Much has written about the Summer Brain Drain or summer learning loss. Just Google “Summer Brain Drain” and pages of useful, semi-useful and many useless articles appear.
Engage the Brain is going to separate the men from the boys. The wheat from the chafe. The junior college from the Ivy League. The franchise learning centers from Engage the Brain. Yes, we went there.
It is well researched that the average student loses two to three months of learning over the summer. The loss is more pronounced in minority and low-income families.
Why so much loss?
It can be summed up in the old saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” Most children do not read enough over the summer. And very few children do any type of math computation or problem solving. Hence the learning loss. Short of sending your child to summer school or to an expensive academic camp, what can a parent do to help their child maintain the academic skills they learned during the past school year?
Here are two key antidotes to the Summer Brain Drain:
Let’s look at some activities you can do with your child to help foster a sense that learning can take place anywhere at any time.
Plan a vacation
Whether it is a one-day “Staycation” or a plane flight to a far off destination, planning a vacation involves lots of academic skills. Children can research where they would like to go (reading), determine how much it will cost to attend certain attractions (math), and figure out how to get to said attractions (geography).
Pen pal with a relative or friend
Writing for a purpose is at the crux of communication. Encourage your child to write to Grandma or Grandpa or another distant relative and to start a dialogue between the two. My daughter corresponded with my father (her Poppop) for years through letter writing. Every couple of letters that arrived at our home contained money! Writing involves rereading what has been written; a sneaky way to get in more reading practice.
How can I put this so that I don’t insult anyone? Many teachers have a similar complaint about today’s students… They simply don’t SHUT UP. Was that too blunt?
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post on the importance of teaching kids soft skills. A great way to practice soft skills would be to visit a museum in your area. Participate in a guided tour, if one is offered. Your child must listen and will be given opportunities to ask the guide questions. If there are other kids along on the tour, encourage your child to chat with them. Developing social skills is critical for long-term success in life. Summer is a wonderful time focus on this.
Wrapping it up
Summer provides more opportunities for meaningful conversations to take place with your child. Help him understand learning is a life long process by including him in decision making about his summer activities. Structure the day so that there is a consistent down time during which he can read or work on an educational computer game. Your child does not have to fall victim to the Summer Brain Drain. Just employ a few of these antidotes so you child arrives in class this fall charged and ready to learn.
David Karch (Learning Specialist with Engage the Brain)