Ask any teacher, student, administrator, or parent of school-aged kids, and they’ll tell you that the end of the 2019-2020 school year looked a whole lot different than it did at the beginning. The impact of COVID-19 on education systems around the world has been stark. Millions of students traded classrooms for Zoom chats, and educators at nearly every level struggled to adapt to a completely new way of educating young people.
Unfortunately, this means it was also a time when many students lost much of the academic skills and knowledge they’d gained throughout the school year before the pandemic changed life as we knew it. The fact is, learning loss due to coronavirus school closures, dubbed the ‘COVID Slump’ by experts, is becoming a common phenomenon for many students across the nation—and one that’s actually preventable if the right measures are taken over summer.
Consider this: About 84 percent of U.S. parents are worried that COVID-19 related changes to their child’s education negatively impacted their learning, and 61 percent are worried their child’s college or career prospects will be negatively impacted, according to a recent Brainly survey of 1,600 moms and dads. And according to NWEA, a research-based not-for-profit organization that creates academic assessments for students pre-K-12, students are expected to start the 2020 school year with only 70 percent of the normal learning gains for reading, and only 50 percent of typical math gains—”nearly a full year behind what we would observe in normal conditions.”
So how can parents prevent their children from backsliding due to school closures? Eric Oldfield, Chief Business Officer of Brainly, the world’s largest online learning community, and father of two school-age daughters, is well aware of the risks that two months out of the classroom can have on students, and he has tips aimed at combating it. Here are his 5 tips to help prevent COVID-19 learning loss this summer:
CREATE HAND-BUILT PROJECTS
With all the screen time kids are getting from online learning (not to mention their non-educational screen time), sometimes the best thing you can do to get kids flexing their brain muscles is to have them physically design and create something with their own two hands. Some options include 3D puzzles, creative board games, assembling a cardboard box space station or maze, making a pop-up storybook, building a treehouse (with adult supervision) or putting together a time capsule.
TAKE UP AN EDUCATIONAL HOBBY
Now is the perfect opportunity for students to take up a new hobby. Learning a new musical instrument, geocaching, creative writing, playing Chess, taking a coding class, or joining an online trivia league can help students of any age stay sharp through the pandemic days.
MOVE THE LEARNING OUTDOORS
It may seem basic, but a little sunshine and fresh air are excellent for everyone’s mental health and can help bored students reinvigorate their learning by helping them escape the monotony of their home learning space. Physical activity can also help memory recall and increases mental dexterity. Try passing around a soccer ball in the backyard while learning the state capitals, playing hopscotch while reciting new vocab terms, or going on a nature walk and identifying all the native flora and fauna.
ENROLL THEM IN AN ONLINE COURSE
Think of it as a virtual summer camp. But before you blindly sign up for some online program, look for specialized programs designed to keep children learning with engaging activities and personalized instruction, and take advantage of these slower months to boost problem areas.
ENCOURAGE THEM TO KEEP THEIR CURIOSITY PIQUED
Even inquisitive children can use some coaxing to keep learning over the summer. One way to do this is to motivate them to read more books by implementing a point rewards system where they can earn different perks or privileges for every book they complete. There are also many services, like Brainly or Scholastic Learn at Home, where children can ask questions, learn new things, and keep stimulated to prevent the COVID slump.
Regardless of what you choose, staying mentally active during school closures (and throughout summer) can give your child a leg up come September.
Dealing with school closures, childcare issues, or other challenges related to coronavirus? Find support, advice, activities to keep kids entertained, learning opportunities and more in our Coronavirus Parents: Parenting in a Pandemic Facebook Group.
For ongoing updates on coronavirus-related issues and questions that impact children and families, please find additional resources here.