The summer break starts next week in most schools, and that is reason for many parents, including myself, to panic about what to do with our kids during the l-o-n-g, hot and dry break.
And here’s bad news from American research to confirm something you’ve probably suspected: There is something called summer slide, which means the loss of some of the achievement skills made during the school year. The decline is greatest in reading and math; in other words, mental skills, a deterioration better captured by the Filipino idiom “nangangalawang ang utak,” or brain rust.
The American study found that summer slide is worse for low-income families, and it explains this using a “faucet theory.” Learning depends on the availability of resources, a faucet so to speak, which is on during the regular school year. For families with more resources, the faucet stays on even during the summer break, but for poorer households, the water supply dribbles, or is even cut off completely.
Metro Manila residents can relate well to this faucet theory, with El Niño upon us. While upper-class families scream bloody murder about low water pressure (“I can’t get a warm bath because my heater needs a strong water supply!”), the poor have it worse with water rationing, or no water at all.
Rich or poor, we can’t let our guard down with this threat of a summer slide. In fact, I’d like to sound the alarm for a possibly greater summer slide among richer households because of tablets (e.g. iPad) and so-called smartphones, which dumb kids down, mentally and socially.
Let me share, then, some tips on how we can fight the rust. Or, if I may be bold, how we might even use the summer to slide up the achievements.
Yes, sign up the kids for summer workshops. I’ve been listing down offerings and have found art, music and dance, theater, sports, cooking, languages, kids’ yoga. But the costs do add up and, no matter what, the kids will still come home and switch on the TV or grab their tablets… and then complain there’s nothing to do.
Here’s my first tip: Be on constant lookout for learning opportunities, especially within the home. Take that from someone homeschooling one of my kids, which requires me to be on “teacher mode” 12/31/24/7, every waking minute of the day, week, month, year.
Capitalize on what your children’s interests are to find the learning opportunities. My son, like so many boys, was fascinated by motorized vehicles even as a baby, so when he was learning the alphabet and numbers, I would have him read vehicle license plates. Later, we moved to reading the brands of cars.
Now a young adolescent, he hates reading but will devour magazines and books on bikes, motorcycles and cars, and when he tells me the year, model and engine of a car passing us by, sometimes including its new and used prices, I know it’s because he’s been reading.
Find ways to get the reading going. Calling my bosses in the Inquirer, but I’m shocked that subdivisions in areas as near as in Laguna can’t arrange for daily newspaper deliveries. Is it a problem of supply or demand?
Find ways to get your kids newspapers and magazines and tap into their interests with cookbooks, pet books, whatever. It will be an uphill battle getting them to read more serious stuff, and you can pass that by during the summer break, but make sure they do get some of the printed word to stimulate the brain.
You can bargain for a minimum time for reading each day, accompanied by negotiations on screen time, meaning TV, phones and tablets. Just keep remembering that screen time is not just useless, but also harmful. I worry in particular about adolescents, who will be picking up on the rants and rage on social media and thinking that’s the normal way of talking with each other.
Stock up with games, including “old-fashioned” ones like sungka. Make sure your games align with values we want to promote. My kids never had toy guns, and although they did get Monopoly as a gift, they got bored quickly, especially with me commenting on the side about greedy acquisitions.
Puzzles go a long way, but be age-appropriate. Lego-like toys, where you have to assemble stuff, also keep them busy but are incredibly expensive.
On their own, my kids have been finding, on YouTube (yes, some redeeming value) all kinds of low-cost stuff to make at home. They keep taking away my shaving cream to add scent to their slime (which I find truly slimy).
I’m only on my first tip and have run out of space. On Friday, I’ll share more ideas on how to fight the threat of a summer slide and brain rust.
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