My kids are counting the days until school is out. They can’t wait until that last bell rings and school’s out for the summer. School ends this week and although my wife and I will get a break from taking the kids to school and picking them up; we always get a little anxious about the kids losing valuable knowledge and skills while out of school for so long.
The Washington Post Reported, experts from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Tennessee, the University of Virginia and elsewhere say this is what happens over the summer:
— Most students — regardless of family income or background — lose 2 to 2 1/2 months of the math computational skills that they learned during the school year.
— Students from low-income homes lose two to three months in reading skills learned in the previous school year.
— Middle-class students make slight gains in reading achievement as measured by standardized tests.
Schools, libraries, and summer programs tend to place more emphasis on summer reading than on mathematics. Even when teachers assign “homework” to do during the summer, children are usually given books to read and not math. This explains in part why kids across the socioeconomic spectrum lose ground in math over the summer, said Ron Fairchild, executive director of the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins.
Vacation brain drain is an important issue for children of all ages, but it can be even more harmful to kids in high school. With SATs, ACTs, AP and IB courses, and other high-demand academic requirements, high schoolers don’t have time to play catch-up, having lost 2-3 months of academic skills. Thankfully, this brain drain can be substantially or entirely prevented if children take part in meaningful learning activities over the course of their vacation.
While it’s vital for kids to keep up education while on summer break. It’s also important for students to decompress from a stressful school year. But a couple months out of the classroom doesn’t have to cause a memory dump for students enjoying summer vacation. To help students stay sharp without feeling like they are still in school, here are some suggestions for how to sneak in a little learning into daily activities.
“Studies show that when kids read four books over the summer they ultimately reduce or eliminate the learning slide in reading,” says Education expert Ann Dolin, who is a former Fairfax County school teacher. The message is clear, get them to read over the summer and you’ll put a stopper in the drain causing a loss of reading ability. I’ve found that if you can get them to read something that they enjoy reading they will soon start asking you to buy them books to read. See if you can pique their interest in a book that’s part of a series. Once they’ve read the first one, if they like it they’ll beg you to buy the next one in the series.
Check out two earlier posts I wrote. The posts have some excellent educational websites in them. These sites are free, and they will do a lot to prevent ” summer brain drain”, “summer slide” or whatever you want to call it. The first one is Five Free Websites That Will Help Your Kids in School and the second one is Five Free Websites That Will Help Your Children in School II. Go ahead a click both links, the sites are totally free and you and your kids will love them.
Talk to your children. We get to spend a few more hours each day with them while they are out for the summer. Use those extra hours to get to know them. Find out what they think of the world around them, what are their interests and concerns. Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or a no. Tell them your thoughts, let them get to know you.
Take them to a museum. I plan to take Day and Key to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art this summer. We were supposed to go last summer, but we didn’t make it. Trips to Museums and Art Galleries provide excellent exposure for kids. They actually get to see some of the stuff they read about. Experiences like these help to cement concepts they’ve only read about, into their minds.
Go to the zoo kids love to see animals. There’s nothing like how a child’s eyes light up when they see a lion or a polar bear face to face. Zoos are also educational, and children can learn about conservation and the animals they see.
The important thing is to keep your child’s brain working while they’re out on summer vacation. Getting out and doing things with them gives them a chance to exercise their brains as well as their bodies. Did you know, most children—particularly children at high risk of obesity—gain weight more rapidly when they are out of school during summer break (Von Hippel et al, 2007). You don’t have to plan every second of you child’s summer vacation. Remember that it’s a vacation, and they need to enjoy the long, beautiful summer days. Keep in mind they are going to be grown-ups for a lot longer than they’ll be kids. On the other hand, you don’t want them to spend two months in front of the boob tube. What we’re looking for is a balance, you don’t want them to forget what they learned during the year and you don’t want them to feel like they’re still in school. So you don’t have to banish your child to his or her room to read for hours on end to prevent summer brain drain. Keep the right balance and you’ll have a refreshed child whose ready for the next level when school starts again. Have a wonderful week, God be with you until we meet again.