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How to Beat Summer Learning Loss and Find Success in Summer Learning Online

Create a manageable learning plan.

How to Beat Summer Learning Loss and Find Success in Summer Learning Online
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How to Beat Summer Learning Loss and Find Success in Summer Learning Online


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This article was originally published on Reviews.com on June 9, 2020.

Summer vacation offers children and families a chance to unwind and enjoy a much-needed break from the demands of school-time schedules and routines. But, as sweet as summertime is, there is also a potential downside to less structured plans and more free time: summer learning loss.

Summer learning loss, also known as the “summer slide,” refers to the loss of the academic skills children experience over summer vacation due to a lack of educational stimuli. The phenomenon leads to children often starting the new school year at a lower instructional level than they finished the previous year.

Research shows that, on average, most children lose one month of learning over the summer break. Children from lower-income families may experience an even higher level of learning loss. Once in the classroom, it can take a teacher from four to six weeks to get students back on track. And over time, summer learning loss can accumulate, causing some children to fall further behind academically.

It’s important for families to prevent summer learning loss by creating a manageable learning plan for their children during the summer. Luckily, utilizing your internet for online learning can help prevent the summer slide.

Students at risk of summer learning loss

Students who lose academic skills over the summer months do not lose these skills at the same rate. Factors such as socioeconomic status, class subject and grade level affect how much learning a student misses.

Socioeconomic status

Children across all income levels share similar academic performance during the school year. During the summer, however, lower-income students do not have the same opportunities to extend their learning. By the end of the fifth grade, higher-income students had added 47 points to their test scores by engaging in summer learning, while lower-income students lost two points.

The loss of reading comprehension tends to be more pronounced in lower-income students, while children from higher-income families see gains in reading measures. Math skills, on the other hand, don’t seem to be as affected. This is because children are naturally more exposed to reading at home than practicing math, yet children from lower-income families tend not to have the same reading exposure as their higher-income peers.

How to successfully implement online summer learning for your child

There is much to consider when creating a summer learning plan for your children. First, understand your children’s current instructional level and define their academic goals. Then create a summer routine conducive to learning and communicate any summer learning plans with your children and caregivers to ensure everyone is on board and excited to learn.

Pre-summer planning

There are a few things you and your children will need to do to prepare for a summer of successful learning:

  • Designate a workspace. Children learn best in environments dedicated to learning. Find a quiet, comfortable place in your home that you can use strictly for summer learning. This area should be free from distractions with adequate seating and lighting.
  • Set a schedule and routine. When setting aside time for learning, be realistic. Consider your family’s work schedule and other summer responsibilities. Schedule learning for a set time each day and establish rules around the time allowed for educational shows, online games and educational apps.
  • Outline learning objectives. Set goals and objectives with your children based on areas of interest or academic areas that may need more nurturing. Then, research educational resources online that match your summer plan.
  • Get the right technology and accessories in place. Make sure you have everything you need to successfully navigate a summer of online learning, including a computer, tablet or smartphone, internet access and a headset/microphone.


You are not alone in planning your children’s summer learning program. Your children’s teacher can be an instrumental part of the team and so can your children’s caregiver, if you have one. Your children are also a part of this team, so open and honest communication throughout the summer will keep them motivated and on track.

  • Talk to your children’s teacher. At the end of the school year, learn your children’s current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). Ask for any learning and reading recommendations based on the feedback. Your children’s teacher will also be able to provide you with suggestions on the type of learning style (visual, auditory, tactile or kinesthetic) your children respond to best.
  • Talk to your children. The best way to get your children excited about a learning-filled summer is to involve them in the planning. Ask them what they want to do and share your summer plans with your children, including any vacation plans, camps and individual or group learning opportunities.
  • Talk to your children’s caregivers (if applicable). If your children receive care from someone else during the summer, you will want to communicate the summer learning objectives and routines you’ve established for your children with them.

Keep it exciting and engaging: Balance screen time with learning-based screen time

Despite debates about screen time disrupting learning and the need for regulation, exposure to screens among children continues to grow. Luckily, it has become easier to integrate learning on mobile apps, internet games and TV shows —  shifting the experience to enriching.

Educational television shows, for example, teach young children basic math and reading skills. In contrast, older children can immerse themselves in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) activities and critical thinking skills without compromising entertainment. Likewise, online games and apps teach younger children the basics through play, such as hide-and-seek games that teach phonics, while older children can test their skills in coding, physics, and engineering games.

