Summer homework, tutor and follow-up

The school year is ending and you don't want your kid to forget their good work ethic, or maybe, you want them to develop a better one for next year! Should your child spend their summer with pens, papers and piles of books? Sylvie Desmarais gives you advice.

Every spring brings the stage reports, preparation for final exams, field trips and the hope of wonderful family vacations. Yet, this hope can be dampened by bad academic results that jeopardize the school year of a child.

Time of flowers, time of questioning

For some parents, spring rhymes with questioning. Indeed, your child may be one of many who had a hard time following the program throughout the year or, maybe someone just announced that they might have to repeat a year at school and let their friends go.

As you are looking for solutions, you have meetings with the school staff, discussions with family members, friends and coworkers, search the web, worry and most probably have sleepless nights. Opinions and suggested solutions are many and resources are there. But how can you make a decision between a summer camp of golf, computers, scrapbooking, free time or time shared with grandparents and a structured program to recuperate what Junior did not learn in school between September and June?

My childhood memories are filled with games, swimming, reading novels, but above all, putting away all my school materials to make sure that the year was truly over and that many beautiful weeks had to come before buying everything again for the next year (that still came too quickly!). Are today’s children so much different that they don’t need these precious moments? I don’t think so.

Children with special needs

Without suggesting a specific guide of summer action, or to curb your benevolent impulse, I freely express my point of view on summer classes. I have always worked in summer classes and by doing so; I realized that it was good for some students while others would have needed a break.

In my practice, I work with kids with very specific needs, either because they have difficulty with their spoken language or with their written language. But in any case, their academic progress is different and more laborious than others.

Sound the alarm

If I ask parents about the motivations that guide their request for a summer follow-up, I find out that their main desire is to help their child learn in eight weeks what he could not during the whole year. It is believed by many that by doing so, the year will be saved and Junior will graduate to his next school year. I am not against good intentions and in that sense, I accept to give a hand to some of them. In order to consolidate the concepts, I believe that a child who likes his tutor can find some satisfaction and even have a good time. However, we must keep in mind that all learning, whether it is with motor, intellectual or sportive skills, is based on basic abilities on which other abilities rest until the knowledge is consolidated. For some kids, learning is not as easy, every step takes more time and the summer will not be long enough to catch up. If the expectations are realistic, the work done during the holiday can make your child progress but he will only be one step further in his progress, gain a little time but not the long-awaited rescue.

Case by case depending on the age

The young boy who passes from kindergarten to the first grade may have delayed the acquisition of some sounds, or who do not master the prerequisites to go from oral code to written code. Some schools track these children in spring and recommend a summer follow-up that can take place during the 3 or 4 months preceding the learning of writing. For many of these children, the help of a speech therapist is precious and facilitates the arrival in the world of writing.

However, for a child who benefits from help or follow-up during the school year or who spends a lot of evenings and weekends doing homework, the time has come to take a break. These children often show signs of fatigue, clearly verbalize it and need a period during which they will live positive experiences that are not based on academic results. For these children it is often outdoors, physical activity and sports that will make it easier for them to start again in September. Activities less structured listed below can be useful for the little flame that shines in him. Why not discuss with your child’s educators and adapt an appropriate mode of intervention?

Summer can also be beneficial for a student who was not evaluated, for whom concerns were raised and if a follow-up was deemed necessary in the following school year. The evaluation will be made at a moment when he will be more willing, less tired and ready to hear about the reasons of his difficulties. He will also offer him the time necessary to establish a relationship with the person who will help him in the months that follow. Middle school students and teens often need this moment of adaptation.

Have time to intervene with your child

Some parents do not work during the summer and say that, because of it, they are more available for their child. It is indeed a great period to spend time with the kid and it is often helpful for the parent to be guided in activities to prioritize. But, despite your good intentions and the many daily exercise books that you will buy, you will probably realize by the end of the summer that you have only filled a few pages. On the other hand, we will later see that some activities with the family can be used to help your child memorize or practice notions learned in school.

Keeping the precious achievements

You are the one who knows your child best and you know how hard it will be for him to remember the notions learned. With reason, you worry about the fact that he will go back to school not knowing how to count and read anymore. But, of course, it is important to intervene and help him keep these precious notions. There are many ways to learn: try to have fun instead. Textbooks and notebooks will return soon enough!

So what can you do?

If summertime rhymes with holidays, why not take some? Just like we take some time away from work, our child needs to take some time off and to relax his brain before the next year. It doesn’t mean to do nothing. On the contrary, I often encourage fun learning activities based on the child’s academic needs. There are many activities available for all budgets and nearby, whether by foot, subway or car. Here are a few suggestions to help you spend quality time with Junior.

  • Discover your local libraries to borrow books or participate in activities. Do not refrain from borrowing game-books, illustrated albums and comics, why not? All children like books but not all of them like to read. So allow them to take a break and read for themselves: they will discover the model used by an author to build a story, they will learn new and beautiful turns of phrase, new vocabulary and will learn. The timing is perfect to laugh and children need to learn the figurative language: puns, double meanings, riddles and deductions are all domain that allow them to understand abstract texts.
  • Enjoy a day out with the family to learn about your destination on a website. Many even offer a section with information of activities specifically for children or teens. As you arrive, do not hesitate to take plans and documentation and promote your child as guide for the day. That way, he will have to read a few words on the flyer or learn how to read a map or a plan.
  • Keep cans of pop and bottles of beer (it is summer after all) and ask your child to calculate the profits he will make by returning them to the store. For a greener version, take a walk in your area or in a park, with gloves and a bag, and pick up cans and bottles found on the way. There are many options to calculate,: count in steps of five, ten, turn the number in dollars or, if your child is older, make him multiply the number of items by 5. You can also ask him how much he needs to reach a specific amount: it will help him with subtractions.
  • Show him the time and teach him notions of days, weeks and months on the calendar and make him calculate how much time is left before arriving to a specific place.
  • If he practices a sport, do something based on the results of his team and other players. Also look together at the stats of his favorite teams and players. Comparing, adding, subtracting, are all applied mathematics.
  • If you take some pictures, if you enjoy scrapbooking or if you put your pictures on a website, ask your child to act as your secretary and make him write sentences, find better words and check your spelling.
  • By car or when walking, stimulate the aspects that need improvement. He has difficulty reading? Ask everyone in the car to read a bit of a story. He has difficulty understanding texts: buy a story on a CD and ask him to explain what happened in the story every now and then. He has difficulty in mathematics? Play cards, dice and board games…
  • The weather is bad: cook a recipe and double it. Ask him to give you the quantities. Enjoy this moment to explain notions of plus, minus, divided by, multiplied by…

May this summer be fun, filled with happy experiences and moments of laughter shared with your loved ones!

Sylvie Desmarais
Speech therapist

Sylvie Desmarais has been a speech therapist for thirty years and is the mother of two big boys. She always wanted to make her knowledge about language and communication understandable and accessible. Former Université de Montreal teacher, she has given many conferences to parents of young children and she spent much of her career training doctors and early childhood professionals. She strongly believes in the importance of early detection of language disorders, which is why she participated in many activities to raise awareness and stimulate the development of language. For her, it is essential that parents follow the evolution of their children and communicate with them. It is to give them the tools to do so that she wrote the "Language guide for 0-6 years old children" (Guide du langage de 0 à 6 ans) published in 2010 by Éditions Quebecor. 2144, montée Monette Laval, QC, H7M 4T6 514-924-6471

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