On vacation, do children really forget everything they learned at school?

Are you worried that this summer your children will forget what they learned at school during the year? In any case, academics have been studying this question for more than a century.

When William White, a professor of mathematics from New York State, set out to evaluate, in the early 20th century,e century, what his students retained from their courses after the summer vacation, he had them take an exam at the start of the school year comparable to the one they had taken at the end of the previous school year. before comparing the results.



Read more: Do young French have too many school holidays?


While students made mistakes during their final exams on an average of 9 questions out of the 70 asked, this frequency increased to an average of 25 mistakes after the summer vacation. But after two weeks of revisions, it went down to 15.

Entitled “Reviews Before and After Vacation” and published in 1906, White’s study came to the following conclusion: “it is the notions that are the least vital that are most quickly forgotten”.

White’s work is one of the first to identify what education professionals call summer learning loss – the negative effect of a long break on students’ ability to retain knowledge and to mobilize the skills they had acquired during the school year.

Effects on student performance

Research on this summer forgetfulness multiplied in the 1990s with attention to everyone’s success. They showed that during the summer, students typically lose a month’s learning in subjects such as mathematics and spelling. Research has also shown that learning loss is greater among students with disabilities, those whose mother tongue is not their mother tongue and who are in the process of learning it, as well as children living in poverty.

However, the understanding of this phenomenon is still evolving. According to new research, the students who lose the most knowledge in the summer are also the ones who showed the most significant progress just before the end-of-year exams. This raises the question of whether the learning was well consolidated or whether the gains simply reflected special preparation for the test.

Rearranging the school year?

Some say that forgetting knowledge during the summer would be less important if the school year were longer, and rely on international comparisons. They note that a country like China, where students have 245 school days, is among the top 20 countries in terms of academic performance in math, science, and reading, while the United States, where the school year is spread over 180 days, is ranked twenty-fifth out of 77 countries, more points behind Australia, Switzerland, Norway and the Czech Republic, which is between the twenty-first and twenty-fourth square.

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But a shorter school year does not necessarily translate into lower academic performance. Thus, according to PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), Irish students outperform American students by 10 points on average in maths, science and reading, despite attending school 167 days a year, that is thirteen days less than their peers in USA.

A few keys against summer omissions

Some parents rely on academic support programs or holiday books to help their children maintain their academic performance over the summer. But there are other attitudes, resources and activities that can be used without necessarily referring to the school world, and here are some of them.

Show the example: Above all, never forget that you are a role model for your children, who tend to copy what the adults around them do. Summer is therefore the best time to reduce the time spent on screens and increase the time spent reading, writing, walking, playing games or talking.

Visit a library: Children like to feel independent. One of the best ways to empower them to be independent is to take them through the shelves of the local library and select books for them to read on their own or for you to read aloud together. Take part in history lessons if this is an activity offered. Get into the habit of going to the library every week or at least several times a month. These visits will strengthen the children’s bond with reading.

Reading aloud helps children develop a sense of storytelling.
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Organize games during trips: When you’re on the bus, the bus or the train, there are lots of number and letter games you can start with the kids. You can calculate the number of fast food you will come across or look for words that start with such and such a letter. These activities not only keep children interested, but also continue to hone their skills in areas such as reading and math.

Encourage your children to keep a journal of their summer: If they don’t have an idea to start, suggest that they list ten activities that they absolutely want to do before the end of the summer. It can be anything from watching a sunset to going a whole day without shoes. To keep it entertaining, encourage them to write as well as draw.

Visit websites of general interest: Organize visits to discover, you and your children, the remarkable local places. Document the visit with a journal, drawings or photos and do some research on the history of the place. These activities can be all the more attractive if you encourage children to learn about the historical or other places you visit.

Organize family picnics: Vary the meals, let the children choose the menus, cook with you and choose the place for the picnic. Research has shown that involving children in meal preparation, such as making shopping lists, can help them improve in reading, writing and math.

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