However, families may need help deciding which apps and platforms are the most appropriate for online learning. Ensuring the technology matches your children’s needs, abilities, interests and developmental stages is important. Useful apps and games get two things right: they help your children learn age-appropriate skills and engage them in the process.

However, it can be hard to differentiate between online learning and general screen time, so families should try to set boundaries. You can achieve this by determining how much your children’s screen time will be for recreational and educational purposes.

Ways to incorporate technology into family vacations or outings

You can also incorporate technology-based learning into your summer family outings and vacations. When visiting historic sites, museums and aquariums, grab your phone or your children’s tablet and ask them to look up the history of your destination, map it out or set the agenda, highlighting what you’ll see and learn. They can also use educational apps to explore everything your destination offers, from the animals and environment to the culture of its people. Having educational videos and app-based games on hand for long trips to help pass the time is a good idea. Any outing can become an educational experience — the key is to facilitate discussions around the experience.

Keeping it safe: Online and app-based games

According to Safe At Last, 70% of kids encounter inappropriate content while researching for homework assignments, and 75% of children would share personal information with someone online in exchange for goods or services. Luckily, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA) allows families to designate what information is and isn’t collected about their children. The rule was enacted by Congress in 1998 to enforce regulations concerning children’s online privacy. COPPA puts families in control of the information collected. In addition to understanding COPPA, set general ground rules for online safety. Some examples can be limiting online use to shared spaces where families can monitor screen time, utilize parental controls and ensure all usernames and passwords are shared.

Here are some other ideas to help keep your children safe online:

Parental safety controls

Understanding your rights and establishing parental safety controls are prerequisites for summer online learning. Parental safety controls allow families to monitor their children’s internet use and prevent children from accidentally accessing inappropriate content online. Consider implementing the following parental controls:

  • Child-safe browsing: Parental control apps like Kiddle and KidRex foster safe browsing for kids, helping families to keep their children from accessing inappropriate information online.
  • Blocked websites: Site-blocking software and apps are also available to families. Resources like Windows Parental ControlsSafeSearch and Google Family Link allow families to block certain websites. Apps also make it easy for families to block websites manually or by using router settings, altering host files or using built-in parental controls.
  • Time restrictions: Parental control apps can also restrict or limit the time your children are online, tracking the data and automatically shutting down access once the specified time limit has been reached. Options include QustodioNet Nanny and ESET.

Talking with your children to help keep them safe online

According to a study released by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education, 40% of children talked to a stranger online, 53% revealed their phone number, 15% tried to meet the stranger and 6% revealed their home address. It is not enough to set up parental controls and expect those controls to do the job. Children also need to understand the dangers online and how to stay safe. Here are some tips:

  • Safeguarding personal information. Ensure your children understand the importance of not revealing personal information, including their name, where they live and any financial information. This type of information should only be entered by families into secure, trustworthy websites and should never be provided to a stranger online.
  • Communication guidelines with strangers. Please remind your children they should never talk to strangers in real life or online. Break this conversation down into terms they can understand and make it clear that online strangers are not friends.
  • Potential red flags. Teach your children about “red flags” to watch out for online, such as a stranger wanting to send them a gift or a new “friend” asking them to meet in person.
  • How to report suspicious activity. Talk with your children frequently about the sites and the apps they visit. Keep the computers and televisions in places where they can easily be monitored.
  • Importance of online etiquette. The best rule of thumb is: if you wouldn’t say something to someone directly, don’t say it online. Remind your children that everything they post, type or share online is recorded and that certain platforms, like YouTube and chat games, have rules for online behavior. They could be banned from the website, game or platform if they don’t follow the rules.
  • Warning signs of an online safety breach. Some warning signs children can easily watch out for include suddenly signing out of their account or receiving a notification that their password has been changed.

If you think your children’s personal information has been compromised in any way, take the following steps:

  • Disable the account.
  • Check linked accounts.
  • Change all passwords.
  • Consider freezing your children’s credit and filing a fraud report.
  • Contact authorities if you feel your children are in danger.

Summer learning educational resources

There are so many online learning resources that choosing the right one can feel overwhelming. The following is a list of recommended educational apps, online games and TV shows to get you started.

