Thinking about summer school? We’re discussing purpose of summer school, is summer school bad or if there are benefits of summer classes, and 11 unique alternatives to summer schooling.
Let’s take a look at summer school — a topic that affects both traditional students and homeschooling students.
I know that many parents (home school and traditional schooling) worry about something called “summer slide” or how you can promote learning during the summer. (More on that in a bit.)
What is the point of summer school?
The point of summer school is generally to catch a student up who has fallen behind in their studies. In traditional school settings, this may prevent a student from being held back for a year. In homeschooling, it may be a way to help you catch up fast.
What is the difference between summer school and ESY?
Extended School Year services, or ESY, is not the same thing as summer school. If your child is in public school and has received an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for a documented disability (academic, social, behavioral, communication, etc.), then they may qualify for ESY (each state or school district sets their own eligibility requirements). Some ESY programs happen after school and some ESY programs happen during the summer. They are no cost to you.
Can I refuse my child for summer school?
If your child attends public school and they have recommended summer school, you can refuse to send your child. However, understand the implications of this refusal because it may mean that your child may receive a failing grade and/or be held back a grade when the school year starts.
Can you do summer school to skip a grade?
Most traditional schools only provide summer school as a way to catch up. However, if you homeschool you can use summers to advance learning and indeed can skip a grade. In either case, your children can work independently at any time to advance themselves on any subject / topic.
How long do you go to summer school?
Summer school programs will vary based on school. They are generally 4-8 weeks and have shorter days (just a couple of hours a day) than the traditional school year.
Is summer school necessary?
Summer school may be necessary if your child is falling behind in a subject. Attending a condensed class for a few weeks in the summer may just be what they need to catch up. However, if you are thinking summer school just to prevent the summer slide, then it is not necessary.
Homeschooling for Summer School
Let’s take a closer look at specifically summer schooling for homeschool.
Should I homeschool summer school?
Summer school for homeschool is a good idea if you transitioned your child from traditional school and they are far behind or if you feel like you have fallen behind in your state or country’s requirements for your grade level . Other than that, it is not necessary to homeschool during the summer. There are alternate homeschool summer school ideas where your child will learn (without even knowing) and get a break!
Can you do homeschool during the summer?
The great news about homeschool is that you can homeschool whenever you want, including during the summer! You just need to be sure that you are meeting your state (or country’s) requirements for homeschooling. For example, some states may require that you have X number of homeschool days within a certain amount of time. Be sure that your summer school dates are falling within the requirements for your area.
Can you homeschool an entire grade over the summer?
Homeschooling an entire grade over the summer would be difficult. However, you could use the summer to catch up if you are behind or get a jump-start on the requirements for the upcoming year.
OK, before we go any further . . .
Is the Summer Slide Real?
What does summer slide mean?
What is summer slide (and is it really a thing)? A summer slide definition—also called summer brain drain, summer learning loss, and summer setback—is when a child forgets or has skills that “slide” a little when they are out of school and not getting regular practice. Many believe that this especially happens during the summer with reading and math.
According to Northwest Evaluation Association (also known as MAP testing):
In NWEA’s research, summer learning loss was observed in math and reading across third to eighth grade, with students losing a greater proportion of their school year gains each year as they grow older – anywhere from 20 to 50 percent.
However, in recent years there has been a lot doubt cast on the summer slide theory due to outdated data that has not been able to easily replicate.
…according to Paul T. von Hippel, a policy professor at the University of Texas at Austin, there are flaws with the research on summer learning loss that should make us question the universal truth of summer slide.
As you can see, summer slide is a controversial topic. You’ll definitely need to do more research and determine if you believe it’s affecting your child.
According to Michigan State University, “The key is a healthy balance and finding activities your kids enjoy while sneaking in an educational component at the same time. Hands-on learning is brains-on learning.”
Is summer school a good idea?
Summer school is a good idea only if you think your child is behind (in traditional school or homeschool) and they need to catch up fast. If you want a way for your child to learn in the summer, there are better (and more fun!) ways to accomplish summer “school”! Just like us, kids need a break from regular schedules, too!
11 Creative Ways for Summer Schooling (without “School”)
Alternative to Summer School Idea #1: Do Not Even Think About Workbooks!
Look, workbooks are pretty boring for most kids during the school year, so don’t make them do worksheets and workbooks during the summer!
Instead, think about other fun ways to get them reading and writing like Highlights Magazine.
They have interesting stories and different puzzles and trivia and other fun items that are short enough for even the tiniest attention spans, but fun enough to keep them engaged.
And, they have Highlights for a wide range of ages starting at age 3 and up!
So, look for fun and engaging learning tools to let them practice math, reading, and more!
Alternative to Summer School Idea #2: Try Subscription Boxes for Kids
This is our secret weapon of learning: subscription boxes.
You know, those fun boxes you see advertised that are for STEM or coding or geography and other things?
Some of our favorites include:
Each of these offer something a little different so you can actually try out all of them and enjoy the variety!
About Kiwi Crate Subscription Boxes
Kiwi Crate is one of my daughter’s favorites and she looks forward to it every month.
