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.
“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.