Conquering the ‘Summer Learning Slide’ | United Way of Metropolitan Dallas

Conquering the
‘Summer Learning Slide’

two siblings sit side by side using a tablet

The dreaded “summer slide”—when kids traditionally slip into full-time play mode, and learning goes out the window—this year might as well be called the “summer nose-dive.” Coronavirus turned the slip into a free-fall, as both parents and children struggle to regain the momentum lost during the spring and to get ready for the uncertain 2020-21 school year ahead. 

Most experts estimate that the summer slide has grown by as much as four times this year, when we include lost learning in the spring and the closure of summer camps and enrichment programs. This has had a dire impact on education, as well as the tied-in areas of income and health—all the building blocks United Way of Metropolitan Dallas has identified as essential to creating opportunity for all North Texans. 


Real Experiences Can Complement Virtual Learning

As of late July, most North Texas school districts are planning for all-virtual or mostly virtual learning environments this fall as children “go back” to school, which in this case may simply mean going back to regularly scheduled learning times. But that doesn’t have to mean time spent solely in front of a computer or other electronic device. We know the last thing most kids need right now is more time gazing at the blinking cursor.

Happily, research shows that hands-on learning, especially turning everyday activities into genuine educational opportunities (gardening = STEM!) can both make school more fun and help kids better understand concepts.

And as we head into the critical last weeks before the fall term, many parents are seeking resources to give their kids a jumpstart. School districts, too, will likely be working double time (if virtually) to ensure that kids catch up. But they need help, and for the busiest parents, that can include teaching their kids to happily self-pace and navigate through both hands-on and virtual learning.

If you want to get an idea of how much the summer slide may have affected your kids this year, the Texas Education Agency offers a helpful online tool.


Home-Schooling With Home-Doing

Here are some of the best ways our United Way experts recommend for combining everyday activities, and even what might normally be considered chores, into fun learning opportunities for students (with the added benefit that the whole family can join in, from toddlers to grandparents). 

Gardening: Get out the spade, rake and hoe and learn about earth sciences, whether indoors or out. Make your own color-changing flowers, recycle paper to make seed bombs, make a mini-greenhouse, even try a science experiment about what bullying does to plants. Or try a pollinations stimulation activity, or grow delicious cherry tomatoes or berries in an outdoor planter 

We Are Teachers: 18 Clever Ways to Bring Gardening Into the Classroom
Life Lab—Our Garden Classroom 

Cooking: Now that you’ve grown dinner (or at least the decorations for dinner), cook it for more lessons in math and science—fractions, liquids vs. solids, the impact of heat and cold on food. Hey, that’s CHEMISTRY (just mention it under your breath to the kids). Your kids will build basic skills, learn to appreciate an adventurous palate, explore their senses and boost their confidence. Little chefs’ hats would probably be a big hit as a “you did great” treat.  

KidsHealth: Cooking With Preschoolers
Healthy Little Foodies: The Benefits of Cooking With Kids. 

Laundry & Cleaning: Tomato sauce. Vanilla. Sugar. And the dreaded laundry demon PROTEIN: peanut butter, eggs, meat. You’ve cooked, and now you and the kids must clean up. Laundry can teach everything from the most basic skills—sorting whites, light colored clothing and dark colored clothing—to more. Use clean-up time to teach about the safety hazards of various chemicals (no mixing ammonia with anything else, no bleach on dark colors), safety principles and more. Make a game of making the beds—toddlers can count stuffed animals and patrol the hospital sheets, while teens can create algorithms of how long we could go without washing sheets, based on our current supply.  

The Spruce: Cleaning Skills to Teach Your Children
We Can Access: Learning & Laundry
We Can Access: Learning & Laundry, Part 2 

Dancing it Off: Now go burn off those calories and energy! The Terrance M.  Johnson Dance Project hosts community dance classes for ages 1-whatever, no previous dance experience required, through Facebook Live. Check TMJ’s Facebook page for times and dates. Dozens of other local arts groups are offering online camps and more to spur your kids’ creativity this summer. Just Google “North Texas youth arts groups” for a wide range of suggestions. 


More Online Learning Resources

Here are some additional amazing resources our experts put together for parents who are struggling to make summer (and potentially fall) learning engaging, fun and enriching for all involved. 

  • How to Keep Your Kids’ Minds Active and Engaged at Home: This includes distance learning tips and tricks, educational resources and activities, reading programs, STEM games and activities, virtual field trips and tours, exercise and physical activities, emotional support, and a bevy of ways to have fun without technology.
  • A psychologist at New York University recommends maintaining a loosely structured schedule through the summer to ensure kids can transition well to e-learning in the fall. School’s Out: A Parent’s Guide for Meeting the Challenge During the COVID-19 Pandemic 
  • Ways to keep your child physically active during quarantine. Move More at Home: 10 Ways to Keep Your Kids Active, including GoNoodle and Cosmic Yoga! Among several others.
  • Varsity Tutors free virtual summer camps, an incredible resource for grades K-12. They currently offer bootcamps for math and reading. One of our staff members uses this resource weekly and says it’s awesome. Varsity Tutors
  • PBS Learning Media provides free lessons for kids that are aligned with educational standards in social studies, English language arts, science, the arts, mathematics and more, from preschool forward.
  • One way to switch up watching a screen is to have your kids listen to podcasts and audio books. This helps develop different areas of the brain and requires concentrated attention for following along. Perhaps reward your kids for finishing an audiobook by letting them watch the corresponding movie as family movie night (i.e., “Harry Potter,” the “Lord of the Rings” for the young’uns, films such as “A Tale of Two Cities” or “The Scarlet Letter” for older kids). Audio books are free through public libraries (check your local branch for details on how to participate). Also, free children’s podcasts abound. Here are a few (some charge monthly fees, but most offer free trials to check out their services):
  • The Free Reading Program, an international literacy program of Education & Community Learning Center.
  • Reading Rockets, a list of free literacy apps parents can download on phones and tablets.


It’s Virtually Up to You

Many of these United Way of Metropolitan Dallas partners have transitioned to all or mostly virtual learning and activities this summer. Check with them for what’s available for your little ones, tweens and teens.

  • Dallas City of Learning: A citywide initiative offering free or low-cost programs that aim to stem summer learning loss. Activities include virtual field trips, acting workshops, “design and make” sessions and more. 
  • Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas: Focuses on the development of the whole girl, so that she values herself, takes risks, and discovers and develops her interests, growing up to be healthy, educated and independent. 
  • Boys & Girls Clubs Collin County, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas: Their mission is to ensure that all young people, especially those who need us most, reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. 
  • All Stars Project: Bringing development and opportunity to youth in West and South Dallas, who are otherwise left out of the city’s current of wave of growth. 
  • Out Teach: Empowers teachers to deliver blended and remote learning.
  • After-School All Stars: Building brighter futures through academic tutoring, hands-on STEAM learning and healthy living activities.
  • Beacon Hill Preparatory Institute: Providing holistic child development through academic, cultural and life-skill programs with active parental involvement.

So many issues can affect schoolchildren and their ability to learn and retain knowledge, from parents’ income/employment stability to boredom to mental health. Here’re some resources United Way has pulled together to help you in various areas during the coronavirus pandemic: 

This article was published on: Jul 27, 2020