Worried About Summer Learning Loss? What You Need To Know

Worried About Summer Learning Loss? What You Need To Know

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Worried about summer learning loss? Wondering if you should be signing your kids up for summer learning activities? Thinking of downloading workbooks? Before you do, take a look at  what scientists have discovered.  What activities will really help your children do well academically? The answer may surprise you.

children playing

The children and young people in our little town are celebrating the end of the school year. It’s summer!

It’s time for families to relax and enjoy 8 weeks of play and relaxation.

“Aaah, summer- that long anticipated stretch of lazy, lingering days, free of responsibility and rife with possibility. It’s a time to hunt for insects, master handstands, practice swimming strokes, conquer trees, explore nooks and crannies, and make new friends. “Darrell Hammond

Or is it? Just recently I’ve started seeing the topic of summer learning loss popping up all over social media.

What is Summer Learning Loss?

Summer slide describes the learning loss that occurs over the summer. Apparently parents are increasingly concerned about this.

children playing in summer

How Does Summer Break Affect Students?

I’m curious about everything to do with learning, so I started investigating. I found all kinds activities to prevent summer learning loss. It included workbooks, reading logs, educational schedules, and summer schools.

It all sounded absolutely awful.

There were dire warnings that children without access to these learning opportunities lose up to 1 month of learning.

I am glad that my parents never had access to this kind of information! My memories include long lazy summer days filled with imaginative play. There was no enriching activities and summer school.

child playing in the sandpit
my oldest enjoying summer days

Should We Be Worried About Summer Learning Loss?

As I read I started to feel a sense of heaviness. The educator in me began to ask questions.

  • When do the children get to play?
  • Isn’t it better to take a rest from educational outcomes for a few weeks?
  • Is it really healthy to keep up this kind of academic pressure year round?
  • How is this a holiday for anyone?
  • Is summer learning loss real? Does it really matter?

I felt sorry for children looking forward to a summer filled with scheduled lessons and activities labelled as fun.

I felt sorry for the parents who feel obligated to create all these enriching activities, push workbooks on reluctant kids, and find the money for summer school.

summer learning loss pin

What Will Help Your Child Academically (according to science)

Then to my relief I found a really interesting article published in the Atlantic Magazine. This paragraph in particular caught my eye

“Unscheduled, unsupervised, playtime is one of the most valuable educational opportunities we give our children. It is fertile ground; the place where children strengthen social bonds, build emotional maturity, develop cognitive skills, and shore up their physical health.”

The article refers to a study conducted by psychologists at the University of Colorado. The scientists studied the schedules and play habits of 70 six-year-old children. They concluded that activities such as free play, daydreaming, risk taking and independent discovery are vitally important. Why? Because they develop something called executive functioning.

child playing in the sandpit
my middle son loved the summer

Executive functioning is a fancy term for the skills that involve mental control and self- regulation. You can learn more about it here. Scientists now think self regulation is vital for learning.

Here’s the interesting thing. The study found that, “children who engage in more free play have more highly developed self-directed executive function. The opposite was also true: The more time kids spent in structured activities, the worse their sense of self-directed control.”

child playing in the sandpit
My youngest enjoying summer

What has this got to do with academic achievement? A well developed executive function is linked to academic success. It is far more important than any supposed summer slide. Besides, many educators have concluding that summer learning loss is trivial.

Related: What Your Kids Really Want This Summer

This is What Truly Makes a Difference

If you really want to help your child academically, ditch summer school and enriching activities. Stop worrying about summer learning loss.

Instead let your children play. That’s all. Just let them play.

Grant them (and you) a rest from structured activities.

  • Give your children the freedom to explore and get creative.
  • Read books for fun
  • Climb trees, make camps, and fight imaginary foes
  • Discover their super powers and play with their friends.

Doesn’t that sound great? Doesn’t that sound saner?

summer learning loss pin

What if Summer Learning Loss is Real?

Are you wondering what might happen if you allow your children to play and they suffer the dreaded summer learning loss? Have you doomed them to an academic abyss?


Most teachers typically spend the first month of school revisiting all those lost skills, so all that structured learning will make absolutely no difference! Your children will still go over all that stuff anyway. Recent studies are calling the whole theory of summer learning loss into question anyways.

Isn’t it better to have your children return to school refreshed and ready to learn?

Why not enjoy a pressure free summer, have fun and build good memories? In the end that is far more valuable than spending hours on enriching activities, or trying to persuade reluctant kids that workbooks and reading logs are fun.

summer learning loss pin

11 thoughts on “Worried About Summer Learning Loss? What You Need To Know”

  1. This is fabulous. There is so much to learn just exploring the world around us! Give the workbooks a break. If you feel you must schedule something academic, take them to the zoo, explore the bugs in your backyard, or look at the wildlife at the beach. The world is a classroom; explore it!

    1. Sharon Harding

      Oh I totally agree- there is no need for workbooks in the summer. Your way of scheduling academics sounds so much better!

    1. Sharon Harding

      Me too! I am glad that I was able to give my boys the same kind of summer when they were growing up.

  2. This is the first post I’ve found that takes this view of the summer – and I’m so glad! I’m planning a relaxing summer for my daughter. We’ll read, because it’s something we enjoy doing together, but there will be no “you must read for this long every day” kind of thing. She’s free to explore and imagine and get dirty or even do absolutely nothing!

    1. Sharon Harding

      It sounds like the perfect summer to me! I do love the idea of reading together just for fun. Now that sounds really great!

  3. This is so great! It’s really given me reassurance that my boy will be ok when he starts school in September. He is going to be one of the youngest, if not the youngest in his year and I’ve been racking my brains as to how I can prepare him. You post has chilled me down! 🙂 x

    1. Sharon Harding

      I’m so glad that you found this post reassuring Michelle. In my years as a Mom and educator I have found that pushing academics is a huge mistake. Children will learn when they are ready. Most children aren’t ready for formal learning until they reach about 7. It is a challenge to be the youngest in your school year, but your son will manage fine I’m sure. One thing that might be really helpful is to read to him a lot. Somehow that help prepares the brain for learning and it is also really, really fun.

  4. Sorry but summer slide my foot – as long as the kids are reading, that’s all I worry about, and both mine are fine – more than fine in fact. I firmly believe that the education we do while they play, and take part in everything else over the summer is just fine. Workbooks – never used them, and never will! 😉 Thanks for linking up to the Parenting Pin it Party.

  5. I agree, children need free play, time to explore and experience stuff for themselves. They need a holiday too. I like my children to continue reading through the summer, but they usually want to anyway, the rest is up to them.
    Thanks for linking #LetKidsBeKids

  6. Pingback: Let kids be kids linky 7/7/15 - Let Kids Be Kids | Let Kids Be Kids

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