It is that time of year when you see articles in the media questioning whether or not schools should cut the amount of time children spend away from the classroom during the long summer break.
Some parents - and teachers - feel that schools should close for longer between terms to reduce the impact of summer learning loss. This phenomenon is recognised by many school leaders, who have found that by the time the school gates open again in September, a number of their pupils have forgotten some of the learning that they accumulated the previous year. The first few weeks and months are then spent helping them to catch up.
There are parents who find it difficult to arrange childcare around work and other commitments over the summer too. But others argue that a long holiday is beneficial for pupils and families and should remain a feature of the school year.
The debate over whether or not a shorter summer break would enhance or hinder the progress children make in school will likely continue. But the number of options available to families for filling their child's time outside of school seem to expand with every passing year. And this can bring many opportunities for you to support your child's development in different ways.
Bridging the gap
Some families find that their child can benefit greatly from the inclusion of an educational element during the summer break. If you know your child is struggling with a particular subject, for example, arranging a little extra tuition could do wonders for their confidence and help them get off to a flying start in the new academic year.
Some boarding schools I know offer extra English lessons to their overseas students during the summer months. Their teachers talk about how much the children love the opportunity to improve their language skills and make new friends in the process.
There are also opportunities parents can offer their children that are not necessarily designed to support their academic achievement directly, yet could have a major impact on the progress they make when they return to school.
A child who lacks confidence or finds it difficult to make friends in a school setting might come right out of their shell as a result of attending a summer camp dedicated to an activity they already enjoy, such as dance or tennis, for instance. This will give them the chance to meet some new friends outside of school, but the experience could also help them to become much happier and more comfortable connecting with other children once they return to school.
The holidays give children a great opportunity to try different things without the pressure of their school friends watching too - your child might quite like the idea of joining the school karate club, but are reluctant to do so because they think that their classmates are already so much more advanced.
It is just as important for children to spend time simply relaxing and reconnecting with friends and relatives too. Even more so, going back to the boarding children whose families are based overseas.
But every child is unique. One might thrive on a mix and match of summer learning clubs and structured activities, while another could benefit more from just kicking back and relaxing or enjoying some extra down time with family. The challenge for parents is to get the balance right.
Whatever our children get up to over the school break, as parents our aim is to ensure they return to school with a few more special memories, feeling refreshed and enthusiastic about taking the next step in their education - regardless of what the summer weather might bring.
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