Use remaining days of summer to get kids on track for quick-start school success

How many of us can remember something we learned three months ago if we haven’t been practicing it since then? The dog days of summer will soon give way to earlier wake-up calls, timed tests, and whiteboard lessons. Are your kids ready to rock a new school year?

Summer brain drain, sometimes also called summer slide, is a phrase describing the loss of skills that many kids experience over their extended school vacation. A 2013 Huffington Post article by Rebecca Klein reported on a survey from the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), which confirmed that teachers spend significant time re-teaching material “due to summer learning loss.”  The survey was based on answers from 500 teachers, and it found that “66 percent teachers have to spend three to four weeks re-teaching students course material at the beginning of the year, while 24 percent of teachers spend at least five to six weeks re-teaching material from the previous school year.”

Earlier this month Sarah Levin Allen, assistant professor of psychology at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, wrote a post titled “Help Your Kids Avoid the Summer Brain Drain” for the “Healthy Kids” blog at Philly.com. In it she reports that “Research shows that students return to school about one month behind, academically.” Some other researchers have concluded the loss can be even greater—two or three months.

Whatever the potential backward momentum, Allen offers some quick and easy tips for avoiding or reducing this loss, including incorporating learning into everyday situations, such as asking your child how many pizzas to order to make sure everyone at an event gets 3 slices.

Other types of “assignments” can sharpen multiple skills at once. For example, choose an object that can be described by a variety of senses, such as a pet, a video, or food. Ask your child to list words that describe the item. For instance, the words “sandy,” “breezy,” and “seagulls” can describe the beach. Then have your child write a descriptive paragraph using the words on the list. Encourage using an interesting introductory sentence and avoiding repetition of the same sentence structure.

Supplementary learning tools can also be helpful. For some fun math review that includes game activity try Math 1-2 Flash Card 4-Pack, with its focus on addition and subtraction or Math 3-4 Flash Card 4-Pack, which emphasizes multiplication and division. For a different kind of practice, Multiplication & Division Flash Action, available as Windows Download, Android App, Mac App, and iPad app, gives kids in middle grades playful review of these skills to build a solid foundation for higher-level math.

If spelling was a challenge last year, kids can similarly work on those skills in their favored format. For example, Spelling 1-2 is available in a software and workbook combo, Android app, iPad app, Mac app, or Windows download. It includes over 2,000 first and second grade level words, plus personal spelling lists that can be added during play.

But summer is still summer. Allen emphasizes that “Simply spending time with family or friends can foster social and emotional growth. Through play, kids learn how to get along, structure their own activities, and regulate their own emotions. It's essential to healthy brain growth and development.”

Let summer play out in all its natural best. Keep chilling, but also help kids get ready for a new school year by brushing up on skills that may likely have grown as hazy as a hot, humid, late-summer afternoon.