Five Myths About Summer & Learning
Myth 1: Kids need the summer off to recharge.
While the school year can be tiring and mentally demanding, kids actually thrive within the structured framework that the school year provides. A break from the school-year routine can be invigorating for a short period of time, but a too-long break rarely helps students feel recharged; rather, it leads to boredom and academic malaise.
Without replacing the school day structure with summer camps or other regular day programs, children can become disengaged from not only their routines, but also from learning. Video games, texting, movies, and lounging by the pool are fun, but eventually relaxation and downtime become boring too. And boredom is rarely a pre-cursor to a willingness to jump back into learning.
Providing mentally stimulating summer activities that are reliable and routine is the best way to avoid summer boredom and keep kids charged up and ready to take on a new school year.
Myth 2: If summer was not intended to be a break, school wouldn’t shut down.
The most common school year as we know it—from September to June—exists because of two main historic reasons: At the turn of the last century, agricultural societies required children to help out with farming chores during busy growing seasons and, in cities, schools were unbearably hot during summer and made teaching and learning in poorly-ventilated buildings a health hazard. The current 180-day school calendar is still in place, even if the reasons for it are no longer valid.
In fact, many school boards have made the move to year-round schooling, offering several shorter break periods throughout the year, rather than one long one in the summer.
School boards don’t intend summer to be a “break” for students—policy makers are simply continuing to follow a system that has been in place for many years, and, coincidentally, one that has come to be beneficial to cash-strapped school boards.
Read more about the history of the school year.
Myth 3: Summer isn’t part of the school year.
Summer is just as important to a student’s overall learning experience as what is learned from September to June. In terms of the brain, learning runs 24-7, all year round.
The time away from school is a very important opportunity for many students to fill in learning gaps, make sense of material learning during the school year, and improve/develop important learning skills such as reading comprehension and organization. It’s the time to get extra help that there may not be chance to get while school is in session. It’s the chance to experience in-class lessons first hand. And, it’s the only chance that students have to adequately prepare for the year ahead.
It’s time to stop thinking about the school year as September to June: there is no final bell on a student’s education.
Myth 4: Summer school is for students who get bad grades.
While summer school may have at one time been reserved for those students needing extra help, that is no longer the case. From Calgary to Chicago, reports are showing that summer school attendance is on the rise, and it’s not because students are performing poorly throughout the school year. Students looking to get ahead, to tackle extra credits, and get a competitive advantage by signing themselves up for summer school.
New Trend Alert! With education becoming increasingly competitive, and increasingly global, summer is the perfect time for students to pull ahead. Without having to balance the workload of the regular school year, students can make impressive academic gains and reduce school- year stress. Summer school as an enrichment opportunity has been gaining ground for students looking for a competitive edge.
Myth 5: Summer will make students refreshed and ready to learn in the fall.
This is the scariest myth about summer learning. After a summer spent relaxing, students may feel refreshed, but they are far from ready to learn. Research into summer learning has shown that after taking a two-month break, students have lost approximately 20-30 % of their academic learning momentum: they’ve gone backward in terms of learning. These studies also show that teachers typically spend up to six weeks re-teaching last year’s material. Students aren’t ready to learn after a summer off: they’ve lost their learning momentum after two months of video games and relaxing at the beach.
The summer slide, the brain drain, or summer learning losses—whatever you call it, it can be easily prevented. A few hours a week of active academic learning keeps the brain sharp, so that when falls rolls around, students are ready to learn and take on the challenges of a new school year.