How To Balance Summer School and Summer Fun!

It's summertime! For most students, that means backyard play time, popsicles, fun with friends or summer camp, but most of all, it means relaxation and little to no homework. For dyslexic children, however, summertime often includes summer school. So, how can you offer your hard-working child some summer fun without sacrificing all of the hard work and progress he or she made during the school year? The last thing any parent wants to see is regression, but most also know how much their child needs a break. Children with dyslexia often work 10 times harder than the typical student and deserve some well-needed time off too. Here are some tips so your child is able to benefit from both.

Summer School With a Twist

Some schools that cater to dyslexic students offer summer programs that also incorporate exploration and learning that is fun and engaging. For example, the Landmark School in Beverly, MA offers a morning summer school program that begins the day with Language Arts Tutorial, Language Arts Class and Language Structure Class but ends the day with Marine Science/Adventure Ropes, where students enjoy field trips, lab activities, kayaking, snorkeling and exploration as well as ropes course activities that include problem-solving and confidence building. Students can also choose to take advantage of the Visual Arts/3-D Building program in the afternoon, which includes drawing, painting, sculpting, mixed media, crafting and woodworking. They can even learn how to build a model boat and a CO2-powered dragster! How fun is that? I don't know about you, but in my opinion, that's a school day that would feel a lot more like play than work.

Experience Literature in a Whole New Way

Another way to make learning fun over the summer is by adding interaction. For example, for a reluctant reader, I might suggest picking up a few audiobooks that you play in the car (special time with mom or dad) or offer to your child as an option so he or she can enjoy reading independently. The reason I love audiobooks so much is because they offer children with reading difficulties the ability to access complex text that they would normally be unable to do on their own. For the child who dreams of reading higher-level books but is unable to do so independently, audiobooks offer an opportunity for him or her to fall in love with the unique world that books have to offer. Helping your child develop a passion for literature is the ultimate goal. Reading with your eyes is one way to achieve that mission, but by no means is it the only way. There are multiple ways to consume books. However, by no means am I suggesting that audiobooks should replace reading with your child or teaching your child to read on his own. Rather, audiobooks should be offered as an enhancement to reading instruction and practices. Reading to and with your child is essential and should never be substituted by an electronic device or software. A great online resource for audiobooks is http://www.LearningAlly.org

Flash Card Fun!

If your child is overwhelmed with the concept of learning math facts, turn what would normally be a rote memorization exercise into a game... and your home into the gameboard! When my son was learning his math facts, I posted flash cards all over the house — one fact-family at a time. At the bottom of each flash card, I would display the answer to each math fact on a sticky note. Each time my child encountered a card, he would stay the entire math fact, including the answer. At the end of one week (or sooner, if he was ready for the challenge), the sticky notes were removed and my son was challenged to run through the house and rattle off each math fact. As long as he correctly stated all of the math facts within a minute (you may need to increase the time allotment a bit if you have a large house), he would receive an award! Awards ranged from choosing what we ate that evening, to going to the beach or out with the family for ice cream. The point was, however, that he was motivated to learn his math facts and found it to be fun! Each time he conquered a fact family, we would move on to the next. However, every couple of weeks, I spiraled back to a prior fact family to make sure he had retained the information. If not, we just repeated that fact family until he had it! It worked like a charm!

The point is that summer school doesn’t have to mean sitting in a classroom. There are many ways to help your child learn and maintain skills acquired during the school year without missing out on all of the activity summer has to offer. If your child does need in-class services, consider allowing your child a week off to take advantage of a special camp or maybe a day here and there to experience a special excursion. That way, your child will feel rewarded for all the hard work. Dyslexic children work hard so during the school year and summertime offers their brains the chance to take a much-needed break. Carefully balancing work with play is the key to summer school success!