Summer is here, and if your children are like most, they're looking forward to long days outside and lots of fun with family and friends. The farthest thing from their minds, and possibly yours, is the new school year that will be beginning in as little as eight weeks. Unfortunately, those eight weeks outside of the classroom can cause a significant loss of learning.
Studies have found that math and reading skills in particular can be lost over the summer. Jill E., a teacher at Indianapolis Public Schools, states that she often sees the impact of summer "brain drain." She reports many of her kindergarten students that had once achieved mastery on a task, such as memorizing sight words, have forgotten the skills by the end of the summer, stressing regular practice is key. "If it's not done on a daily basis they lose the retention of material, which then puts those kids behind when starting the next grade."
While this may seem alarming, there are many small things parents can do at home to keep skills sharp. Long, boring days filled with academics are not the answer, as it is more beneficial to engage children in regular, daily summer activities for short periods of time that reinforce what they've learned in school.
Avoiding summer learning loss
Develop a routine
Choose a time during the day, whether it is first thing in the morning, after lunch or before bed, to have your child engage in a reading, math or science activity. Try compiling a "menu" of acceptable activities they can choose from, such as reading independently, practicing math flash cards or writing a story.
There are many free and subscription-based online programs for children.
Starfall.com: free; literacy games, stories and videos
Sheppardsoftware.com/math.htm: free; interactive math games in a variety of levels
MyLearningRocks.com: fee based; self-paced, online summer program for literacy and math skills, monitored by a live teacher
ThinkStretch.com: fee based; math, science, reading and writing student activity books and parent guides
Get out into the community
Take advantage of Local story times and reading programs at the library, community festivals, museums, the zoo and parks – all of which provide great opportunities for learning. Follow your favorite spots on social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, and visit the calendar pages on their website for the most current event information.
Investigate school opportunities
Often school districts have summer activities and course offerings that your children can participate in. Shannon D, whose oldest attends Herron High School, says that summer courses keep her child engaged and she "can tell that his head is much more ready when the fall semester starts."
Check out summer camp options
There are a wealth of enrichment programs in a variety of areas offered to kids through camp experiences. This can be a fun way for children to exercise their brain with like-minded kids. (Look at the Indy's Child Camp and Summer Program Guide for local and regional offerings.)
Studies have found that children tend to gain weight faster during summer vacation than during the year. Julie S., a physical education teacher, says that parents can use Internet sites such as Pinterest to find fun physical activities to do at home.
Talk to other parents and friends about what they're doing with their children during the summer to provide enrichment. Other moms and dads are often the best resources!
Whether you choose to have your child participate in outside summer enrichment activities or provide opportunities on your own, remember that any effort you put into retaining academic skills will benefit your son or daughter when school starts up again!