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June has finally arrived.

June has finally arrived.That (hopefully) means a time of rest and relaxation, time for the family to gather together, time for bonding, time outside.  I don’t know how things are in your family, but my children have been waiting for summer vacation since before Thanksgiving.  Don’t get me wrong, many children love school, but there is something special about the (seemingly endless) stretch of days that carry us from June to August.  Right now, that first day of school seems so far off — no more school, no more books, no more. . .  you get the idea.

This leads us to a pressing question:  for the past nine months, students have had a job learning.  What can families do so that they can look back and know that their summer was time well spent, and that their children are ready to return to school rested, refreshed, and reset?

Battle the Summer Slide:
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
(Proverbs 22:6)

My daughters are in school and they love to learn; there is something wonderful about the curiosity that children have and their drive to find answers.  The teachers have worked hard, and done a wonderful job with my girls, and I want to send them back to school in September just as excited and prepared as when they came home in May.  Somehow I must help them avoid the dreaded “summer slide.” The summer slide is a term that teachers use to describe the change in students from the end of one academic year to the beginning of the next year — “the tendency of students to lose some of the achievement gains from the previous year” (Colorado State Library). In other words, students tend to lose skills and information that they do not regularly use.  Mathematical computation speed and accuracy drops, reading comprehension stagnates, and incidental knowledge learned slowly dissipates during the dog days of summer.  So what can we do? Here are some suggestions from Scholastic:

1.  Set a family reading goal — Set a number of books that you would like to read as a family.  You can ask teachers or your local librarian for suggestions on what to read. (Librarians have a knack for picking books for resistant readers.)

2.  Read every day — Set aside time each day to turn off the TV, set aside the phones and video game controllers, and just read.

3. Read aloud — Children, teens, and adults tend to enjoy being read to.  Listening to a story, whether read by a family member or played on audiobook, helps to improve listening comprehension.

4. Practice math skills — How many cups are in a gallon? What is 20% of 163? How do you divide fractions? Investing time in developing Number Sense (knowing what numbers mean, how to use them, and how to use mental math) helps students of all ages.  Spend time practicing with your child. Keeping skills sharp will save difficulty later.

Mini Vacations and “We Time”
“Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.” (Psalm 127:3)

My girls can’t get enough of The Works.  My youngest will spend hours dressing up like a firefighter, while the oldest runs the play store.  During their spring break, not a day went by that they didn’t ask to go back — it’s certainly on our Mini Vacation list. Vacations do not have to be huge, week-long events.  In Licking County, we are blessed with a plethora of wonderful resources within driving distance.  Exploring Blackhand Gorge, walking through the paths of Flint Ridge in search of arrow heads, visiting Dawes Arboretum, going fishing, watching a local baseball game, or just heading to the local park for some time on the playground can be as meaningful and as adventurous as a trip to the beach or across the globe.

In my house, it all starts with words: “Daddy, let’s have a tea party.” Suddenly there we are, sitting on the floor sipping imaginary tea from plastic cups and making small talk with the royal court.  “Daddy, let’s go outside.” Now we are running in the grass in an endless game of chase, swinging on swings, climbing, jumping, running, sliding.  “Daddy, will you read me a story?” Now we are reading the story of David and Goliath, or Cinderella and her step-mother, or about dinosaurs.  It is very easy for me to find work to do — easy to move on to the next task, the next email, the next job around the house.  It’s easy for me to stay on the go and forget that my daughters won’t be little forever.  It helps for me to carve out some “We Time,” time for tea parties and living room campouts, time for fort building and flower hunts.  Those are the moments that I cherish, the moments that I remember, and the moments that bind our family together.

I hope that your family has a summer to remember and that the first week of school finds you and yours in good health, in good spirits, and ready to learn.

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