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Avoiding Summer Brain Drain

Tips to Help Your Child Avoid Summer Brain Drain

Summer is here! That long-awaited school break has arrived. Your children are now enjoying their much deserved time away from the daily grind of spelling tests, math worksheets, book reports, geography lessons, science projects and homework. It is time for them to play in the sun, swim in the pool, go camp, walk the beach, shoot hoops, ride bikes, sleep in, relax and lose three months of reading and math gains that they worked so hard to attain this past school year.

Yes, many children fall almost three months behind in math and reading skills over the summer. This phenomenon is so well known that educators even have a special name for it. They call it the "the summer slide." Because of the summer slide teachers often invest the first two months of every school year focusing on lesson plans that help students regain skills they lost over the summer.

But this doesn't have to be the case. The summer slide does not need to occur in your family. Creating a summer that is totally void of learning is not what children need. You can provide high-quality learning opportunities for your children during the summer months that are different from those activities children are exposed to during the school year. This gives them a break from traditional school work and yet prevents important skills from slowing draining away.

Tips to Beat Summer Brain Drain

Here are a few tips you can use to create a different look and feel to the learning opportunities you offer your children this summer:

  • Math skills deteriorate rapidly in the summer. Use your environment to help them use math skills. When you put chemicals in the pool take the time to figure out the area, diameter or volume of your pool. At approximately 9 pounds per gallon of water, how much does all that water weigh?

  • Taking a road trip? Calculate the mileage by using a map and adding up the distance as indicated on the map. What does miles-per-hour mean and how do you compute it? How many miles-per-gallon are you getting? What is the difference in gas prices in different locations?

  • Sit together with your 11-year-old and balance the check book and compare it to the family budget. Help your teenager create a budget plan or pick a stock to invest in and track its progress through the summer.

  • Have your children handle money. Take pop bottles back and have them estimate how much money they will receive. Allow them to make change at your garage sale. Have them count the money you have in the family charity jar.

  • Keep it fun. Play games that require the use of skills learned in school. Remember the card game called "war." It's now called "Top it." Turn over a card and see if you have a card that is higher. For first and second graders turn over two cards, add them together and see which sum is higher. For fourth, fifth and sixth graders turn over two (or three) cards and multiply them and see which product is higher. Play Monopoly, Scrabble, Yahtzee, Rummikub, Boggle, Sequence or Word Up. A brief stop at the department store game section and your list of options easily multiplies.

  • Keep lots of reading material around your home. Read to and with your children. Create a family book club. Pick a book with your child and both read it. Just the two of you sit down together over a pop or ice cream cone once a week and discuss the plot development or characters.

  • Model learning. Turn off the TV and get away from the video games. Let your kids catch you reading this summer. Learn a new computer program. Start that book you've been wanting to write. Expand your horizons this summer with a wood carving class, parenting workshop, pottery or painting class.

  • Get help. Every community has learning activities for kids. Libraries have reading programs. Recreation centers and churches have day camps. Schools have inventor's camps. Art Institutes have drawing, painting, pottery and drama classes for children. Sign your kids up.

Create a summer that balances rest, relaxation and fun with learning. Use the many opportunities that summer offers to help your children grow their brain. If you do you will help your children begin the new school year right where they left off when school ended this year. And the only summer slide they'll experience will be the one at the recreation center or water park.

Thomas Haller and chick Moorman are the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose (Personal Power Press, 2004). For more information, visit www.personalpowerpress.com.

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