Tips & Tricks to help children with maintaining learned skills from the school year  when it's summer?   

 For many students, maintaining learned skills from one school year to the next can be a bit of a challenge.  For some students with special needs, this challenge may be significantly magnified.  Although there may be summer programs for some students with disabilities, programs are not available for all, and parents are left holding the bag, so to speak.  Summer is a good time to get caught up on weak skills, and maintain newly learned skills.  Now, for those parents that have trouble just getting their kid(s) through homework during the school year, the thought of a daily school work battle in the summertime is daunting.  I’ve included some tips and ideas below for educators and parents, which may be appropriate for all children, regardless of ability.

    Before you get started, there are a few things to remember about “work” in the summer…..nobody wants to do it!  Therefore, you’ll need to make it as painless as possible for everyone involved.  Probably the most important part is to make it part of the daily schedule.  For many of us, summer is a time to relax and rejoice in the lack of a schedule, but if you don’t commit to a making learning part of the day, the time may just slip away from you.  Another important thing would be to keep sessions short and sweet, even if it means coming back later to work on something else.  Try to use the things your child wants to do to naturally reward completion of work in the summer (e.g. “Hey, let’s finish up that last chapter, and then we can have fun at the pool”.)  And finally, the best way to make work painless…try to find ways to make it fun.  This will take some creativity and thought, but it doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming.  Some ideas:

-Create games that involve a motor component.  This gets your child up and moving, and away from the table or desk.  For memorization of things like spelling or math facts, this works great. For example, there’s a little game called “Stair Hopper” for memorization of times tables.  The child would hop on the first step and recite the first fact, then hop on the second step and recite the next fact, and so on.  If an error is made, the child has to hop all the way down and start over.  The challenge is to make it to the top, where a little treat or surprise may be waiting. (This could be as simple as a little note that says, “Free Time”.)   Spelling practice with sidewalk chalk in the driveway can be fun, especially if you get to erase it with the hose when you get 10 words correct….and you accidentally start a water fight.  These are just a couple of examples, and the point is to inject fun into a memorization challenge.

-Tie your vacation plans into practice with skills.  Perhaps you’re going somewhere historical, geologically noteworthy, or just plain fun.  Try to develop some skills practice that ties into your trip.  Whether you want to practice math problems, increase vocabulary, do some reading for comprehension, or develop research skills, tying it to something real and meaningful for your student will help increase motivation.

-Tap into summer movies.  Summer is often a time for some great movie releases.  Find something that sparks your student’s interest and run with that theme.  In a manner similar to tying to your vacation plans, you can use the theme of the movie as the basis for your skills practice.

-Use that screen time.  Although some of us like to keep our kids away from too much “screen time” in the summer, in some houses, it’s inevitably a factor.  Kids have much more free time, and may default to the electronics.  If you have computer software, games, or websites that tap into the skills practice your child needs, this may be a great way to get in some extra exposure.  Again, using what your child wants to do in order to reward the “gotta do” may be helpful here.  (School work first, then XBox, keeping in mind that 15 minutes of math practice does not warrant 3 hours of gaming!)

-Practice skills for independence.  Since summer is often more relaxed, it’s a good time to increase your child’s independence with some skills.  For the younger child, it may be a self-care skill such as fastening fasteners or tying shoes…something we may not take time to teach during the hustle-bustle of a busy school day.  For the older child, summer is a great time to teach skills like doing laundry and cooking simple things, or completing a new chore around the house.  They may grumble, but most kids enjoy knowing that you think they’re ready for increased responsibility.

As always, I just like to toss ideas out there to get some wheels turning and some thoughts flowing.  I invite our readers to please share any tips, ideas, or ways you’ve tried to keep students practicing skills and learning through the good ole summertime.