I have been thinking about what I should write about next – I think this will be an appropriate subject for as we near the end of the summer break. There is a thing that happens to school students who have months-long summer breaks. It’s called “Summer Slide”.
“Summer Slide” is when the student returns to school unprepared for the beginning of term, whatever grade they might be entering or in some cases returning to. Why?
During the summer there’s little going on that could be considered school-related, like reading or writing or math. The child comes to the conclusion that his or her education does not exist or matter during the summer break. They start the school year unprepared for because they have forgotten the basics of some subjects that were taught to them just two and a half months before.
Education is a building process that is 12 years long and is a family matter. Yes, I did say family matter. If the parents do not support their child’s education in any way they have failed that child.
If parents think that education of a child is just the concern of the school system -- that under-budgeted, under-staffed school system -- then they will fail their child, who most likely has stopped reading at this point.
Please read on.
Some of you might think that making sure that your child has school supplies: backpack, binder paper, pencils, pens and everything else, is all you need to do other than make sure your child actually goes to class, you need to wake up.
You child spends about 50 minutes in class for six classes. Add in lunchtime, it’s a six-hour to seven-hour day for five days a week for nine mouths.
Let’s break this down; just some simple math, adding and some subtraction.
There are 8,760 hours in a year, based on a 365-day year. About 295 to 297 of those day are school days. Let’s not quibble and go with 295 days at 7 hours of school time. That comes out to 2,065 hours of time in school for the year.
Now for any given week, seven days come out to be 168 hours with only 49 of those hours spent on the school grounds. That leaves 119 hours at home. Let’s allow 56 hours a week for sleep. As you can see the gross numbers fall heavily on the at-home side.
So what happens at home for those hours they spend there and 48 hours on the weekends. For a segment of the student population, nothing happens: no study and little or no homework. Parents must realize there’s only 50 hours in school and 144 hours at home. And 88 of these hours the child is awake, on average, and with only two hours a day available for homework, that’s 14 hours.
Enough mathematical acrobatics! The plain and simple truth is if you do not take your child’s schooling and time for education seriously, neither will your child. This is in essence, your child’s first job, starting with those first cryptic crayon drawings and the ABCs to the basics of higher learning in math, science and liberal arts. For the large majority of students this is free of charge for the most part, with the exception of school taxes, which we all pay.
In the coming years a high-school diploma will be the minimum requirement, and in most cases some sort of advanced degree will be essential in getting a job with a future.
Only a very few jobs will require no education, such as digging trenches and being a landscaping helper -- pick and shovel jobs, as my dad put it. Oh, I almost forgot, there’s dishwasher and janitorial jobs, as well. However, even these menial jobs require some reading comprehension: the safety manuals and company polices, and every job application has a portion for education history. This is hard to fudge on because yours and your child’s education is public record form the seventh grade on. Do not forget that the high-school diploma is a must for any company interview, even MacDonald’s. And now even to enlist in any of the Armed Forces.
Education is the benchmark for the rest of your life, how much and how well you did or did not do. All can become factors in who get the promotion or who gets to call the shots, who stays and who go when it is time to downsize a company. So now you most likely know why that young, wet-behind-the-ears, smart arse is your boss. He has the sheepskin that says he has the education, not necessarily the know-how. Hopefully, the boss is smart enough to know what’s needed to learn on the job – unless the person holds the position because of a family member.
So you must invest in your child’s lifelong willingness to learn. Learning never stops. But getting a running 12-year start cannot hurt anyone. And let me tell you from my point of view as a former educator, if you do not care about education nether will your child. I have heard this myself “Why should I care if no one cares about me”
You might well ask, “What does this have to do with reading?” Your child will have a lot of text book on any number of subjects, and even in math and science books, there’s a lot of words -- technical wording that they will have to understand. If they are a weak reader, they will have a hard time. And a hard time usually means falling behind in class and poor grades. And children just hate to admit that they do not know something until it shows up on the test; then it usually it is a maze of lies to cover up the fact that they just do not understand the vocabulary associated with the subject matter. Math is one of these subject where the explanation usually overwhelms the student with technical jargon.
This is why using the textbook when doing homework is important and to know the parts of it. Most students who have done poorly in my classes, could not understand the vocabulary: the glossary and appendix of the textbook looked unused. The student would give me that blank stare when asked to look up a term.
You should try it sometime. If you are approached to give a definition to a word, tell the child to look it up, right there in front of you, and you will find out in short order if they were paying attention in the first few days of class when a teacher usually explains how to use the textbook, or know where the glossary and appendix are in their books.
I have written a textbook or two in my day and a glossary and appendix is a vital part of any text book or technical manual. Even the driver handbook has one or the other or both, usually in the back of the book.
Being able to read for knowledge is the foundation of education. Your child is given directions in class. But the bulk of what they will learn and retain is during their time at home with some helpful parental support, while doing their homework in a quiet space where homework and study actually matters.
Most children, I have contact with, are more concerned with getting out of work and expend a lot energy doing just that. Setting goals of getting A’s is good. But you have to give a reason that your child can understand for getting those A’s, and follow through with step-by-step progress checks.
Each child is different and has a different outlook on goals. The big block is peer pressure: to fit in and be popular and have a lot of friends. And these friendships can quickly become more important than learning.
Is your goal to have a successful, educated adult or to have a popular child with a D average. And that group of friends will scatter leaving the young adult with little, or at worst no, prospects.
Later on I will explain more why reading is the most important skill that you or your child can learn.