School’s over—time to chill, right? Not so fast. As many parents know, summer is also a time to reassess their kids’ academic progress, play catchup where needed, and take a look at what’s ahead in coming semesters.
These next couple of months don’t need to be a bore or a chore, but getting a little information now about your child’s progress from one of the best sources—his or her teacher—can help you understand the best way to move forward.
Why Talk Now?
The end of the school year might not seem like the most important time to have a parent-teacher chat, but consider this: According to the National Summer Learning Institute, many students typically lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in math computation skills during the summer. Some students lose similar levels of reading comprehension as well. So instead of risking brain drain, consider how your child’s teacher may be able to give you some insights into how to keep progress going throughout the summer and what areas may need the most work.
At the end of the year, ask your child’s teacher if you can briefly meet to wrap up the semester. Generally, you’ll want to ask what the teacher observed about areas that challenged your child, as well as the areas where performance was strong. The answers will likely line up with what you have seen from your child in the past, but you may also get some new ideas. Here are three questions to focus on in that conversation:
1. What have you noticed about my child’s attitude toward reading?
Tapping into subject matter that a student spends a great deal of time with can go a long way, even with those who aren’t generally interested in reading. Can the teacher suggest a series of books he or she has seen other students at your child’s level enjoy? As we’ve all learned from Netflix binges and Harry Potter, getting engaged in a series you like is a great motivator. Or if your child seemed interested in a certain author or style of book, that can also be good information to build upon.
2. What can you tell me about what next year’s curriculum will include?
Whether your child is a grade-schooler learning about ancient Egypt or a high schooler studying the civil rights movement, there are fun ways to spend time this summer introducing relevant subjects that your student will soon be seeing in class. Head to a museum exhibit, watch a TV show or movie about a period being studied, read historical fiction about important people and places—any of these can give a strong introduction that will make schoolwork more interesting once the subject is formally introduced.
3. What specific teachers, classes, or additional activities would be a good fit for my child next year?
After spending a year observing how your child learns, the teacher will be in an excellent position to understand what kind of environment will work best for your child going forward. You probably don’t know all the teachers at the school, and even if you do, you may not be as attuned as the faculty members are regarding different styles and temperaments. Similarly, the teachers will know more about specific classes, extracurriculars, tutoring opportunities, and other options and can help point you in the right direction.
Finally, even if your child has just graduated high school, it probably isn’t the best time to completely slack off. Your student may be taking a break from academics, but if he or she is enrolling in college for the fall, there will be deadlines and tasks to handle during the summer transition. You may want to speak with your school’s guidance counseling staff to make sure you’re equipped to help your college-bound teen stay on track.
Lora Wegman is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.