Avoiding the Summer Slide
It’s summer! Time to connect with family and friends, go on adventures, explore new places, and rejuvenate. But some Montessori parents are concerned that the relaxed schedule of summer months can negatively affect their child’s education. Children are susceptible to the so-called “summer slide” (also known as “summer learning loss” or “summer brain drain”), the idea that an extended period of time away from a formal learning environment results in students regressing in skills and forgetting lessons learned throughout the school year. Not to worry! Your child is equipped with Montessori values to counteract the summer slide phenomenon.
Warm weather calls all of us to spend time outside. Traditional schools generally treat outdoor time as a break from lessons, promoting the attitude that going outside for recess is fun, while structured classroom time is not. Montessori students are more apt to view the outdoor environment as an extension of the classroom. They find pleasure and satisfaction in exploring and discovering, no matter the setting, because they are encouraged to follow natural curiosities. Montessori teachers guide them towards objectives, but students take an active role in lessons and are intrinsically motivated to view every situation as a chance to learn more. Going outside doesn’t mean learning time ends; it means building on indoor lessons through sensorial experiences with the natural world. They can develop practical skills and gain academic knowledge wherever they go this summer!
But how do you support your child’s emotional, physical, social, and cognitive development during those less-structured summer months? A prepared environment encourages the order, independence, and self-motivation fundamental to the Montessori child’s growth and development. To foster calm and order, designate play and work areas and organize storage in your home (try to mimic the carefully designed Montessori classroom). Caring for themselves and their surroundings in a manner similar to what they experienced at school encourages your child to treat your home with the same respect and courtesy they learned in the space they shared with other students. Watering plants, performing daily clean-up chores, and tending to pets reinforces their sense of personal responsibility and allows your child to view the home as an experiential learning space.
Mathematical knowledge is the most likely to fade or be forgotten during the summer because children generally do not spontaneously practice math skills over the course of their day. No need to break out the worksheets! Incorporate numbers in everyday activities and prompt your child to think about how math concepts connect to our world. When preparing meals together, give your child the task of tracking cooking times. Make a favorite recipe, but double or halve it; ask your child to calculate the changes and measure the ingredients. Combine development of problem-solving skills and math skills by playing card games, putting together jigsaw puzzles, or setting up board games that involve numbers, dice, or quick calculations. Introduce money management concepts like sticking to a budget on your trip to the grocery store or making change after a purchase.
Help your child retain their level of literacy by setting up regular reading time. Chapter books, graphic novels, audio books, magazines – it all counts! Many libraries, bookstores, and youth centers offer a summer reading program your child can join. Plans vary, but most programs involve setting a goal (total number of books or amount of time spent reading), maintaining a book log, and sharing thoughts about each title read. Tracking progress towards a personal goal and celebrating milestones is a fun way to encourage your child to read more this summer. They may even win prizes like free books! Alternatively, you can set up a family book club! Schedule an afternoon every week when you read a book aloud together or spend an hour quietly reading your own materials. Then at dinner, dedicate time to discussing what everyone read.
Host a themed reading group or play date with other students or friends in your neighborhood. Give your child opportunities to nurture the friendships they formed over the school year. Interacting, collaborating, and exploring a new hobby with peers grows your child’s social skills and supports their emotional intelligence.
Whether they are engaged in group activities or independent play, pay attention to what piques your child’s interest, and ask open-ended questions to encourage their curiosity. Visit art museums, historical landmarks, aquariums, and zoos, especially ones that encourage hands-on learning. Go on nature walks, identify the plants, insects, and animals you encounter, and learn about the local ecosystem. Go camping and stargaze. Explore the summer camps offered in your area. Traditional camps provide a variety of activities, but many communities also offer programs focused on the arts and performance, sports, travel and exploration, or academics and technology. Your child can meet new friends and develop connections as they experiment, create, and explore subjects they are not exposed to during the school year.
Promote writing skills by creating a commemorative family scrapbook. Your child can contribute small mementos and write out thoughts about their favorite summer memories. If you take a trip, have your child select postcards to fill out and send to family members. Encourage them to keep a journal, write poetry or short stories, or construct their own comic book.
And don’t forget the importance of movement and free play! Summer is a great time to enroll in swimming lessons, dance class, or gymnastics. Additionally, unstructured play time allows children to tend to their physical health while they develop methods of self-regulation, build emotional maturity and self-confidence, and enhance important executive functioning and problem-solving skills.
Spending some time daydreaming by a pool will not undo all the academic progress achieved last year. Summer can offer new experiences and fun events, but a calendar full of planned activities and entertainment is not required for your Montessori child to have fun and keep their minds stimulated. Whether they are spending days at home or exploring unfamiliar ground, they are equipped with the tools to engage with all the wonderful, real-life learning experiences the world has to offer.