13 Ways to Beat the Heat and Sabotage the Summer Slide

by Dr. Nidhi Thakur ([email protected])

Summer is here, and so are the children’s justified demands to ‘let it go’. Trust me, they will demand an endless number of sleep overs, sleep-ins, TV, and popsicles. Get ready!

Well, Summer is the time (and if you are on the East coast, the only time!) for popsicles, and bike-rides and endless play dates. But since leisure is addictive, it could also be the time when all the regimentation of the school days gets undone. You don’t want to become victims of the Summer Slide, that phenomenon that supposedly sets students back in academics over the summer due to a lack of discipline and instruction. Or wait a minute, can there be a middle ground? That right balance of work and play?

Luckily, there is:

1. As opposed to daylong weekly camps, you might want to explore regular enrichment classes for an hour or two a couple of times a week. No need to give a break to the activities that they are good at, and that they enjoy doing. This keeps a sense of continuity for the children.

2. Start on New Activities (new sport or a new instrument) which you, and the children had been eyeing for a while, but never got the time to start. This is a good time to try, and see if you want to stick on with these activities for the school year too.

3. Create a (broad) curriculum on academic milestones for the summer. It need not be anything super ambitious. Something to keep their intelligent brains sweetly and rightly challenged. For example, they can be asked to write an essay every two days, coupled with some set number of math sheets per week. History can be divvied into weeks, and topics covered accordingly.

4. We divvy up our summer into 2 parts. For the first (smaller) half we revise what was done in the past grade. For the second half we try to touch on topics and concepts that are expected in the upcoming grade.

5. To meet the above goals, set aside an hour each day for such things. Ideally, keep a ‘back-up’ hour to allow for flexibility. For us, the hour after breakfast, or one just after lunch is ideal for getting their attention.

6. Set aside a dedicated day in a week to make a trip to the library. Because you can afford to spend more time than during school days, you might want to assign non-fiction and fiction time. Non-fiction time is great for encyclopedias and biographies. Fiction is when they really pack in a big batch of books to lug home!

That said, we cannot take away from Summer its most glorious aspect that, it is a time for timelessness. It is a time to explore the hill at that end of the park, and dig out from there as many precious pebbles, or earthworms, as the sand bucket will hold. It is a time for Pajama parties that start past nine, and end only when the eyes burn, and cheeks ache with laughing. It is a time for daytrips to water parks and night camps to gaze at the stars. It is a time for being kid, the simple old style kind!

In today’s world it is not easy to be a parent to someone who is ‘simply being a kid’. It is not easy to let the child wander in the backyard, seemingly doing nothing. At worst, a PBS Kid’s program beckons us to point out to our children. More than the kids, we modern parents have become so used to ‘scheduling’ stuff for our kids, that not doing so, seems unnatural, and scary. And so this summer, you can plan to make it less stiff, and more fluid:

7. Be ready to take the kid to a playdate, as last minute as it might be.

8. Be ready to offer candies, at odd hours, when demanded (of course with daily limits!).

9. Be ready to clean up after a messy artist’s creative attempts.

10. Be ready to get drenched in the unavoidable rain, and keep some newspaper dry and handy to make the paper boats on which only the most imaginative of voyages start.

11. Be ready to be tugged at for a ‘project’ just as you sit down with the Sunday Magazine.

Most importantly,

12. Be ready to catch up when you feel you have slid by a day. Summer is a long, but fleeting journey through sun filled days, and nights full of fables. There is always room to make up for a lost day!

Last, but not the least,

13. Every now and then, let the kid be awake for as long as s/he wants to be!


  • Dr. Nidhi Thakur

    Chronicler by instinct, and an Economist by profession.

    Raised in India, I came to the States for graduate studies. Trained as a health economist, with a Post-doc from Univ of Chicago. Taught in various colleges including Texas Tech University, in Lubbock, and Barnard College, in NYC, and teaching now in Kean University, NJ. I live in an Igloo with two goblins and one guinea-pig for all improvised recipes!