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Summer  provides a terrific opportunity to help your child master the school skills she needs more practice in… or an opportunity to forget everything she knows right now. But how can you make sure she gets stronger over the summer? How can you avoid the “summer slide”?

First, all children need to stay engaged in learning over the summer months, whether they are doing just fine in school or not. Children’s brains are still developing and 10 weeks of no-learning puts the brakes on brain development in areas needed for school success. The rustiness teachers complain that  students struggle with in the fall is real: old brain connections that have lain unused over the summer take time to revive themselves when school starts again. Keep your children’s brain connections nimble by incorporating challenging thinking during everyday summer activities.

Did you know that your membership to has a special section called SUMMER ADVANTAGE specifically to help keep your kids in grades 3-8 from falling behind over the summer. Login to, click on SUMMER ADVANTAGE on the home page. Happy summer learning!

But summer is also a good time to not just keep things warm but to actually help your child make progress in areas that have been a problem in the past. To do that, your child needs a tutor. But that tutor can be you. Here’s what to do.

Get a plan from your child’s teacher. Before school ends, ask your child’s teacher what he needs to learn over the summer. Knowing this will help you decide what to do. If you can’t get a plan from the teacher, ask your child. He will know what he needs help in.

Set daily goals for practice. Daily practice is the most important thing. It’s too easy to let things slide but there’s no way to cram 10 weeks of work into the last two weeks of the summer. So make working on school skills part of the regular routine of every summer day.

Round up practice materials. Every bookstore has workbooks and that’s a good starting point. But also try to locate instructional websites for kids and good books to read. Feel free also to write your own materials, incorporating school skills into a trip to the park, doing science experiments, and playing sports. Math, reading and writing are part of everyday life. Make opportunities to find these in the activities your child does for fun.

Plan a weekly tutoring session. This could be a professional tutor. Or it could be the college student next door or it could even be you. The idea here is that a weekly review session provides some accountability and a chance to notice progress made and progress not-made. It’s a chance to set goals for the next week. If you fill this role yourself, you might find it works best to hold this meeting with your child at the local library – someplace different from home. This makes this session more formal, less open to interruption, and assures that you and she will take the time needed to really review things.

If you decide to hire a professional tutor, be clear about what will be covered. Some tutoring services work to their own agendas and take a long time to start working on the skills your child needs right now. Make certain that while a tutor works on foundational skills your child missed years ago, he or she also works on grade-level skills your child will need when school starts in the fall.

The key here is to not use work on school skills as punishment. Don’t single out your child who struggled in school this year and let your other child who is doing well in school do nothing over the summer. Remember that every child needs to keep thinking over the summer. Make thinking part of every child’s every day.


© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.