Summer Learning in the Time of COVID

During a normal year, making good use of summer involves a mix of reviewing last year’s content, previewing next year’s content, expanding your math comfort zone, patching holes in your upside-down knowledge pyramids, reading, and going outside to exercise and play. And as strange and difficult as this year has been, all those goals remain important.

But this year is different. Despite their best efforts, most schools did not cover as much curriculum as they normally do, and few people think that remote learning was as effective as classroom learning. So most students are coming out of this COVID-interrupted school year with less knowledge and less well-developed academic skills than they would otherwise have.

And that makes summer learning more important this year. Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, things will go back to normal. And when they do, it is unlikely that schools will rewrite entire curricula in order to accommodate for the learning that didn’t happen during the time of COVID. Algebra 2 will still be Algebra 2; Spanish 3 will still be Spanish 3. AP English will still be AP English; AP Physics will still be AP Physics.

Instead of undergoing the tremendous expense of rewriting all the old curricula, we’ll go back to teaching at the same pace as before, but students will struggle more because they’ll have more knowledge gaps. And when students struggle with any subject, they risk slipping into a downward spiral of avoidance that is difficult to recover from.

Therefore, it is crucial that students stay engaged with academics this summer. Our staff of great coaches is here to help, of course, but you can also do summer learning independently. Khan Academy has free, highly developed curricula that anyone can use to learn and practice. Or you can get a used textbook for whatever subject you’d like to work on. For Spanish, check our Spanish resources page. And for younger students, workbooks are a great choice (here’s a bunch of recommended workbooks).

I’ve said it before, but I have to say it again: Parents, if you’re not engaged in continuous learning yourself, it will be much harder to get your kids to do it. Modeling is always important, but right now, leading by example is more important than ever.

It’s tempting to be a pessimist about the future, both academically and in general, but it’s far better to be a realistic optimist. If we choose to be proactive, we can create a better future. With a growth mindset and corresponding hard work, we can all come out of this crisis stronger than before.

About the Author

Chris Loper has been an academic coach for Northwest Educational Services since 2014. He also writes the popular self-improvement blog Becoming Better, so if you liked this article, head on over to becomingbetter.org and check out his other work. Chris also offers behavioral change coachinghelping busy adults with habit formation and productivity. He lives in Seattle, WA.

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