In Kids & Family

These kids look to be enjoying summer academy at Doerfler. (PHOTO: Milwaukee Public Schools)

6 reasons to send your kids to summer school

When I was a kid, summer school was thought of as a place for slackers, ne'er-do-wells and kids that struggled to keep up during the academic year. For a long time, I think I carried that image in my mind as an adult, too, and I never really considered it for my children.

Until last year, when I signed them up to attend the MPS' summer academy – which is enrolling now for summer 2017 – at Lloyd Barbee Montessori School. Now, I think summer school can be valuable to everyone, from the lagging learner to the valedictorian.

Here's why:

Summer slide

Two or more months away from school has a detrimental effect on many kids' progress. Sure, kids can read and do enrichment over the summer, but what's better than a couple hours' work to keep their minds fresh? Last year at Barbee, one of my kids' classrooms tied most of its work to a single book. The kids read the book and discussed it and did a series of projects around it. It was hardly penurious nose to the grindstone kind of stuff.

The achievement gap

The Colorado Department of Education notes that low-income children suffer the most from summer slide, and it's a hurdle for anyone who wants to close the achievement gap. According to CDE, kids in low-income homes fall behind about two months in reading over the break and the problem grows over time. It estimates that summer slide is responsible for two-thirds of the achievement gap in ninth grade reading scores between students from low-income and higher-income homes.

New perspective

There are widely varying school communities even in Milwaukee Public Schools, and summer school – which does not take place at every school – means many kids get to experience a different school over the summer. They will meet teachers and administrators from a variety of other schools, too, giving them a broader view of the city and its people.

New friends

The kids they'll sit with in class, ride with on the bus to the field trips and play with at after-care camp will also come from a variety of schools ... and backgrounds. If yours are like mine, they'll come home on the first day with stories of kids whose names you've never heard before. It will expand their horizons.

It's fun

Though they might've groaned when we told them they were going to summer school, my kids had a great time and enjoyed it more than going to day care. They had fun not only on the trips and the playground, but even in the classrooms. The school day is just a few hours in the morning and the rest of the day went to art, dance, play and other fun.

It's free

Seriously, pretty much every working parent has watched in horror as their bank balance was quickly drained over the summer by child care costs. So, while maybe it isn't the main reason to consider summer school, the fact that it is free is a real – and understandable – lure for many. After care costs money, but considerably less than most other summer options.

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