Everyone loves a summer holiday, but most educators believe parents should be concerned about the effect that the long break between school years can have on a child’s learning progress. Experts call this the “Summer Brain Drain,” emphasizing that students are sacrificing the gains they have made in their education over a summer lacking in formal education. They believe parents should be most concerned about Math and Science, with studies suggesting that students can lose 3 months worth of learning over summer break. The National Summer Learning Association has noted that the loss is often even greater in low-income communities with students back-tracking in reading and spelling, widening the gap between disadvantaged teens and their middle class peers. So just what can parents do to mitigate the Summer Brain Drain, while giving their kids a break to ensure they are refreshed and ready for the new school year?
To start with, parents should remember that summer break is a great opportunity to discover and develop interests in children that might not necessarily be focused on a traditional a K-12 education. From dinosaurs to exotic locations to zombie mythology, parents should provide resources for their kids to read, interact and learn more about a topic they will find fun. Parents should look into books, websites, online tutoring platforms, games and activities linked to their child’s interests. Kids, in the meantime, will be unwittingly working on their reading and comprehension skills as well as broadening their general knowledge.
It might seem an impossible feat to make Math seem fun for kids. However, parents should remember that kids love games, especially when it involves competition. Summer break is the perfect time for parents to get out the board games or explore educational but fun websites. Parents should look to the Internet, especially for game-like, educational sites that focus on Math, such as Big Brainz or Cyberchase, to mitigate any back-tracking in this crucial subject. Parents can encourage that competitive spirit by getting involved themselves, inviting friends around or allowing kids to compete online.
Here is another creative option: Why not challenge a child to guide your holiday vacation? Perhaps a destination has a particularly interesting history, fascinating wildlife or different plants and trees. This will work especially well if a child is excited about going on holiday. Suggest an online tutoring course, websites or books that will enable the student to research the destination. Be sure to include activities and visits – like museums or hikes – so that a student can link their knowledge to fun events and also share information with the family.
Parents shouldn’t only focus on books or the Internet when trying to leverage traditional education through summer break. Literally letting kids run free could be one of the best things a parent could do for their child’s brain development. Parents shouldn’t forget the importance of fitness, particularly as schools cut down on Physical Education and obesity levels rise. Parents should make sure their kids are enjoying summer in an active way, be it on the playground, riding a bicycle or playing sports.
The important thing for parents to remember in fighting the Summer Brain Drain is to encourage kids to have fun while learning. The summer holiday can provide opportunities to supplement the K-12 education curriculum with broader learning and real life experiences.