If you surveyed every student in country (possibly the world) most of them would probably say they prefer not to spend their summers back in the classroom. However there are some major benefits to sending your child to summer “school,” whether it’s a course, clinic, or camp.
Unfortunately, for some students summer school is inevitable. However, for many others it could be an excellent opportunity to get additional support in subjects they may be struggling in, or to get ahead with courses in order to take a more advanced course load in preparation for college. For others still, summer classes are all about enrichment – learning a new language or skill, getting certified in CPR or First Aid, or prepping for their driving exam.
According to Psychology Today, sending a child to summer camp – whether it’s sleepaway or day camp – is an excellent way for them to build resilience, relationships, and confidence. While at camp, children and teens are given the opportunity to start fresh – their identities from the classroom don’t necessarily follow them to camp, and they’re able to gain confidence in themselves. In some situations, campers are exposed to a broader group of peers, living with others who are from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. However, in other camps, the opposite is true – campers are immersed in an experience where they are living and learning with peers from the same cultural background and are able to gain an understanding and appreciation of their culture, without having to feel different from their peers.
Finally, at camp and outdoor clinics specifically, campers are given the opportunity to be nourished in a way that’s a bit different than their typical environment – they’re forced to put down their electronics and spend time outside, breathing fresh air, exercising, and eating three square meals per day – sans greasy snacks and junk food.
Interestingly, summer school has similar benefits to students. While there are, of course, the benefits of being able to get ahead in course work or tackle a subject based on a more personal interest, students are able to shed their typical “school personalities.” If they are a student who is known to be a “troublemaker,” or who struggles with learning disabilities, in many cases they are able to work with a teacher who doesn’t know them, and therefore has no preconceived notions of their personality or abilities. During the summer students are also able to receive extra attention, should they need it, as class sizes are often much smaller than during the school year. This individualized attention may result in students being taught concepts in a manner that works best for them, rather than in the broad strokes that are typically used in classrooms to try to accommodate most students.
One of the most enticing benefits of summer school, however, is that it cuts back on what is known as Summer Learning Loss. A study completed in 1996 found that students in grades 1-9 that were tested in the spring and the fall on the same subjects were roughly 1/10th behind in the fall. When accounting for a standard 10 month school year, this means that on average, students lose one month of learning during the summer. Of course, as this is just an average, there were some situations where students lost less, and some situations where students lost more.
The study also found that summer learning loss is cumulative, meaning that with each passing year, some students were falling further and further behind. These findings were especially noted in regards to the differences in family income – those students whose families were in lower income brackets were more likely to consistently experience summer learning loss, while students in more affluent areas experienced less loss.
Specifically, “they concluded that low-income and higher-income students learn at nearly the same rate while in school, but during the summer, low-income students’ learning falls far below that of their higher-income peers. They hypothesized that the non-school environment of low income students does not support educational growth to the same extent as it does for students with higher family income levels.” (Wallace Foundation)
This correlation could point directly to the availability of summer learning activities and environments, such as courses, camps, and clinics, that are available to students in different income areas. The Wallace Foundation hypothesizes: If receiving instruction acts as an equalizer during the school year, it is unclear why it would not do so during summer school programming. One possible hypothesis is that middle- and higher-income students, but not low-income students, receive additional benefits from their families. Summer school programs do not operate over the entire summer, and some operate only for half-days. Thus, family influences on achievement may be greater during the summer than during the school year. Another hypothesis is that low-income students do not attend as much as their peers from more affluent families.
To that end, it is clear that the benefits of summer courses, camps, and clinics are numerous: Campers tend to gain confidence and grow as individuals, while voluntary summer school students routinely achieve higher than their non-summer school peers, and experience less Summer Learning Loss.