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What Parents Can Do in the Absence of Summer Programs

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Video and text by Kaylee Domzalski

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many summer programs across the country to cancel or switch their hands-on programs to a virtual platform. After a spring of online learning and canceled summer enrichment activities, parents and educators worry about their students' academic losses.

"It's the most unusual, atypical summer we've seen," said Matthew Boulay, the founder of the National Summer Learning Association and author of How to Keep Your Kids Learning When Schools Are Closed: Tips, Tools and Activities to Help Parents Discover the Power of Summer Learning in the Era Of Covid-19​. "We've talked for a long time about summer being the most unequal time in America... so all of those inequities are exacerbated this summer."

For parents whose kids are without a summer program this year, Boulay says one of the most important things is to create structure and routine. What's also important is creating a summer learning routine that is as child-centered and child-driven as much as possible

"We always say summer learning is not summer school," he said. "You don't have to teach your child trigonometry and advanced chemistry. You want to foster their interests, support their learning, make sure they have access to materials... Find ways to sort of capture and spark your kid's imagination and encourage them to jump from topic to topic, idea to idea, that is aligned with their interests. 

From cooking and arts and crafts, to watching documentaries and doing yoga in the living room, Boulay says there are many options that parents can utilize for their kids.

Jodi Musoff, an education specialist at the Child Mind Institute in New York City, said that parents should also be aware of their children's social-emotional well-being this summer.

"I think families have to do their best to find a balance in giving the academic instruction that their kids need... but really keeping a close eye on how their children are doing socially and emotionally at this point," she said. "We can't really expect kids to gain from academic interventions if they are not feeling well emotionally."

To help reconnect kids to their friends and peers, Musoff recommends creating a pen pal system or a virtual book club, but emphasizes that each family's needs will be different.

"Schools are all about collaboration and collaborative learning," Musoff said. "And hopefully they're going to be back into a collaborative environment. And I think they need to continue to practice those skills."

Outside of taking care of your child, Boulay says that it's important for parents to remember to take time for themselves, especially as the summer goes on and schools begin to reopen or move to virtual learning again.

"Find a little time at the beginning or end of each day and just check in and make sure during these crazy times that you're doing OK. Parents need to stay healthy so that we can keep our kids healthy.

Coverage of after-school learning opportunities is supported in part by a grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.


Read more:

Summer Programs Struggle to Keep Learning Fun From a Distance

Photos: How Camps are Approaching this Summer's Uncertainty

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