Educational apps

Ages 6 and under

  • Elmo Loves 123s: Teaches children basic math skills, such as counting and simple addition and subtraction. Enjoy Sesame Street videos, puzzles and coloring pages as Elmo introduces your children to math concepts.
  • PBS KIDS GamesGames based on popular PBS KIDS shows. Your children can learn math skills with Peg + Cat or explore space with Ready, Jet Go!
  • Fish SchoolColorful fish introduce your children to reading and language arts. With this fun under-the-sea world, your preschooler can learn letters, numbers, shapes and colors.
  • Sight Words Adventure: Help your children to memorize, read and write up to 320 sight words. This game helps your children practice the cognitive skills necessary to remember sight words, like attention, memorization and listening skills.
  • Habitat the GameTeach your children to care for the environment with this fun game. Your children can adopt a virtual polar bear and keep it healthy by completing real-world actions, such as turning off lights or shutting off faucets.
  • Winky Think Logic Puzzles: Your children will stay engaged for hours with STEM activities. This game has over 180 logic puzzles, ranging from simple matching games to complex games, like obstacles and mazes.
  • SkyView: Open the app and point your device at the stars. This app will identify the stars and constellations.

Ages 7 to 10

  • Moji MultiThis app encourages daily times tables practice using a variety of approaches.
  • Dyslexia Gold: This app improves reading fluency, speed and comprehension by addressing the underlying problems that cause reading difficulty.
  • StudyGeBecome a master at identifying countries, capitals and flags.
  • Find Them All – Dinosaur World: Children can learn about dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals through interactive games, puzzles and quizzes.
  • Crazy GearsA computerized learning game where children can learn about cogwheels by solving mechanical puzzle games.

Ages 11 to 13

  •  Marble Math: Children can sharpen their math skills while working through fun mazes and puzzles.
  • Sushi Monster: A fun, quirky math game to practice math facts.
  • Duolingo: Help your children learn over 25 languages! It’s free to download.
  • Dino WalkThis app is filled with research children can use for homework or science projects.
  • Box Island: A coding app that allows children to collect stars and move them throughout the islands while learning the basics of coding.
  • InventioneersYour children need to invent crazy things to meet the challenges of each level. It teaches physics, engineering and other skills.

Online educational games

Ages 6 and under

  • PBSKids.orgFeatures PBS characters that teach preschool children academic skills, social skills and emotional development.
  • ABCmouse.com: A comprehensive learning site that offers reading, math and coloring activities for children ages two through seven.

Ages 7 to 10

  • ABCya.com: An excellent website that covers reading, math and critical thinking skills.
  • National Geographic Kids: This website provides top-quality information on animals, science, space and world cultures.
  • Scholastic: This multinational publication company helps children find books and literary resources. Scholastic News is a great extension that promotes non-fiction reading skills as well.
  • Math Playground: It helps children have fun while practicing a wide variety of math topics.

Ages 11 to 13

  • Brain POPKindergarten through eighth-grade students can learn math through engaging animated videos, games and quizzes.
  • NASA Space Place: A colorful and fun website that encourages students to explore space.

Educational TV shows

Ages 6 and under

  • StoryBotsThese fun and charming educational series follow the StoryBots, who search for an answer to a “big question.”
  • Super Why!Four children turn into superheroes before jumping into a book and becoming part of the story to solve a problem.
  • Dinosaur TrainThe show encourages children to apply scientific thinking as they discover and embrace natural science topics.

Ages 7 to 10

  • Odd SquadThis show features young detectives who can only solve a problem by relating it to math concepts.
  • Wild Kratts: Children are introduced to various animal species and science concepts.
  • Modern Marvels: A show that teaches children about innovations and engineering.

Ages 11 to 13

  • Annedroids: A tween girl who loves solving problems using her computer programming and engineering expertise.
  • MythBustersThe two hosts bust science myths and prove whether they’re true or false.
  • Design Squad: A great show for children who want to learn engineering and math skills.

The bottom line

Summer learning loss is a slippery slope. Once your children start sliding, the dangers of continuously falling behind are real. Luckily, keeping your children engaged and learning throughout the summer doesn’t take much. By incorporating online learning into their daily routines over summer break, they can continue learning in fun and practical ways. Use the resources and tips above to help them achieve their summer educational goals and motivate them to try again next year.

For more summer learning fun, check out the following resources:


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