Books(141318)Credit: Ove Topfer


"School's out, school's out!
The teachers let the monkeys out.
No more pencils, no more books,
No more teachers' dirty looks!"

Any parent who remembers the lyrics from that timeless kid's musical chant celebrating the beginning of summer vacation also knows that that celebratory euphoria for children can be short-lived. All too frequsently children complain, within a few weeks into their summer break from school, "I'm bored."  This boredom presents a perfect opportunity for parents to facilitate activities that will help keep kids brushed up on the skills that they learned in school.

Summer vacation from school can negatively impact children's memory of some of the things they learned during the school year. The summer break from school can lead to brain drain, the term for the learning loss that many kids experience over the summer vacation from school. Educators and parents are seeking strategies to prevent learning loss during the vacation time.

Research Findings

Research shows that most students, regardless of their family incomes, lose some of their math skills during the summer break. Students coming from low income homes show a noteworthy loss of reading skills as a result of the summer break  while kids from wealthier homes actually gain in reading skills.

The research findings suggest that children lose math skills when they don't use them every day, as they do in school. Children from middle to upper level income families tend to read more over the summer than children from lower income families, probably due to books being more readily accessible to them.

The plethora of summer learning experiences accessible to kids from middle to upper income families better enables those children to retain more of what they learned during the school year.  Being able to take part in the activities offered through summer camps, family vacations, and home learning experiences provided by parents helps to reduce the effects of brain drain. The lack of  access to similar summer resources and experiences  for kids from lower income families negatively impacts thier retention of information learned at school.

Strategies to Prevent Summer Learning Loss

Educators suggest that it is possible to close the achievement gap between wealthier and poorer kids. Reading skills develop at about the same rate for children from all income levels during the school year.  Notably, the achievement difference tends to  happen during the summer vacation and not during the school year. Providing summer resources and learning experiences  to children from all income levels can  better facilitate knowledge retention for all children. It is necessary, as they say, to level out the playing field in order to make up for any learning deficit.

 There are summer learning programs that provide learning experiences to better ensure children will be up to speed when they return to school in the fall. Parents can check with the curriculum coordinator in their school district or check with the local colleges and universities to find out what educational programs may be offered for children over the summer. Parents might consider having their children tutored during the summer. Sylvan Learning Centers is just one such tutoring service available.

Parents should encourage their kids to frequent the library in summer and encourage them to read. It's a good idea to make reading a family activity. Helping children to form a summer reading book club is a fun way to motivate children to read. 

In addition, parents can have their children use safe, educational Internet sites that develop reading, math, and science skills. Parents should check their local newspapers and bulletin boards for educational summer camp offerings, such as math workshops,writing workshops , computer camps, and theatre workshops.

Since all children experience a loss of math skills over the summer, it's a good idea for parents to take advantage of opportunities to have their children use math skills while on vacation from school. Opportunities for brushing up on math skills are readily available in every-day summer activities, such calculating mileage on road trips, converting measurements in cooking, counting out money and making change when shopping. Parents can also teach children how to balance a checkbook.

Summer is an ideal time to help children brush up on science skills by learning more about nature through such activities as gardening, building a bird feeder to better observe birds, and perhaps even planting a butterfly garden. Even fishing can turn into a science learning experience.

To summarize succinctly, seize the teachable moment and help stave off the summer brain drain.