Keep on truckin’

Summer doesn’t mean putting learning on hold


When the final class bell rings, how do you convince your kids not to shelve their schoolbooks for the summer?

“Make it fun,” says Madghis Madi, manager of Scholars in Barrhaven and the Glebe. “It’s what our tutors do with their first lessons, and it does keep children interested.”

Madghis Madi. Photo Courtesy Madghis Madi

Parents can help nurture that natural creativity in their children. Madi explains how: “An easy way to do that is to create a daily routine that will keep your child active.” For younger children, especially those in Grades 1 to 3, reading is an important skill to keep active during the summer months. Madi cites his daughter, who collects insects, as an example. “A parent could help their child collect insects and then find a book… to learn about different types of bugs. Use that curiosity to learn something.” Similarly, Madi used an opportunity with his son when they were making paper airplanes. “He was in the fifth grade, and I used the occasion to talk about aerodynamics — why some version of the paper planes went farther than others — and hydraulics. Not only did he learn something and was interested, but we also had fun. And all we needed were sheets of paper.”

For Sanjit Kaur, director of Kumon Kanata North and Kumon Ottawa Glebe Centres, losing 60 days of learning is huge. “The pandemic played havoc with learning,” says Kaur, “and by the time children head back to school in the fall, it’s a couple of weeks of catch-up and adjusting to learning again.”

Sanjit Kaur. Photo Courtesy Sanjit Kaur

Along with Madi, Kaur is concerned with children in Grades 2 and 3 who are struggling to read. “Learning is kind of like exercising,” says Kaur. “If you stop, you lose your fitness level, so keeping children engaged over the summer is a good thing. But make it fun.”

Parents should look at how they define ‘fun’. “Maybe the parents’ definition is too narrow,” Kaur says. “Fun can include a strong foundation of learning or being efficient with your work. Good learning habits and a bit of discipline can make learning a lot more fun.” Kaur says the Kumon worksheets are old-fashioned paper and pencil and can go anywhere. “Our worksheets have been to more places than I have,” jokes Kaur. “But that’s the beauty of them — you can take them on a plane, to the cottage or even in the car.” Kaur says children lost a lot during the pandemic, so if parents can provide that little nudge over the summer holidays and keep it engaging, their child will benefit when the school starts up again.

Iona Teodorescu, director of the Triangle School of Math, grew up in communist Romania, where school was demanding and students were given lessons for vacation. “I hated the fact that we had lessons to do over the summer holidays,” says Teodorescu. “I never did them, and I don’t do it for our students. However, I understand why it might be a good thing to reinforce some skills over the summer. But make sure you do it in a playful way.” Teodorescu focuses on math and encourages parents to do games that include math skills, but to stay away from computers. “Board games are a great way to learn and retain not only math skills,” says Teodorescu, and “they encourage social skills as well.” Teodorescu suggests card games or use monopoly money to play shop or to learn how to do a budget.

Use every day situations as a learning opportunity. For example, if you’re doing renovations, involve children in measuring the perimeter of the yard for a fence. “I think card games are excellent for memory and socializing,” says Teodorescu, “and they’re great for every age level. Monopoly teaches so many skills: you must remember to collect your salary when you pass go every time.”

Many families will be travelling this summer, which can be an excellent opportunity to teach history. Children can research things to do or places to visit in a country or city. “You know, you can even take the opportunity to explore your own city this summer,” says Teodorescu. “My background is in architecture and it’s fun to talk about the architecture in your own neighbourhood.”

Going camping? Don’t forget the S’mores and stories around the campfire to fire up young imaginations. “And don’t worry if children get bored,” says Teodorescu. “That’s good sometimes and gets them thinking for themselves.”


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