Teachers observe that students commonly slip back a level or two over the summer holiday. Maths and English skills need regular practice to keep them salient, especially skills that have only been recently grasped. So how can parents support kids retain those hard-learnt skills, while not making homework a drag or letting it get in the way of summer fun?

Make it authentic

Authentic learning is a buzzword in education these days but what it means is just this: make it have a real-life purpose and meaning. We use English and Maths skills all the time as adults, so let the kids see this and get involved in the processes we engage in.

In Maths, get the kids to compare prices for an item they want to buy, tally up a list of items in a basket at the shops, or estimate the cost of shopping before the check out. They can work out how long it will take to travel somewhere, weigh ingredients for a cake, measure things in the house. In English, get them to write your shopping list, email a friend or better still, write a postcard to Granny.

I know a couple who gave their nearly seven-year-old a summer diary and let her do whatever she wanted with it: a doodle, a picture, a poem, some words. While it might not work for everybody I like the idea of kids choosing how they will use the paper gifted to them, and putting it to different creative uses, i.e. not just a chunk of writing every day. It emphasizes that writing and drawing can be fun. And no need to stick with a pencil, when they can “rainbow write” and colour everything. (It is the holidays after all!) This approach is a good option for reluctant writers and children in their first few years of primary. But more structure can be added for older kids.

Finally, if an exercise book and its accompanying structure is more your thing, here are a few book recommendations you might like to consider: The Lett’s Maths and English Range, available for different age groups, Murderous Maths (series of books with great reviews for enthusing kids about Maths), and study books by Collins (search for the age range and subject you are looking for).

Delve online

As kids move through into the upper years of primary and into secondary Maths skills get more specific and more complex, therefore less easy to think of a real-life use. Thankfully the internet is abuzz with activities and support as the subjects get tougher. If your children regularly do a program like Mymaths or IXL, carry on logging in and go over any practice or homework activities that you didn’t get around to over the past school year.

Personally speaking, we’ve gone for the half an hour a day approach. It’s not set in stone, like when we have a full day out or are visiting friends or family. But it means that on at least half of the days over the summer holiday our kids are engaging their brains. If you’ve got their school books or weekly communication sheets from teachers, you can easily find out what they have been learning and use that as a guide for what to practice over the summer holidays.

Back to basics

Finally, if an exercise book and its accompanying structure is more your thing, here are a few book recommendations you might like to consider: The Lett’s Maths and English Range, available for different age groups, Murderous Maths (series of books with great reviews for enthusing kids about Maths), and study books by Collins (search for the age range and subject you are looking for).

Here are some products and websites that I recommend as I use them!