Thursday, August 1, 2013

Back in the Groove: How Summer Classes Can Help Your Child Start the New School Year Smoothly

Back in the Groove
 How Summer Classes Can Help Your Child Start
the New School Year Smoothly
By Mikey Keating Smith, M. Ed

Every year it happens. You and your child are enjoying a perfectly wonderful summer vacation when you stop off at the store to pick up a few items for dinner. You turn the corner onto aisle 13 and there it is. . . The SCHOOL SUPPLY display, where everything from backpacks to book covers is piled sky high from one end to the other and back again.  You break out in a cold sweat and your neck kinks up as you think back to the beginning of last school year: the battles over bedtime, the wars over waking up, and the struggles over supplies. You back quickly out of the aisle and head to the pharmacy for some ibuprofen (or the beverage aisle for some Chardonnay). You hope to yourself that this year will be different - this year, it won't take until Thanksgiving break for your child to get back into the school routine.

We all know that summer classes for kids help stave off learning loss (also known as Summer Slide) in students and salvage parental sanity. Enrolling your child in a camp or class close to the start of school can also, however, serve another purpose. It can help make the transition from the lazy days of summer to the crazy days of school a little easier.

Parent Elizabeth Anderson's daughter Lindsay has already attended several camps this summer and has several more scheduled before the school bell rings for the first time in August. She agrees that attending camps and classes will help her daughter once school starts.  "It's about keeping on track, on a routine," she says, adding that although her daughter doesn't have to get up quite as early for summer camps as she does for school, she does still have to be up by a set time, which helps ease the pain of early rising once the fall semester rolls around.

Additionally, while she loves that the camps her daughter attends keep her on track throughout the summer, she says that there is an added bonus that camps bring. "It's all about trying new things, new people, new places," she says. Continually trying new things and meeting new people can take the shock factor out of a new school year, which might bring with it a new classroom, new teachers, and new rules. Camps also bring students into contact with kids from a variety of schools, so instructors often utilize 'icebreakers' to help kids get to know one another. Interacting with a variety of kids and instructors during a summer class can help make kids more comfortable with different settings and social situations, which can translate into an easier transition to a new classroom and/or school come August.

Fifth grade science teacher Kelly Batten, who also teaches classes during the summer, agrees that camps are beneficial for her students in a variety of ways. "I can tell the difference between kids who have attended camps or classes over the summer or even those whose parents were able to get a review book and work with them over the summer," she says, adding that such kids have an easier time getting back into school routines.  "Having their brain fresh and exercised gives them a heads up when transitioning back to school--review comes more smoothly and new material is taken in with more ease," Batten says.

Sherri Powell, who spent 13 years as a classroom teacher before becoming an Educational Technology Specialist for her district, agrees. "Camps keep kids motivated," she says, adding that kids tend to have an out of sight, out of mind attitude about school during the summer. Powell says that summer camps and classes don't allow that attitude to creep in, even though kids are in a more informal setting and probably (hopefully) having quite a bit more fun than they might have during the regular school day. Powell says that the fact that kids are having fun while learning is another benefit of attending a summer class or camp. "They're having fun learning skills that will also help them do better work in the future."

Summer camps and classes can also help kids gain confidence by helping them experience academic success in a non-threatening environment. Writing, math or other educational classes can help kids brush up on skills from prior years and give them a jumpstart on the year to come. Additionally, camps and classes are typically smaller and less formal than the traditional classroom setting, which might make it easier for a shy or reluctant child to ask for help from an instructor.

Although summer classes can't stop school from starting altogether, they can help make the transition from summer to fall less painful for you and your child, and help you face the school supply display at your local store with your head held high!

Some names in this article have been changed to protect anonymity.

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