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Summer Classes

How to survive summer learning and enrichment programs

Kids see summer as a chance to unwind and catch a break from the classroom. If they’re signed up for summer classes, though, it can be hard to stay focused when they’re forced to hit the books instead of the beach.

Summer Learning Strategies by Grade

Even if your kids don’t attend a formal summer-learning program, here’s how to make sure they don’t fall prey to the dreaded summer slump. For great summer reading recommendations for all ages, click here

PreK–Kindergarten: Pennsylvania-based Team Tutor founder and president Yolanda Coleman says parents should spend the summer regularly reading to their children, as well as practicing letter sounds and the alphabet.

1st–4th grades: This age group can beat summer learning loss by reading at least 10 to 12 books throughout the summer and honing their writing skills by keeping a journal. To stay sharp on math foundations, Coleman recommends playing math-related games. Practicing reading and math skills through online games helps kids get familiar with technology while preparing for the upcoming school year.

5th–8th grades: Middle schoolers should read challenging material daily over the summer and practice basic math skills, says Huntington Learning Center's Benjamin. Practice sessions don’t need to be lengthy, but you should decide how often to go over the material based on your child’s knowledge of the subject.

High schoolers: Despite the upcoming changes to the SAT, Benjamin says the exam will still test the same critical reading and math concepts that high school students need to know. Reacquainting students with foundational aspects of math, like multiplication and division, will be especially vital for the updated test, as some sections will forbid the use of a calculator.

“Kids should have free time during vacation — they should relax and go swimming,” says Darryl Benjamin, director at Abington, PA's at Abington, PA’s Huntington Learning Center. “But it’s a competitive world, and summer is an opportunity for them to start the next school year above where they ended.”

Indeed, summer courses can be either remedial or enriching, a way of retaking a class to get a better grade, diving into a new course to earn extra credits, introducing yourself to a new subject or getting ready for the SAT or ACT. They’re offered through school districts, online and at private-school academic camps, test-prep centers and tutoring facilities. No matter the why or where, summer classes tend to be designed to weave as seamlessly as possible into the fabric of summer fun.

Keep to a summer learning schedule

Concentration on academics is especially essential for students who are retaking a class they didn’t do so well in during the school year. To maximize success in a course, Burton Watson, director of school and district services at Wilmington, DE’s Red Clay Consolidated School District, offers simple advice:

“Just like during the regular school year, kids need to get to bed early and eat breakfast before school, so they can come and just focus on work,” he says. “A lot of times during the summer, kids want to stay up a little longer, but summer school still starts at the same time as a regular day, so if they stay up, they’ll be too tired to concentrate.”

Many remedial summer programs, including Red Clay’s, differ from the traditional classroom model in that students complete individualized coursework based on specific areas of the subject in which they need to improve. This structure means kids can work outside of school, and the more hours they put in toward successful mastery of the material, the sooner they’ll have free time.

Next page: Summer learning gives a leg up.

 

Summer classes explore interests

Kathryn Cook, director of summer programs at Moorestown Friends School in Moorestown, NJ, points to summer enrichment as an ideal way for middle and high schoolers to explore potential career paths in a concentrated manner.

“This is a time when kids can investigate a topic they think they’re interested in but haven’t been able to delve into because of the pressures of school, sports and all the other things going on in their lives,” Cook says. At MFS, whose summer programs (pictured at right) span from preK to 9th grade, Senior Scholars (7th to 9th graders) immerse themselves in topics like filmmaking, journalism and engineering. Though the program lasts a full day, it’s only a week long, barely making a dent in traditional summer downtime.

Summer classes help future learning

High schoolers at MFS can also earn credits over the break to pass out of a class or one level of a course, freeing up their future schedule for more advanced work. And although some rising juniors and seniors may be tempted to put off thinking about college until the start of the school year, signing up for summer preparatory classes is another way to give them more time to devote to rigorous study in the fall.

“Doing college-prep courses in the summer allows students to take the classes they want during the school year while still getting the preparation they want,” says Sean Sweeney, Summer Academy coordinator at NJ’s Haddonfield School District. The Haddonfield program offers one- to two-week classes on SAT prep for English and math as well as college-essay writing for grades 11 and 12; courses that are more recreational in nature are available for younger students.

No summer slump

Cook emphasizes the role summer school plays in ensuring that students retain what they learn and encourages parents to talk with their kids about what they accomplish each day. “When students communicate what they’re learning, it’s another way to keep the brain engaged,” she says. 

Sweeney agrees that summer school is academically beneficial and reminds parents that, no matter how heavy or light a child’s summer course load is, kids need plenty of opportunities to relax and recharge in order to remain focused. With this two-pronged approach in mind, you’ll help them enjoy summer while they get a positive start on the upcoming school year.

Cheyenne Shaffer is a MetroKids intern and recent journalism graduate of Temple University.

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