Let’s face it, December is a lost month. For many children, it is the best time of the year to sleep in and stay up late to binge movies and play video games. But, much to most parents’ horror, it’s inevitably the perfect recipe for a school break “brain drain”. If you haven’t heard of the term, it refers to the learning loss experienced by a child who doesn’t attend school for the entire holiday.
If your child is struggling with remembering what they previously learnt in school, or adapting to a new school year, they might be dealing with learning loss. Let’s go over what learning loss is, why it happens, and what kiasu parents and their children can do to prevent it and keep their learning up to par.
What is learning loss, and what causes it?
Learning loss is more than just forgetting a few concepts, it’s also losing the knowledge and skills that your child needs to move forward in learning. Forgetting these initial concepts can make returning to school after the long June and December holidays tougher. This can really hold your child back in their academic progress.
The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve theory claims that our memory retention of a new concept learnt weakens over time, especially when we do not review or reinforce our learning. This is where the winter break brain comes in! If learning loss isn’t addressed, your child may take months to get back on track.
What are some ways to address learning loss?
Many parents are looking for ways to address their children’s struggles with learning loss and find ways to make it easier for them to get back into the flow of school after a long school break. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, there are a few things you can do at home to help your child retain the skills and knowledge they’ve learnt for the next school year:
1) Constantly review important concepts
Some students only hit the books at the last minute before a big test, but rote memorisation doesn’t help them truly understand a topic. If your child takes time out to practise their skills weekly even on breaks, through an enrichment math programme like Spark Math, they’ll keep the skills they’ve learnt and feel more confident on their math journey.
Because Spark Math uses ex-MOE teachers who are adept at facilitating inquiry-based learning through the CPA approach — which emphasises students exploring the how and why behind math concepts by connecting new ideas with what they already know — your child won’t have to stress about last-minute memorisation because they’ll have a firm grasp on the building blocks behind it all.
2) Make learning meaningful and engaging
Not all learning takes place in the classroom. Math is a subject that underpins our daily activities from planning timetables to dealing with money. Bring your child to the supermarket and have them pick the best buy or calculate the exact change. Bake together and ask your child to change the ingredient ratio or cut the cake fairly among the family. When your child learns to solve problems with heuristics, as opposed to memorising tables and answers, they build a deeper understanding that is retained for a longer time.
Fret not for parents who have no time for grocery trips or cake baking! Online classes — in particular, those that use scenario-based games and animation— are great alternatives to keep your child entertained while still exercising their mental muscles, making sure those skills are kept fresh and top of mind throughout a long break.
3) Make digital education an everyday part of learning
Home-based learning (HBL) has gone past being a circuit breaker memory and is becoming a regular part of school life to complement classroom teaching in all secondary schools, junior colleges, and Millennia Institute at all levels by the end of 2022. Basically, online learning isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and parents have to learn to embrace and utilise it.
Online learning can become a great way to help fight learning loss, as online classes or programmes during breaks can refresh and reinforce math concepts learnt in class. Using online learning regularly can help your child take remote learning days seriously. If there’s a school break or an emergency for a long break, your child will treat those days as seriously as face-to-face classroom learning. These skills not only help your child today but will make their future of online learning and remote work easier as it’s an experience your child is used to.
4) Give your child the individual time and attention they need
It’s a no-brainer: With smaller online classes, your child can get more individual attention. With more focused time, your child can work on their skills at their own pace. The school doesn’t have to be in one building on certain days anymore, but just one part of a larger educational journey. People learn at different speeds and in different ways. Taking the time, during educational breaks, to continue the learning process helps enforce concepts students may have a weaker grasp on. This extra individual time, whether in a small group or alone, helps your child build the preparation and confidence for learning in their normal classroom life.
Singapore’s long school holidays are a protected time for teachers and students to de-stress and avoid burnout from their busy school activities. Yet, it’s unrealistic to expect a child to recall everything they learnt without revisiting it after such a long break.
Learning loss can hinder your child from keeping up with other classmates, create stress, crush confidence, and even turn them away from the joy of learning. Taking the time out to make learning part of life, whether in school or not, helps your child transition between breaks in school and be more successful in all their future endeavours in life.
Help your child address learning loss and get ready for the next school year. Spark Math offers highly interactive lessons and animated explanations that help to master math heuristics. Sign up for a FREE trial class to experience Spark Math today!