Summer’s here and it’s time for some fun in the sun. But how do you make sure your kids don’t encounter an educational backslide? Many teachers and parents refer to this phenomenon as the “Summer Brain Drain.”
In fact, research shows children learn best when their instruction is consistent and includes regular practice and real-life application. Long breaks, like summer vacation, interrupt the flow of continuous learning, which leads to students losing up to two months of educational progress.
Here are the facts:
• All young people experience some degree of learning loss over the summer. More than 100 years of research shows students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of a summer vacation as compared to their scores on the same tests at the beginning of the summer.
• Most students lose more than two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months and almost two months of reading achievement.
• More than half the achievement gap between low and high income students can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities.
So what can parents do about “Summer Brain Drain”?
Below are six easy and fun tips to keep your kids learning all summer long:
1. Read every day. Nonfiction, fiction, e-books, poetry, newspapers, cereal boxes, recipes, ANYTHING, just read. Twenty minutes a day, every day. Check your local library for summer reading programs with motivating prizes and the American Library Association’s summer reading lists for children. Or, develop your own family book club.
2. Cook with your kids. One of the best ways to integrate math, reading and following directions into daily learning is to cook. Work on measurement conversions by cutting the recipe in half, or doubling the recipe. Kids love to help you grocery shop. Teach them to budget and pick the best values at the store.
3. Take field trips. When you travel or take day trips to a local museum or monument, have your kids keep a journal to write about their experience. Research details online to discover and learn new facts.
4. Learn a word of the day. Create a weekly vocabulary list and post the word of the day in a family area. Find ways to use the new words in daily life. Reward the kids for using the targeted words throughout the week.
5. Register for great summer programs. Find one that combines enrichment with critical thinking skills when possible. Search out programs that capitalize on your child’s interests from science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) camps, to drama and music programs and sports activities.
6. Family game fun. Who doesn’t love a good board game? Institute a family game night once a week. Play strategy, spelling and math games like Scrabble (there’s a junior version), Connect Four and Sumoku, or games that encourage memory skills and critical thinking. Chess, anyone?
Our kids work so hard during the school year. They make great strides in their reading and math skills. While there is always time for fun during the summer, try to make the fun times educational too. With a little planning and investment from kids and parents, the “Summer Brain Drain” can be minimized — or better yet, avoided all together.
• Melissa Cesarano is a math specialist at St. John Bosco Catholic School in Ahwatukee. For more information, visit www.sjbosco.org.