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Holidays, Learning Loss and the Remedial Student8 min read

Learning loss is a real phenomenon. It occurs when students take an extended break from school. Forgetting how to do maths is more prevalent than reading setbacks.

This can be even more damaging for remedial students. They are often already behind their peers. Seeing they have fallen further behind when returning to school can be very detrimental to their attitude towards school.

Holidays are great for kids

As we have seen, holidays are very important for both adults and children. Having some time to have fun, rest and recuperate does the mind and body wonders. Even short holidays decrease stress hormones. Holidays are key to adults and children being productive. Without them we would simply not be able to function as we are required.

But the loss of learning is a very real occurrence. It needs to be addressed. The good news is that it is not something every learner is doomed to, without hope. But it needs to be tackled head on. What can be done to avoid learning loss?

How do we know that learning loss occurs?

The best documentation of the phenomenon is found in studies conducted in North America. With their three-month summer break, it has come to be known as the “summer slide.” Even a re-evaluation of the literature in 1996 confirmed the reality of children losing learning. Studies have continued and confirmed the problem.

However, this is not confined to the USA and Canada. There have been studies that have shown it occurring in other countries as well. The Netherlands and Malawi have seen this happening with their students. A study in the United Kingdom considered a seven-week break and confirmed loss of learning.  It has also been observed in students in New Zealand and Australia. Europe is not immune to this occurrence.

Even a short break from school has shown to be detrimental for children, learning wise. At the very least, it is agreed that stagnation occurs in children over even a short break.

What is forgotten?

As much as 22% of what a child has learned can be forgotten over the course of a holiday. This is according to certain studies. Children produced better test results before the holidays than when they first returned to school. Generally, children lose more when it comes to maths than when it comes to reading.

This makes sense since it is often easier to practise reading. Reading becomes a daily occurrence, and signs and posters can be read on holidays. Maths, however, takes a more concerted effort to practise.

Learning difficulties and loss of learning: ADHD and dyslexia

Students with conditions such as ADHD and dyslexia are at an even greater risk of falling prey to forgetting what they have learnt. This is because at the best of times reading and schoolwork are often unpleasant for children with these challenges. During a holiday, which should be a time to rest, finding the will to remain practised and learning is even further impeded. But it is not impossible.

What can parents do to help children retain their learning over a holiday?

Some have suggested lengthening school terms. However, the research is unclear on whether this will solve the problem in any case.

Parents have little control over the school calendar and length of terms. But we have written about the importance of parental involvement in schooling. It is no different over the holidays. So, what can be done for their children over the holidays to decrease the effect of learning loss?

A study suggested that children can lose up to two months of learning over an extended holiday. This same study showed that those kids who had a substantial reading intake avoided this. They made up at least a month of their learning by reading consistently.

For this reason, reading during the holidays is vitally important.

Reading during breaks: Some ideas and pointers

Reading really is the number one issue that comes up in all discussions about learning loss. Reading is identified as a key factor in what should be happening learning-wise over the holidays.

What is also said often is that the kids must find things they enjoy reading. Allow them to choose topics and encourage them in that. Read along with them.  Take interest in their interests. This whole approach will go a long way to seeing parents involved in the learning of their children.

One of the suggestions is to set up a reading programme at home. Choose a book or three that will be completed by the end of the holiday. If the entire family participates, this is even better.

Writing should also no be neglected

One of the most invaluable abilities is being able to turn thoughts and feelings into words. Have the kids keep a journal during the holidays. Jotting down some of the interesting events and experiences will be one way to encourage writing. It will also help solidify the wonderful memories being made.

Jim Rhon said that a life worth living is worth recording. This is true. And it’s never too early to start. Encourage the habit beyond the holidays, but they are a great place to start.

Don’t think maths will just happen

For both maths and English, a concerted effort needs to be made to engage with them over the holidays. It will not just happen.

There are a few ways to approach maths practise.

Playing math games is a great thing to do. You can purchase math games. But even playing snakes and ladders with two dice can help with practising addition.

There are also math apps to download onto tablets, laptops, and cell phones. These can either be straight math exercises, or in the form of games. Many are available at no cost. But some might be worth investing in.

While adults might be rusty, practising times tables is very important. Pick up from where your child had been, and revisit what they have learnt. You can also acquire or print up the times tables. While going about the morning routine run through one of the times tables. Keep the kids on their toes.

Math picture books are another option that can be a lot of fun. This way the kids are enjoying the learning, and not even realising what that they are learning.

Explore math in the real world. Open a dozen eggs and ask how many are left after you make the family breakfast. Ask how many presents everyone has under the tree if they are broken down into individual numbers.

Of course, these can all be tailored to an age-appropriate approach. There are also free online resources that can be used.

Japari can’t wait to see your kids with us next year!

It is difficult to believe that December 2021 is already here! The Japari staff and students will be taking a well-deserved break after a taxing year. We will be recharging the batteries to come back fired up to do well next year.

With some of the tips and suggestions given, and resources readily available on the internet, learning loss should not be anything to worry about. If we do the work – in a fun, relaxed way – the children will come back to school ready to work well at school. Their abilities could even be sharpened rather than dulled.

We wish everyone a joyful festive season, and a prosperous 2022. 

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