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How to stop the summer brain drain

Posted on 04 July 2018

Does the idea of making your children do schoolwork over the holidays fill you with dread or do you see it as an opportunity to hone in on any learning gaps?

For many, school work and tutoring over the summer can sometimes seem like an unpleasant experience for both you and your children. Yet, as with most parenting moments, there surely is a compromise that can keep children’s brains active through those summer weeks, whilst letting them enjoy the break from timetabled learning.

Tutor, Vivienne Stiles, claims that the summer months are the perfect time to target knowledge gaps and suggests 15-90 minutes of maths and English each day. On the flip side of that, author of The Idle Parent, Tom Hodgkinson, believes that children should be let alone in the summer to roam as freely as possible and learn self-sufficiency.

So, is there a halfway point?

For starters, not all learning has to be regimented and structured. Encouraging your children to get involved in a local summer reading challenge at the library is enough to get the holiday reading underway. Packed with weekly goals, stickers and games, Summer Reading Challenges are available across all UK libraries. As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog on summer activities, finding a reading theme and carrying it throughout various activities is a great way to learn on the go.

For more specific key stage support, the BBC offers a huge range of learning materials on their website linked to the range of ages in school. It’s a great place to start chatting to your child about what will be coming up in the curriculum of their next school year.

If you feel your child needs something more formal, Bond and CGP offer a range of books on key stage activities. You could even structure these workbooks with a timer – say for 10 minutes – then agree a trip to the park, a family game or film when they’re finished. Consider whether your child would respond well to a reward chart? Goal-setting is a useful skill in itself.

There is a balance here of course. Try not to use the summer holidays to teach big themes or concepts. Not only is there a risk you will miss something that a school might have a strict approach to, you also might put your child off from engaging with you. In other words, leave the algebra for your 6-year old to the experts!

See yourself sitting next to your child to encourage and monitor, not correct. They will soon relax into a summer schedule that involves learning at an appropriate pace and doesn’t feel forced.

For children approaching exams, such as A-levels or 11+ papers, creating a timeline and keeping to it will be the key to a successful exam. Involve them in the planning process as early as possible to help them see the value in scheduling around events such as holidays.

You can also easily work on confidence and emotional skill-building in the summer holidays. Theatre groups are a great way to get your child involved in a summer performance that encourages confidence building. Emotional well-being courses are also offered across many counties and free time before the next term starts is a perfect opportunity to think about this.

As with so many parental decisions, there are various factors that will impact your view. When it comes to working with your child to prepare them for their education, if balanced properly, it can be a worthwhile and enjoyable exercise.

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