As our sunny days lengthen, it’s clear that summer is near! This means a breath of relief for many families with children who face learning difficulties. It signals a much-needed break from hectic early morning routines, nightly homework battles, and tearful moments when the stress of school becomes too much to handle. Ah, summer!
On the other hand, many parents see summer as the opportunity to address learning challenges that seem like too much to tackle amidst school-year activities. They want to immerse their children in intensive summer programs with hopes of easing the problems underlying their school-year struggles. In reality, summertime does matter most for kids with learning differences, and it is important as much for relaxing and recharging as it is for remediation to address core academic weaknesses.
There is no doubt that students with learning differences need time to rest and recover in the summer. They work overtime compared to other students during the school-year, between exerting additional energy to process information each day in the classroom and spending double-time to complete homework in the evenings. Since many of these kids get extra academic support after school, time for extracurricular activities and just plain relaxing is often rare during the school year.
Summer is the ideal time to give children with learning differences a chance to explore their interests in sports, arts, and other extracurricular pursuits, like robotics, music, or visual or performance arts. They also just need time to be themselves without a schedule or agenda during the summer. Allowing them time – whether a couple weeks at a time or several open afternoons each week – to play with friends, be outside, connect with family, and just be kids is so essential. Giving your child the opportunity to be themselves and develop their strengths will build confidence and help them stay positive through challenges they are bound to face in the school year ahead.
While making time to play, recharge, and build confidence in exercising strengths is absolutely essential in the summer, taking time for remediation of learning difficulties is just as crucial. I’ve seen huge benefits for our students from time spent during the summer to make headway in the fundamental skills they struggle with during the school year. In fact, one of our students came back to visit me after his first year in college and reflected that although he did not like having to do educational therapy during the summer, he knew it was a key to his success. It not only helped him to get through high school, it helped him develop the skills that brought him success in his first year of college on his own.
I recommend for parents to take advantage of the extra energy and focus kids have during summer without having to go to school and worry about homework and channel it into a few daily hours of focused learning. When this time comes sandwiched between relaxing at home and fun activities with friends, motivation is high and students even learn better than during the school year!
So, as you are planning for summer, take the following tips into consideration to make the most out of the long summer days:
- Focus on academics without stress, pressure, or grades. Look for one-on-one summer programs that cater to specific student needs, maximize growth with research-based programs, and provide feedback based on individualized goals.
- Limit daily intervention time to 2-4 hours, including independent practice time at home. The benefit of instruction reaches a limit once the child fatigues, and breaks are essential to recharge their focus.
- Depending on how your child recharges, plan for time for relaxation at home, playdates, or outdoor activities before or after learning time.
- Look for ways to integrate learning naturally into family time and travel. Take time to read or listen to audiobooks together. Plan for journaling and light learning activities, like flashcards or educational games on the iPad, during summer trips.
- Praise your child’s effort and emphasize the wins he/she achieves along the way, no matter how small!
Like anything in life, planning and preparation does pay off. Take time now to think about how you can maximize summer as an opportunity for learning and recharging for your child. It is bound to pay off when the time rolls around for school again in the fall.
About the Author:
Megan Cohen Trezza, M.Ed., is the founder of La Jolla LearningWorks, where she helps customize educational therapy programs for students facing learning challenges. Connect with her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LaJollaLearningWorks, or via email at megan@LJLearningWorks.com.