flags theme park. Create an online account to view rules & eligibility and track your child's reading.

You can search online for other local businesses that may offer reading programs (think movie theaters, restaurants, or other kid-friendly businesses), or create your own!

3. Play games. Board and card games are great for practicing everything from color recognition (hello, Candy Land!) to counting on to addition, subtraction, and money skills (Monopoly JR, anyone?!). Play Go Fish with regular playing cards to practice number recognition or print a couple copies of these sight word cards on cardstock and play with them instead. Or use the sight word cards to play Memory. Or play regular Memory. Or write math sentences on some cards and the answers on others and play a matching game that way. The possibilities are pretty limitless.

4. Cook & bake together. Cooking combines a lot of concepts. Reading a recipe, obviously. Following directions. Math skills like measuring, adding, and multiplying- especially if, like in our family, you have to double most recipes to make enough.

5. Get your kids involved with grocery shopping. Which, of course, goes right along with cooking together. Help your child make a list of the necessary ingredients and give them some money. Help them locate them items in the store, compare prices and buy their items while staying within their set budget.

6. Have a sale (or go to one). Lemonade stands, garage sales, etc., are great, low-cost opportunities for kids to learn about math and social studies concepts such as money, cost and profit, supply and demand, and more. They can purchase supplies (or determine which items they'd like to sell), set their costs, figure out their profit, add & subtract, and make change. Don't want to have a sale? Go to one instead. Find a local community garage sale, or even a dollar store and give your kids a small budget (maybe $5-$10). They can choose items they want to buy, learn about budgeting for items they truly want vs. making impulse buys, and calculate the amount of money they will have left once they've made a purchase. Help them figure out how much change they should get back from their purcahse before buying so that they can make sure they get the right amount. And if you go to a dollar store, don't forget to talk about sales tax!

7. Write! Give your child a journal to write and/or draw pictures in. Ask them to draw a picture and write a short story about it. Write & mail letters to friends, family, or even teachers, even if they live nearby (who doesn't love to get mail?!). Or, find a pen pal (check out Mr. Boddington's Studio for some cute stationary & try joining the Secret Society of Letter Writers). For littles, practice drawing pictures to help tell stories, name writing, sight words, and made-up spelling. Let older kids practice using a dictionary to look up words if they are unsure of spelling and talk about the difference between a friendly letter and a business letter.


Keep in mind that the best way to keep kids practicing is to make it fun! Getting them involved in things they enjoy that promote learning concepts will keep their brains engaged all summer long.