Brain Drain: The Struggle is Real
May 25, 2016
The stats and research have been loud and clear for several years now – and our common sense tells us also: Kids can lose much of their learning during the summer if their minds are not engaged. Some experts tell us that learning loss can be as much as two to three months. Any teacher can tell you he or she must spend quite a bit of time in September re-teaching material – math skills, reading strategies, history facts, writing rules, spelling techniques – that students have lost over the summer. One of the nation’s most valuable organizations, the Johns Hopkins Center for Summer Learning, warns of the summer losses that unchallenged kids can suffer.
There are lots of things we can do for our kids during the summer:
- You’re in charge. Yes, summer is a time for relaxation, for hobbies, for fun. But that doesn’t mean you want your kids’ minds to be turned off, or worse, turned to mush from too much staring at electronic screens. It’s okay for you to insist that they read occasionally, learn something new, keep up their math skills in fun ways, and maybe even write a post card or two.
- Keep them reading. The world is full of interesting topics, and kids can read about them in books, magazines, online sites, and other outlets. The great thing about the summer is they can read about topics that interest them, without the pressure of a test.
- Keep them learning. Summer learning should be fun. Allow kids to learn about the things they don’t always get a chance to study during the school year. Encourage them to discover new interests and talents and to share these new interests with you. Be enthusiastic and supportive.
- Keep them counting. Math skills are important no matter what the season. Have the kids help you shop for groceries by looking for good deals. Plan for the family get-away by helping you map various routes – the shortest, the most scenic, the one that includes everyone’s favorite sites. Figure out tips at restaurants. Measure for a garden. Save a certain percentage of allowance.
- Keep them writing. As a family, keep a summer journal. Have everyone write a few lines each day about important and not-so-important events. The weather, the rainfall, the consecutive sunny days, the growth rate of the tomato plants. Favorite movies, TV shows, sporting events. People you’ve visited or who have visited you. Neighborhood news and events. New friends. School plans for next year.
- Get plenty of exercise. Summer is a time for outdoor activity. Encourage kids to be outside often (remember the sunscreen), to play actively, to include their little brothers and sisters, and to stay healthy.
- Relax the school-year routines. You know I’m a strong advocate for routines, especially during the school year. Homework, study, bedtime, playtime, family time, quiet time, attendance at religious services are all important routines that put structure and reliability in kids’ lives. These routines can be relaxed during the summer, but kids still need the safety and comfort of routines. Let your family decide which routines are able to be relaxed.
- Be a good role model. Let the kids see you living your values. Show how you read for information and for pleasure, write for business or social purposes, and use your math skills when you pay bills or follow a recipe. Enlist their help – even when you don’t need it – to give them opportunities to practice or show off their skills.
- Have family get-togethers. Kids love spending time with you. Make time in the family’s schedule for regular dinners together, game nights, back-yard fun, and informal times for relaxed conversations. Remember talking and listening?
- Talk about school. Every once in a while talk about goals for next school year, especially if your child is making a transition to middle or high school. Or if he or she had had some challenges this year. Or if he or she has some personal goals that require your support and enthusiasm.