Summer is the time for playing, relaxing, going on vacation, and watching TV, right? Not exactly.
According to a 2001 study from the University of Missouri, kids lose an average of two months’ educational progress over the summer. Two months!
In other words, they have to relearn in September and October what they already learned in April and May (or May and June). The regression happens to homeschoolers and traditional schoolers alike. Kids seem to lose the most in math, but also often lose ground in reading and other subjects as well.
Don’t throw up your hands in despair just yet; there are lots of things you can do to help your children retain what they’ve learned – or even learn something new – over the summer.
9 Ways to Prevent Summer Brain Drain
- Schedule learning on your calendar. I challenge you to do something educational with your children at least twice every week, all summer long. If you don’t think you can manage that, set a goal for once a week. Any learning is better than none at all.
- Read to your kids. Make going to the library part of your weekly routine; most libraries have a free summer reading program with incentives and activities.
You might be thinking about reading just to your younger children, but older kids will enjoy a family reading time if you choose books that are engaging. Read from the Bible, or read from a great chapter book that the whole family can enjoy. I taught high school science for 10 years and I read Jurassic Park to my students almost every year. The loved it! Consider books from 101 chapter books to read to your kids; there’s something there for everyone.
- Encourage your kids to read. While reading to your kids is important and valuable, getting them to read on their own is also critical. Do whatever it takes to get them reading – borrow the graphic novels they want from the library or buy them the magazines they love. For older kids, pick up something exciting like Spirit Fighter or Isle of Fire. For younger ones, try a feel good story like Gigi or Hermie. To further encourage their reading consider creating special spaces for them. Make an inside and outside reading nook (hammock, anyone?).
And let them see you reading! You are, after all, their biggest role model.
- Go on field trips. Field trips are learning disguised as fun. Let your kids take the lead. Do they love science? History? Art? Figuring out how things work? In addition to traditional museums, many factories offer museums or tours. So do farms, markets, and some restaurants and banks. They’re all great learning experiences – if you talk about what you’re seeing and help them to process what they’re learning.
- Do math every day. Please don’t print math worksheets for your kids; do real-life math with them. Cook together and help them to measure ingredients. (Ever double a recipe? There’s a ton of math involved!) You can also play math-based games. I recently purchased POP Addition/Subtraction and Money Bags for my first grader; it’s also easy to modify traditional card games to include more math. We’re also using a lot of math game ideas from this website.
- Get some apps. There are hundreds of educational apps for all subjects and all ages. I’ve shared many lists of educational apps for iPhone and iPad for preschool and elementary kids. Apps for Homeschooling is also a great site with many app recommendations and reviews, sorted by age and subject.
- Look for classes. Museums, schools, nature centers, and colleges offer summer activities and classes. Even some churches, theme parks, and theaters have classes. Once you start looking, you’ll most likely find more opportunities than your schedule and budget will allow. Let your kids choose the topics that interest them most.
- Plant a garden. There are so many reasons to plant a garden (or even just a few containers) – teaching your kids patience, perseverance, diligence, observation, and questioning by checking on and caring for their plants daily, learning about pests, pest management, beneficial animals, and fertilizer, testing effects of different changes, and more. You also can work in math (measure your seedlings every 3 days, for example, and make a graph) and reading (by reading about the needs of different plants).
- Surprise them. Search on Pinterest for “math games” or “science experiments” or whatever topic will interest your kids. Pinterest is invaluable for educational activities and ideas. You could start with my homeschooling, learning through play, or fun for kids boards. Surprise your kids with something fun that encourages them to use their critical thinking, reasoning, reading, and/or math skills.
No matter what you choose to do to keep your kids’ skills fresh in their minds, make it fun, tailor it to your kids’ interests, and do it as often as possible. How do you prevent your kids from losing ground during the summer? Leave a comment below – we’d love to hear from you!