Making the Most of Mid-Winter Break for Your Child’s Learning

January 31, 2019 by Margaret Paton

Harnessing Mid-Winter Break

North American students are coming up for their mid-Winter break in February. It’s just a week, so what can you do as a parent of a child with learning disabilities to keep them on track yet make the most of the break?

An Uphill Battle with Holiday Brain?

You’ve no doubt heard that holidays can dint IQ levels. Actually, it’s not just holidays. According to a CNN report, IQ levels have been dropping for decades due to environmental factors. They quoted Ole Rogeberg, a senior research fellow at the Ragnar Frisch Center for Economic Research of Economic Research.

Rogeberg, who co-authored a study in IQ levels, said environmental factors could include “changes in the education system and media environment, nutrition, reading less and being online more”. So, how can we keep our children engaged over break?

Battling Log Cabin Fever

If your family is feeling cooped up at home in winter, vacations and day trips offer a welcome relief that could also tick the box for continuing learning. Here’s a list of 50 educational vacation ideas for North America.

Museums, for examples, have educational benefits for visitors. A study reported in the New York Times found that children who went to museums showed:

  1. Better critical thinking skills
  2. More social tolerance
  3. Greater empathy for historical situations and
  4. A taste for art galleries and cultural museums.

Put Electronics Away – at least for a little while

Allow your child unstructured time away from screens so they can explore and investigate either the indoors or outdoors. See them nurture their creativity. It is amazing what can happen when the phone or tablet isn’t the focus.

Get Active to Improve Learning Ability

Studies such as this one(1) demonstrate a direct link between physical activity and academic performance and cognitive performance. It confirmed what other studies had found – that “physical activity triggers change in the human brain due to increases in metabolism, oxygenation and blood flow providing hormones that promote neurological health”.

The researchers said: “Those changes are particularly important for the developing pediatric brain.”

You can access free videos on the Move to Learn website to encourage your child to do physical activity on the holidays. The site caters for school-age children and teens.

Leveraging Off Your Usual Home Routine

Chances are if you have a child with a learning disability they may respond well to routine. Consider then, keeping to your usual schedule for homework as if they were attending school. Sounds cruel, but they’re only attending school up to 180 days a year, that’s just 41% of the year.

Are you giving them their best chance in their education and life if you don’t use non-school time to boost their skills and knowledge? You could tweak your routine a little, perhaps encourage silent reading or reading to them. However, why not keep chipping away at building their skills for learning?

Online software, such as Gemm Learning’s brain-based programs, offer your child training and skill development they can do in the comfort of their own home for around half an hour a day or less. They range from brain training, cognition, reading, attention, auditory processing and dyslexia skills.

1 McPherson, A, Mackay, L, Kunkel, J & Duncan, S. [2018]. Physical activity, cognition and academic performance: an analysis of mediating and confounding relationships in primary school children. BMC Public Health, July 31.

About Margaret Paton

Margaret Paton is a freelance writer of 30 years who’s also been a substitute K-12 teacher since 2011. She’s taught in Australian and European schools. She has a Masters in Teaching (Elementary).