Don't stop learning when the holidays roll around

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 June, 2012, 12:00am

We are going to Britain for most of the summer, staying with our extended family. Last summer holiday, my son didn't do much schoolwork, and I think his academic skills slipped. He struggles a bit at school. How can I make sure this doesn't happen again?

Many parents fear their children are going to forget everything they have ever learnt over the summer holiday. Of course, this is not the case, but that is not to say that important areas of learning - especially reading and automatic basic number recall - should not be continued and consolidated in a variety of fun ways.

This is a good opportunity for your son to have a break from the busy routine of school and extracurricular activities. A holiday can offer a range of rich activities that can be so valuable. Your son will have time to think and reflect, be creative and imaginative and develop other skills and interests apart from the value of taking a fresh perspective and good old-fashioned play and relaxation. Don't underestimate the chance to reflect and just 'be'. Over-scheduling children during these breaks can actually be detrimental to their emotional health and future learning potential.

There are many activities you can do together over the summer to maintain your son's skills. Try to keep these opportunities hands-on and don't call them schoolwork.

He could make a scrapbook about his holiday, send postcards to family and keep in touch with friends via e-mail. Writing with a purpose is always a great way to improve skills.

Doing arts and crafts is usually a winner, and there are many books full of creative ideas and television programmes that demonstrate drawing, painting and modelling. Alternatively, just provide some interesting materials and let him experiment. He could also practise with a musical instrument.

Use real life maths every day. This is easy; numbers are all around you. For example, telling the time, using timetables, estimating the lengths of journeys, cooking (following recipes and weighing ingredients), looking at shapes and angles indoors and out. Go to the supermarket together and compare products and prices with those in Hong Kong. Let him use British money and convert from one currency to another. Board games are also often great for strategic and lateral thinking skills.

Reading is a crucial skill to maintain. Try to involve your extended family. Let him show off his reading skills to grandparents and encourage them to read books with him - involvement of a new person can sometimes be a good incentive. Encourage him to read to himself every day. Read signs around you and leaflets promoting day visits. You could also help him find out about places you will visit and research points of interest.

Make sure your son gets plenty of activity to keep him fit; this is more important for boys. Limit his time in front of a screen, as some children will spend all day on the computer or watching telly if allowed.

Hopefully, your son will go back to school refreshed, eager and full of momentum, ready to learn.

Julie McGuire teaches at a Hong Kong primary school