Ahh summer break. Brings joy to the hearts of school children everywhere and terror to the already weary parents who’ve endured a school year of homework supervision, lunch packing, carpooling, classroom parenting, reading prompting, field trip volunteering, awards ceremony attendance and now have their precious littles all day every day for 10 weeks and counting…
But the reality is that students lose 20-50% of what they learn in the previous school year over the summer. Isn’t that incredible? And when you add on that in this day and age that the last 3-4 months of most school year’s anymore are teaching to standardized tests I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t more than that. So maybe we want the summer to be more productive? Maybe we want to keep some momentum through to the next school year? But maybe we don’t want to go crazy in the process?
The idea of “teaching” your own children is probably daunting for most parents. The idea of “teaching” your own children over the summer probably doesn’t sound like much fun. If you’re a parent of a RAD child, the idea of combining those two probably sounds like the worst idea imaginable! I don’t blame you. When my boys were little, and before some of the ideas I will share in this post, I got workbooks and all sorts of tools to keep them learning through the summer. And getting August to do a few workbook pages and spend half an hour reading every day was like asking him to pull out his own fingernails. He would do almost anything rather than schoolwork. He would do chores, that’s how much he hated it!
So the key is to find ways to make learning happen while “hiding” it in plain sight. Luckily, the technology world is here to the rescue! The following is a list of some of the best ways to get your kids, RAD or not, to do some learning over the summer and head back to school without missing a beat!
Freerice.com If you only find one place to go this summer, this is it. This site has question to answer on language, geography, humanities, science and math. You can select the difficulty. But here’s the best part: for every correct question, the sponsors donate 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme. You can watch the bowl fill up and see your progress. You can work as a team! My boys loved this one!
playkidsgames.com This site was developed by parents for children in grades 1-8 to enhance learning in math and reading. The games are fun and interactive. You can set up an account and your children can pick the games they want to play.
While websites are certainly easy and most children would love to spend the day on a computer or a phone, that’s of course not the best way to spend the summer! Here are some other creative ways to get your children to learn without them even knowing!
Let your children pay for groceries or other items during shopping trips. Give them a few dollars and a small list and let them figure out if they have enough money.
When driving, let your children practice reading by asking them to look for street signs to help navigate.
Do multiplication with spaghetti or sticks in the yard. Go pick 3×5 sticks; show me 3×2 pieces of macaroni.
Have your child write a dinner menu
Open ended questions are great for building vocabulary. I am happiest when… My favorite TV show is…because… When I feel angry I… A trip I’d like to take is… This is especially helpful with RAD children to get them talking!
Have your child retell a movie you go to see from beginning to end over dinner
There are lots of ways to incorporate learning into the summer that won’t drive you OR your child crazy! I will share more tips and tricks over the next few weeks every Tuesday so stay tuned for more fun ideas!
Homework isn’t necessary in elementary school. Denise Pope, Ph.D. says there really isn’t a correlation between homework and achievement at this age. Kids at this age need free time for play and collaboration and READING. Over-scheduling a child in these years with homework and activities will turn them off to learning but letting them free select will increase their ability to innovate and use their brain.
So what is the point of homework? It does teach students to learn independently and quite honestly it’s what’s expected by parents. It is an important link between parents and the school to see what their children are working on. But that is contingent on the parents actually looking at the work. Again, being involved is the key!
Decide what’s appropriate. None is the answer for kindergarten. After that 10 minutes per grade level is generally the rule. But it doesn’t meaning filling out yet another worksheet. It can be reading a book with you or drawing a picture. It teaches focus and independent study and by the time they do have actual homework in middle and high school they are used to sitting for a longer period of time.
Because middle and high school are more challenging. There is a correlation here between homework and achievement but it fades after 90 minutes for middle school and two hours for high school. After 3 1/2 hours there are negative effects. It can lead to anxiety, depression and stress. Add to the problem of classrooms that spend too much time on testing instead of instruction and over-scheduled kids and it’s all bad.
What’s the resolution? Maybe little. Here are some ideas:
Look at the 24-hour day and set the priorities for sleep and school and other activities. If there isn’t enough time for homework, a conversation needs to happen.
Make a contract that determines when homework happens (right after school, right after dinner, etc.) and sign it. When everyone agrees, the arguing tends to stop.
Brainstorm with the teachers; explain your child’s unique situation and see if there’s a solution that works better with your child’s learning style. Maybe a packet once a month will work better than every day or week. It will allow you to be flexible when your child may have better days or back off when it’s not such a good time.
Don’t help! As much as you may want to bail your child out, as they get older, they do need to learn how to learn. If they can’t finish, write a note and explain, don’t finish the work. Let the teacher know there’s an issue.
I spent a lot of time when August was in school doing battle over homework. We would arrive at home after school and he would bolt out of the car before I would get it in park because he didn’t want to do homework. He would run away for hours. He knew what was coming. It was an almost daily battle. Sometimes I could get him to work but when the anxiety would grow he’d say, “Mom, I need to run around the house.” And he would quite literally, RUN AROUND THE OUTSIDE OF THE HOUSE. He’d come in and be a different child. And we’d get the work done. The key is being flexible. And communicate with the teachers so they know you-and your child-are doing the best you can. And give yourself a break!
Till next time,
A substitute teacher was a problem because it got all the students keyed up and that teacher didn’t know about August’s special needs. We created an outlet for August to be able to go to the office on days when there was a sub and the class was being loud and he felt he couldn’t keep it together.
Being able to run and expend energy was a stress reliever for August. In 4th grade he was in a trailer due to the school being over-crowded. This allowed for a gift of his being able to “go to the bathroom” while getting outside and running round for a bit in sight of the teacher when he was feeling overwhelmed because of the logistics of being in the trailer.
I discussed with the principal about the importance of the teacher match with August and how wonderful 4th grade had been for him and the entire 4th grade staff looped up to 5th grade which gave August the same teacher two years in a row!
In middle school he was given a “hot pass” which was a red laminated card which he could put on his desk any time he was feeling overwhelmed. As soon as the teacher saw that August was excused from the room to the office no questions asked.
These are just a few of the ideas we worked out to manage August’s behaviors while trying to keep the classroom structure and help the teacher stay sane!
For some other tips, I found this very helpful article here.
Please share your stories and ideas on what has worked (or not!) with your child in school. As a community we all benefit from everyone’s successes and challenges.
Till next time,
Wouldn’t this be wonderful?
For RAD kids, school can be a series of landmines. And teachers can set those mines without even realizing it and certainly without intending to. When August started in school I couldn’t get him and IEP for RAD; I had to get him one for ADHD under the “other health impaired” category. His learning issues didn’t show up on any tests. Yet his behaviors were classic RAD behaviors. It wasn’t until second grade that we found a therapist who gave us a proper diagnosis and fourth grade that we found a school who heard me and I started to find my voice for my son.
Below is a letter developed by Nancy Thomas who is one of the most widely recognized therapists in the field of attachment disorder. I purposely do not advocate for any particular treatment on this site as I believe it is up to the parents and the family to decide what is going to be the best for their child and their needs. But this letter does lay out exactly what a teacher can expect from a child and how to respond and how to interact with a child and their family to hopefully get the best outcomes.
Going forward, we will talk about more specific issues. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments, share your stories and sign up by email if you’d like to receive these posts directly to your inbox!
Till next time,