Holidays are something that kids look forward to. The break from school gives them a lot of opportunity to play and take a breather from homework and other school assignments. Even parents enjoy the brief respite, getting a break from waking up early and prepping school meals or attending parent-teacher conferences.
However, should this be a reason to abandon studying altogether?
There has always been contention between parents and children (and even in the academe) on the benefits of continued study while on school break. Some say that studying over the holidays can actually improve one’s learning proficiency, while opposing camps say that it will only contribute to stressing children.
Research results from over 100 years’ worth of standardised test scores show that students typically got lower scores at the end of summer break compared to their scores when they took the test before the break. Another study reported that most students lose about two months’ worth of mathematical skills and more than two months’ worth of reading skills over the summer months compared those who have kept their brains active while on the break.
If we follow this school of thought, then there is much reason to encourage continued learning while our kids are on a break. Here are further reasons why we should and how we can apply them:
1. Only the school is on holiday
While the school is closed and everyone is on vacation, your children’s brain activity also slows down. It is no longer working at full throttle compared to when your children were in school. It is no longer breaking down information and absorbing as much as when your kids were learning new concepts and skills during school days.
Just like a muscle, the brain needs regular exercise, too. When you are working out every day, for example, then abruptly stop, your fitness levels go down. The same happens to our children’s brains. That is why doing low-level study can help keep their brain muscles working. This means they can still learn by reading up on topics that interest them–preferably those aligned with the academic curriculum–at a more leisurely pace. This is in contrast to the intense study hours that they do when studying for exams or doing intensive research for homework.
Studying while on a break keeps the brain active and accustomed to problem-solving, giving your children the edge when they go back to school and enabling them to easily pick up where they left off in their lessons.
2. Time for review.
Students should take the opportunity during breaks to sort, organise, and review their lessons in preparation for the resumption of classes. For example, if your kids get a three-week holiday from school, they should take this time to organise their notes and make summaries of past topics. Perhaps they can allot at least a day or two to sort out their school papers and make notes on past topics for easier review. This will allow better understanding of the lessons and also give them a chance to check which of the concepts they grasped and absorbed.
Habits die hard. While classes were ongoing, you may have already established a study routine with your children. When this study habit is disrupted by periods of inactivity, it will be harder to get back on track. It is best to continue practising so they won’t lose traction and maintain a steady study rhythm.
Your children don’t have to do intensive studying while on a break. Even simple reading exercises or short maths problems can help exercise their brains. Perhaps you can even make a game out of it and incorporate play in their daily study routine. This way, your children will still have fun while learning.
Social study. Your children’s friends are also on a break, so why not ask their parents to have a study session together? Studying together can make it more enjoyable for your youngsters as they will have someone of their own age to exchange ideas with–it could seem more like a playdate than studying.
You can even make a day out of it by coordinating with fellow parents and taking the kids for an educational day out. If you want to study history, for example, why not go to a museum that showcases the history of your city? Pizza and a movie after a few hours of studying together will also be a welcome treat.
Plan ahead. For most students, they already have a good idea of what to expect in the following term based on the topics they learned in the past term. If so, you can plan together on how you can utilise this break to prepare for the next lessons. If your child is expected to study adjectives, for example, then you can already start identifying words that describe or clarify a noun.
3. Learning is fun!
While we want our kids to keep on exercising their brains, we don’t want them to develop an intense dislike for studying. By keeping it light and enjoyable, you can maintain your children’s interest in hitting the books.
Learning need not be limited to classrooms or study rooms. Take your children out to the park and practise vocabulary skills. When you’re at the beach, you can incorporate art appreciation by sketching the view, for example. Perhaps you can even make up poems about nature when you’re out camping in the mountains. When buying ice cream, for instance, you can assist and teach your children to count the change.
Whenever or wherever you are, there is always an opportunity to discover new things. Even outside the structured confines of a classroom, your child can still learn from simple, everyday situations. It doesn’t always require pen, paper, books, or a blackboard–knowledge can be learned even from the simplest of things. Explore and continue to help your children appreciate the wonders of learning from the world around them.