It’s May; the month where April’s showers pay off with those wonderful flowers (unless you live in the upper Midwest or on the East Coast where April showers were whiter than usual). But even with the lousy weather many of us have endured, the excitement of spring is finally in the air.
This is most evident in any school you might visit. Listen carefully and you’ll hear the resounding sounds of happiness that can only come from the anticipation of summer vacation. The countdown has begun; their minds have wandered far beyond the boundaries of the schoolyard. Thoughts of vacations, trips to the cabin or the beach, the smell of freshly cut grass or blooming flowers, the sound of a baseball being whacked into the sky or a golf ball dropping into the cup have everybody in a tizzy that the end of the school year simply can’t come soon enough!
And when you leave the teacher’s lounge, you’ll see that the students feel the same way.
It’s an understandable feeling. Teachers and students have both worked very hard since the fall and they are all looking forward to a well-deserved break. It’s a chance for students to experience the four R’s of summer:
Allow me to apologize for spoiling summer before it can even get going, but regression is a serious issue that can have a significant impact. If there is no attempt to maintain a minimal level of growth during the summer months, what was gained can be lost. How much are we losing? According to the Brookings Institution from Washington DC, researchers have learned the following:
“On average, students’ achievement scores declined over summer vacation by one month’s worth of school-year learning, declines were sharper for math than for reading, and the extent of loss was larger at higher grade levels. Importantly, they also concluded that income-based reading gaps grew over the summer, given that middle class students tended to show improvement in reading skills while lower-income students tended to experience loss.” 
As concerned parents and educators, we work to implement strategies that will help to minimize the impacts of summer academic regression. When both sides work together they can often come up with a plan that helps to reduce the loss of skills while not preventing the child (and parents) from enjoying the break from the normal school year routine. Imagine if every family took that type of approach to summer vacation. Students would be able to make greater academic gains each year because teachers could reduce time spent on review and get into new material sooner. Struggling students would progress farther and gifted students could explore topics of study without the boundaries of the daily school schedule. It’s easy to see the academic benefits that can occur with this year-round effort and emphasis on learning.
And when you expand this idea of growth beyond children in school, you’ll see how everyone can benefit from the growth opportunities in summer.
My experiences in schools have shown me the struggles of keeping students academically engaged over the summer. My experiences as a church worker have shown parallel struggles of keeping families actively engaged in worship during the summer months. It has never made sense to me how families who place so great an emphasis on raising their children in the knowledge of the love of Christ can so easily place its importance behind camping, roller coasters, baseball games and yard work. I don’t mean to sound judgmental and I don’t want to lecture anyone into feeling guilty about missing a week of church for a family trip. That said, it sends a damaging message to the entire family when church attendance is hinged upon convenience, obligation, or the minimal requirements to maintain a reduced level of school tuition. Spiritual growth and maturity are things that develop in us through time spent in worship and studying the word of God. To remove this from our lives for twelve weeks every summer stunts our spiritual growth and teaches our children that our relationship with God is secondary to the other things in life that make us happy. Remember, idols come in all shapes and sizes!
Proverbs 22:6 stresses the importance of fostering faith development in the lives of our children as it declares, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Reading, writing, and arithmetic are critically important skills that will serve us every day. Faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will not only serve us for the rest of our earthly lives, but for all eternity.
So as the school year ends, and summer break begins, find ways to use your time away to maintain what God has built up within you so that you can turn that fourth “R” from regression to renewal and ultimately receive God’s greatest “R’s”; Redemption and our eternal Reward in heaven.
Photo Credit: http://informingfamilies.org/good-bye-fourth-grade/