Kiwi Crate has great discover and make subscription boxes for all ages. (And, I do mean allllll ages. They have discovery boxes for babies all the way up to boxes for ages 14+!)
You’ll love their STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) topics. They’re SUPER creative and educational.
One of my favorite parts is the booklet that comes with each Kiwi Crate. They have additional information and experiments. My daughter keeps them all and gets them out on her own to do the other things listed in the books!
PROMO CODE – SHARE30
About Green Kids Crafts Subscription Boxes
Green Kids Crafts offers STEAM projects with an emphasis on the whole body–creating something, using the brain, getting the body moving, and being aware of the world around us.
Check out the Science and Craft Subscriptions for Children from Green Kid Crafts.
Alternative to Summer School Idea #3: Try Creative Stories
Creative storytelling, reading, and listening to stories is a great (FUN) way to learn.
One of the coolest ways to incorporate this kind of learning that I’ve come across is Around the World Stories: Original audio stories to help children discover the world.
Around The World Stories helps kids learn about different areas of the world and different cultures.
With each story you get:
- A new 30-minute original adventure delivered to your inbox every week!
- A parent guide with each story full of discussion topics, recipes and activities to connect your child with the culture.
- A new country and culture introduced every four weeks.
- Culture, geography and history woven into the stories in exciting ways for organic learning.
- Engaging characters that bring young listeners into their lives as they solve mysteries, celebrate holidays, go on adventures and make a difference in their community–all of which inspires children to learn more about that culture and country.
Alternative to Summer School Idea #4: Create an Outdoor “Classroom”
It’s summer so you want to spend as much time outside, right?
Have you ever thought about creating an outdoor “classroom” or a nature learning center right on your balcony, patio, or in your backyard?
Check out these great outdoor learning center ideas and keep your kids learning outdoors all summer!
Alternative to Summer School Idea #5: Get them out and about.
Your kids will learn so much just spending some time outside and in nature.
Go to parks. Join some of their free programs. Plan regular nature hikes and park walks.
(You can even grab our free printable nature scavenger hunt!)
Not a hiker?
We have a great how to get started hiking (even if you hate it) post!
Alternative to Summer School Idea #6: Sign up for summer camp.
Summer camps are great alternatives to summer school because your kids will learn while having fun outside AND you don’t have to plan anything!
There are many different kinds and types of summer camps, and (lucky for you!) we have the Ultimate Guide to Summer Camps. Be sure to check it out before signing up.
Just know that summer camps often fill up fast (and some can be costly), so you’ll want to do some preparation beforehand.
Alternative to Summer School Idea #7: Join summer reading programs.
Don’t forget about the library during the summer!
Not only will they provide free activities (and a respite from the heat), they will also have a summer reading program which can encourage your kids to read and get prizes when the hit certain milestones!
Also, some bookstores and businesses also have these programs. Be sure to check out our list of summer reading programs!
Alternative to Summer School Idea #8: Listen to audio books.
For your kids who don’t like to read, don’t forget about audio books!
According to research of the American Library Association:
Renee Michelet Casbergue and Karen H. Harris (1996) have suggested that the oral example provided through audiobooks enables students to not only better understand the story but also be exposed to instances of modeled fluency. Marie Carbo has written that audio recordings help students “to integrate the rate, rhythm, and natural flow of language necessary for good comprehension”
The ALA goes on to say that the benefits of audiobooks include:
- Assisted reading (along with text) improves fluency
- Access to children’s literature
- Improves fluency
- Improves vocabulary (at all levels)
- The technology “encourages auditory and social learning”
Alternative to Summer School Idea #9: Gameschool.
Did you know that gameschooling is a thing?
(It totally is!)
It’s where you use games to learn … and your kids can learn from most any games!
This means board games.
And card games.
And, yes, even video games.
(Check out what I’ve called one of the best learning games we’ve ever used!)
So, don’t be afraid to let your kids play those games over the summer. They’re learning!
Alternative to Summer School Idea #10: Help others.
I think sometimes we forget that learning is more than just academics.
Don’t forget to use summer school at home as a way to work on life skills.
Volunteering and helping others is a great way to learn (not to mention, it looks great on college and job applications).
We have a great service / helping others list that we posted during the holidays, but it can easily be adapted to anytime of the year.
Alternative to Summer School Idea #11: Let your kids get bored.
I know, I get it.
Those cries of, “MOM! I’m boooooooored!” are super annoying.
However, did you know that there are proven benefits to boredom?
An article published by Harvard:
[Michael Rich, an HMS associate professor of pediatrics and director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital] suggests that the danger of an overstimulated childhood is that children may never learn to find the imaginative paths that lead them out of that unhappy bored state. ‘Parents can teach kids and model for kids that it’s okay to not have an agenda, to not have something to do, to just walk in silence in the woods, to just lie on your back in the grass and make shapes out of clouds,’ he says, so that ‘not only do they learn to tolerate that so-called emptiness but they learn to enjoy it. That’s where creativity and innovation come from.’
We have a super secret tip that we use to combat boredom (but still inspire creativity)! They will work great for all different ages for your at-home “summer school.”