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With the final school bell about to ring as summer break approaches, parents are wondering what they should do to help their children best complete the school year and continue learning this summer. Meeting with teachers and talking to your child about what they would like to learn are just a few steps parents can take to plan for the warmer months ahead.

According to a study by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Summer Learning, about 22 percent of learning is lost during the summer months. During the school year this can take six to eight weeks to regain. Parents can help prevent this by working with students during the summer on things they need to learn, while still helping them enjoy the break.

“Knowing your child’s learning needs will give you something to focus on during the months ahead and will also be a great asset when school starts again in the fall,” said Deme Clainos, CEO of StudyDog, an online reading program for elementary students.

Here are a few things parents can do to help kids as they finish the school year and make plans for the summer months ahead:

1. Meet with the child’s teacher
A top priority should be meeting with the child’s teachers before the school year ends. Their teacher should be able to give some sort of assessment about what they think the student’s strengths and weaknesses are. Be sure to ask if there are any subjects the child is behind in or if there are particular areas that they really excel in that you may want to focus on more. Ask teachers for suggestions about things they think the child should work on in the next few months.

2. Talk to the child
Your child should play an important role in the input process. Ask them what they liked the most and least about the past school year. You could do this while looking over their report card. If they had some low marks, don’t show disappointment. Use this as an opportunity to make goals to improve.

Discuss what they would be interested in learning more about. Summer is a great time to get away from regular school subjects and let your child focus on the things they are most interested in. Last but not least, be sure to praise them for their hard work. You could even have a little celebration for finishing the school year.

3. Review curriculum for next year
Gaining an understanding of what your child will be studying during the next school year can also be helpful in indentifying areas they should focus on in the next few months. The school should be able to provide a basic outline of what the curriculum will be for next year, or talk to a teacher in the next grade.

4. Take care of special requests or questions
Special requests for next year should be taken care of as soon as possible. School administrators and teachers generally take the summer off and will usually start their break a few days after school ends.

If you want to request a specific teacher for next year, now is the time to do it before the school starts making assignments. If your child has a hard time getting along with another student or if they have a friend they get in trouble with for talking too much in class, this would be a good opportunity to ask that they be placed in separate classes. Schools usually do their best to accommodate requests from parents, especially those made in advance.

If you have any questions about your child’s report card or anything else that went on during the school year, now is the best time to ask.

5. Stay in touch with friends
Your child will probably miss their friends from school during the summer. Help them collect phone numbers or other contact information so they can stay in touch. Help them plan a few times that they can meet up, giving them something to look forward to when they miss seeing their friends.

6. Plan educational activities
Summer provides great opportunities to catch up on subjects that were a challenge during the school year. Make goals and set aside time for learning each day. The key is to try and make it fun, so it doesn’t feel like school. For example, to work on reading skills your child could use an interactive reading program like StudyDog.

Look for educational programs in your community. Find camps, swimming programs and library reading clubs for your child to participate in.

Do fun and educational activities around the house. This can be as simple as planning a meal together, keeping a journal or writing letters to family and friends. There are a variety of websites with fun ideas for science, math, reading and art.

7. Plan for down time
Don’t forget, summer break should include plenty of time to relax and slow down. Avoid overbooking your child’s day; give them plenty of time to unwind between planned activities. This is probably something both you and your child will come to appreciate.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who don’t want their kids to lose learning over summer.

Image courtesy of origamidon via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.