Summertime learning doesn’t have to feel like homework

ROCKWALL,TX. (June 24, 2015) When I am asked by parents about homework for their child I flash back to the beginning of my favorite Dickens story, “A Tale of Two Cities.” His wonderful work starts, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” an apt analogy for the thing we call “homework.”  Homework could be called a necessary evil – we call it necessary, children call it evil.

But knowing how best to approach homework is difficult and has been debated for as many years as I can remember and probably many more before that. Homework should be an opportunity for a child to reinforce, build upon and apply concepts that have been learned. For many children, however, it becomes a frustrating task that stands between them and the things they really want to do. This can create tensions within a family and set the stage for failure. There is a saying, “Nothing breeds success like success.”. It’s corollary, “Nothing breeds failure like failure” is no less true.

Twenty years ago Harvard did a study that showed that the average child will have lost 2 ½ – 3 months’ worth of previously learned facts and skills before summer is over and they start back to school. They coined the phrase “summer slide” in an effort to describe this phenomenon. This has spurred a debate among professional educators about whether to abolish the practice of a summer break and go to year round schools. So what is a parent to do, particularly during the summer?

Give homework, just don’t call it that. Summers are full of opportunities to help children develop most of the academic skills they learn at school. We just need to be a little bit creative. Half Price Books and Mardel’s are a treasure trove of books, games, activities and ideas to prevent your child from slipping down that “summer slide.”

Join with them in the evening for short periods of “homework” from these resources. Do puzzles like Ken Ken and Sudoku together. Also, there are some great “Mensa” style puzzle books that, when done together with you child, can be made into games that they will remember for a long time.

At our center, sometimes we need to work on math that is far below a child’s grade level. To help erase the sting of working at such low level, we make a game out of the work, call it a speed contest or warm up. If the teacher (parent) joins in, encouraging the child along, it can become something that a child enjoys, not feels insulted by.

This summer would be a great opportunity to change our roles a little. Instead of adding something to a children’s summer schedule they might view as a barrier to what they would like to be doing, make it a family time, something they will treasure when they are grown. It could also become something that you treasure when they are grown and out of the house. It did for me.

By Blue Ribbon News guest columnists Bob and Becky Barnes with Mathnasium Learning Center in Rockwall. Contact them at

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