Summer Slide – The Big Myth

Is there really a summer slide? Or does authentic learning finally happen?Every summer I get asked the same question, “How can I prevent the summer slide?”

I’ve been rocking and rolling along with my same answers for a while:

  • Engage your kids
  • Talk about math in the summer activities
  • Have fun with it

And now I’m wondering about those answers.

Actually, I’m wondering about the question.

What is this “summer slide”?

According to the National Summer Learning Association, “All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer.”


Okay, sounds terrible.

But… really…

What does that mean?

What is a “learning loss”?

The quote continues: “students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer.”

So the learning loss kids experience is really a loss of memorized information.

They were able to regurgitate the right stuff on a standardized test immediately after memorizing it, at the end of the school year. But they can’t quite muster those old dusty facts to spit up on the test at the end-of-summer test.

But are they “losing learning”? Or are they just losing facts that they memorized?

Grownups think learning is memorizing.

Grownups call it education. And what it looks like is a smelly pile of facts and rules to be memorized and spit back.

And, in our defense, it’s tough to appreciate learning as something else. Especially because that same smelly pile was crammed down our throats many years ago.

But that doesn’t make us right.

Kids learn authentically.

In fact, humans learn authentically. If you’re not a lifelong learner, you’re dead.

Kids don’t stop learning. But during the summer, they do stop playing the goofy game forced on them by the grownups.

They quit trying to hold in their brains the facts and rules we’ve imposed on them all school year. They allow themselves the freedom to – ahem – really learn.

Kids learn in spite of what we try to teach them.

They are natural learning machines. They follow the cycle of learning.

Remember hearing a grownup say, “Do as I say, not as I do”? That was rubbish, right?

Well, we do the same thing. We just don’t say it in so many words.

Luckily kids keep learning in spite of our efforts to “teach” them.

But after – ahem – learning lots of other stuff in the summer, they’ve gotten rid of the pile of facts and rules that we tried to force into them.

And we call that “sliding.”

We should quit ignoring the natural learning.

Children are engaged in authentic learning and are purging the inauthentic junk. Good for them.

Perhaps we should be more observant of this, instead of labeling it a “summer slide.”

Maybe what happens is really a “Summer Climb,” rather than a summer slide.

Through the summer your kids are learning. They may not be reinforcing the facts they were forced to memorize in class, but they are learning. That’s just what they do.

What if we capitalized on that? What if we found out what they were learning and helped them learn it more?

Do you think we could keep the summer climb going?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

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2 Responses to Summer Slide – The Big Myth

  1. Tell it, sister!

    (I knew that ‘summer slide’ sounded fishy, but I hadn’t quite put my finger on it.)

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