Extended School Year
(ESY) is a helpful summer program for children in special education, but unless you can prove your child's going to regress over those months off, you may not be able to get it. You can still keep the learning going at home, though. Here are some ideas for setting up your own ESY.
Kids are going to fuss about doing academics over summer vacation, but they may object less if they've got company in their suffering. Check with the parents of other students in your child's class or special-education track to see if they're looking for summer enrichment also. Banding together means that your child has someone to do work with, and you have someone with whom to put that work together.
You can do all the teaching yourself, or take turns with the parents of those other students if you've got 'em. Another option, though, is to pool your resources and hire a vacationing teacher to do the job. Just as many kids don't get selected for ESY, many special-education teachers don't get picked up for summer school jobs. You may be able to find one who's willing to be a tutor-for-hire, at least for part of your ESY day, and bring "class"work and ideas along.
You wouldn't want your child bused to a different campus every school day, so keep your ESY program at one location, too. This allows you to keep supplies and uncompleted work conveniently on-site, and not worry about things going missing. Find a space you can dedicate to schooling -- a corner of the dining-room table, maybe, or a cart for piling supplies. Have a table the kids can work at together. If you're doing this with a group of parents, those who aren't donating their home can provide transportation and bring supplies.
If your child's teacher has sent home work to be done over the summer, you've already got some direction and some assignments to give. Review your child's IEP,
too; look at the goals that have been set for the coming year, and think about how you can address them. Some will obviously be best handled by a teacher in a classroom, but things like money and life skills are perfect for a less-formal home approach. Working with your own child's needs or those of the group you've assembled, pick three or four areas to concentrate on -- maybe reading, math, writing, and life skills.
ESY programs generally aren't as long as a normal school day. Plan on about four hours, and reduce as needed to suit the abilities of your child or group. Schedule those hours according to the availability of the adults, and the best learning times for the kids. You can go four hours in the a.m., four hours in the p.m., two hours in each with some playtime in the middle, whatever works for you. You'll want to schedule in breaks for recess, lunch, maybe art and music, even therapy. But keep to a routine, and post it so the kids can follow.
Your Field Trips:
Not all learning has to take place in a (makeshift) classroom. Doing your own ESY means you can take your child or group out in the world to experience and learn and grow. That might mean a science museum or environmental center; or it might mean going to a fast-food restaurant and having the kids handle the money. Revisit places your children have been on field trips for some likely learning spots.
Your Report Cards:
You're not going to be grading your child, but it wouldn't hurt to write up a little report at the end of the program to let teachers, therapists, and case managers know what you were up to over the break. It will help those who work with your child to know if any progress was made over the months away, and will let everyone know you're a parent who believes in learning and pushes to keep it going. Give yourself an A+ for that.
Your child's teacher is a good source of worksheets and leftover workbooks to get your ESY off the ground. You can also buy workbooks at bookstores and teacher supply stores. Beyond that, here's where to find some good learning ideas for various subjects on this Parenting Special Needs site and elsewhere.
Money and Other Life Skills
For more ideas on summer programs, projects, and play opportunities, check the links below. Whether your summer DIY is an ESY classroom, an improvised day camp,
or just a small-scale family project, you'll gain valuable together-time with your child. And that's worth the trouble right there.