Should you find your kids a tutor, enroll them in summer camp, or just let them rest? Local educators weigh the options
After the dismissal bell rings for the last time at the end of June, kids of all ages will bask in their newfound freedom—but their parents may have other plans.
When deciding the best use of months away from school, the first consideration is the needs of the family, says Turnbull School director Gareth Reid. Most households with two parents have both of them working, necessitating childcare.
Having an open discussion with children about what they wish to do during their summer break is a great first step, says Cheryl Ward, director and principal of Heritage Academy. “Parents can share what their wishes are and develop a schedule that incorporates the needs of all.”
For students struggling with academics, the summer can be utilized to address challenging subjects, continues Ward. She and Reid agree that parents can consult with their child’s teachers to see if summer tutoring would benefit their child. “The summer break can be an excellent time to get caught up, work on executive functioning skills, and practice material in preparation for the year ahead,” Ward says. “The option to re-learn and review material throughout the summer can significantly reduce the anticipatory anxiety that many students feel.”
Other reasons for seeking summer tutoring include preparing for standardized tests such as SAT or ACT; to provide a routine; or to focus on specific skills or interests, says Joaquin Pineda, franchise owner of Tutor Doctor Ottawa-Nepean. Tutor Doctor provides one-to-one personalized tutoring in-person and online to students from JK to Grade 12 in all subjects.
Finding the right balance between rest and academic growth during the summer can be a challenge for parents, says Pineda, who advises prioritizing rest and relaxation, setting realistic academic goals and incorporating learning into daily activities. For most children, a week or two of tutoring or an academic camp could be a good idea if a parent really believes their child would benefit from extra academic support, adds Reid, but they should be careful not to overdo it. If the child doesn’t need academic assistance, Reid suggests taking it a bit easy.
“Children, like adults, really need some down time during the summer,” Reid says. “I often suggest to parents to try not to over-program their children during the summer, if at all possible. If a child must go from camp to camp each week because of the parents’ work schedule, that is one thing, [but] having some time to relax and decompress is also important and should not be overlooked.” How much rest a child needs depends on the individual. “A break from activity may be good for mental health, just as adding activities may be good for mental health, Reid says.
There are many ways to keep children engaged during their time off. Pineda recommends online learning platforms (“many offer courses and activities that cover various subjects and grade levels,” he says); educational apps (“fun and engaging ways for children to practice academic skills”); summer enrichment programs and community resources. The latter includes local libraries, museums and community centres, which often offer programs and activities that can help children maintain their academic skills over the summer break, says Pineda.
Camp teaches life skills such as resilience, problem solving, working and getting along with others, says Reid. These skills also transfer well into school life, he says, and offer “an important social component that should not be overlooked.”
In addition, camp allows children to explore the outdoors, says Ward. “Camps can be an excellent way to keep students engaged and participating in physical activities,” she says. “They offer many learning opportunities for children of all ages. Students learn best from working with others and interacting with their peers in different social settings. Summer camps can help students with both their personal and social development.”
Summer is also a good time to explore or nurture special interests, such as art, music, basketball, golf and computer coding, to name a few. “There is typically more time to focus on other interests,” says Reid. “I believe it is wise for children to try more than one thing,” he adds. Two or three different activities is plenty. Most people have a good idea about what they enjoy—especially as they get older.” Ward says summer is also an excellent opportunity to vacation away from home and explore learning options outside the classroom. “Creating opportunities for a family to bond and connect,” she says, “is vital for a child’s development.”
It is important to pick activities and resources that align with your child’s interests and learning style, Pineda says. “By making learning fun and engaging, children are more likely to stay motivated and avoid lapses in their academic skills over the summer break.”
At the end of the day, a balance of some academic support, downtime, camp and family time may be the best combination, says Reid. “Moderation is a good rule to follow for almost everything in life,” he says. “Overscheduling can really drain a person of any age, so keeping this in mind before planning activities for children over the summer months is a good idea. Giving children some time to ‘recharge their batteries’ is worth keeping in mind too.”
Make the most of your child’s summer
Summer is a great time for children to learn and explore new things outside of the traditional classroom setting, says Tutor Doctor’s Joaquin Pineda. He offers ideas for parents to make the most of their child’s time education-wise during the summer:
Encourage reading It’s an excellent way to keep children’s minds active during the summer break.
Enroll in a summer camp or program Many focus on teaching new skills or subjects.
Plan educational outings Museums, historical sites, etc. are a fun way to learn about history, science and art while allowing families to spend time together.
Teach life skills Learning cooking, gardening or budgeting can help your child become more self-sufficient.
“Allowing some time to relax and enjoy less stressful activities is what some children require. A good balance is essential and can help students transition into the new school year with less stress and anxiety.” — Cheryl Ward