Education expert offers tips to help your child prevent summer brain drain

Create a plan to make learning fun and get a leg up on the next school year so summertime fun doesn’t result in learning loss.

It’s summer and time for the kids to kick back, relax and give their brains a much-needed break, right?

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Wrong.

Experts say that summer is more than just a time for kids to sleep in and laze by the pool; it’s a time to review lessons, build upon academic strengths and tackle any problem areas to avoid learning loss.

“Research shows that students need to continue to learn year round,” says Tonya Perry, Ph.D., assistant professor of curriculum instruction in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Education and author of Supporting Students in a Time of Core Standards. “Taking a two-month break affects students’ ability to remember concepts and other important information that will be needed.”

Kids who do not engage in educational activities during the summer typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they did on the same tests taken at the beginning of the summer, according to the National Summer Learning Association.

Experts say that summer is more than just a time for kids to sleep in and laze by the pool; it’s a time to review lessons, build upon academic strengths and tackle any problem areas to avoid learning loss.

“We need to revisit the purpose of summer,” Perry says. “We all think of it as time away from the academic school year, but we should also think of it as a time to revisit our interests, work on our challenges and accelerate our learning.”

Here’s how you can do that:

Have a plan of action: Reflect upon your child’s successes and missteps during the past school year and the expectations that will arise in the fall. Then, map out a strategy to fill in any educational gaps. Creating weekly contracts will make expectations clear for parents and students.

Work on strengthening their weaknesses: Summer is a great time to work with your child on any academic deficiencies, Perry says. Enroll them in programs that strengthen weaknesses, such as math, science or reading camps.

Invest in summer reading and writing utensils, such as a good book to read with your child and a journal for recording ideas. Download free online student-appropriate activities so that you and your child can do lessons one on one. Also, many certified school teachers are available during the summer to tutor. Contact your local school or library for information.

Build on their strengths: If your child has a knack for math, summer can be a time for them to delve deeper, Perry says. “Students can use the summer months to excel in academics without the pressure that sometimes accompanies school in a structured environment.”

Help them come up with a fun summer project to build upon what they learned in school. Or, enroll them in a career-exploration camp to give them a taste of what it would be like to work in their field on interest.

Make learning fun: If your child cringes at the thought of schoolwork during summer, disguise it with fun activities, Perry says.

The kitchen can be a great classroom, she says. Perry suggests teaching your kids math skills by cooking together. You can use recipes to illustrate fractions, multiplication or addition, she says.

Measure the area of your yard and plot out sections for planting flowers or creating a garden, she says. Read comic strips to get background information before seeing popular movies like “The Avengers,” etc.

Get a leg up: Soon, college readiness standards for children in eighth grade and below will be changing, Perry says. Students in Alabama will be expected to meet new College and Career Readiness Standards and take different tests in the future. Summertime can be an opportunity for you and your child to familiarize yourselves with these standards.

“There is a shift for higher learning for the students, one that is needed,” Perry says, “but we will all need to work together, parents and teachers, to help students meet the new demands.”

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