According to 100 years of research done by the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, researchers have determined students are at risk of "seasonal brain drain" -- losing academic skills during a prolonged hiatus -- during summer vacation.
"The real trick is finding something interesting for students to do, something they want to do so they understand that learning is pleasurable and fun," LEAAP Center Facility Director Mary Yelton recently told The Brazil Times. "It is vital for children of all ages to learn to read for future success."
Clay Community School Corporation Coordinator of Curriculum and Instruction Director Kathy Knust told The Brazil Times that, although children are actively learning all the time, summer can be a difficult time for a child to increase their academic skills.
"Research shows that teachers typically spend four-six weeks each school year re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer," Knust said. "The loss seems to be most evident for skills that require memory and practice, such as math facts and word skills."
What can parents do to help their children combat brain drain? According to Knust, summer is a perfect time to keep children's brains stimulated.
"Actually, there are plenty of options available for parents," she said.
For rainy days, Knust recommends parents with computers and Internet accessibility check out the safe, parent-approved sites that are listed on the Clay Community Schools website at www.clay.k12.in.us.
"Many of the sites listed there offer brainteasers, video streaming, and tons of grade-related math, science, language arts, and reading activities for children," she said. "The library is also a great place to promote a love of reading, and the librarian can suggest books that will help your child become a more proficient reader."
If planning a "learning vacation" is out of the question because of high gas prices this summer, Knust recommends turning a potentially boring chore into a fun learning experience that could last a lifetime.
"You can sharpen children's math skills while on trips to the supermarket by having them determine what the "best buy" is, figuring cost per serving or totaling the amount of money spent (with or without a calculator) on family meals each week," she said. "Help children develop imagination and creativity by helping them select pictures from magazines and newspapers, and put them together to write a story. Many older children enjoy keeping a summer journal of their activities or writing letters to friends and relatives. All of these activities are great ways to improve writing skills."
Knust urges parents to not forget many local attractions like the Clay County Museum, band concerts at Forest Park, the 4-H Fair, YMCA summer day camp, the summer reading program at the Brazil Public Library and other enrichment programs at surrounding colleges and universities that offer limitless opportunities for educational growth for the entire family.
"It's important to keep your children's brains stimulated, as well as their bodies moving over the summer months. I guarantee you that your children and their teachers will certainly appreciate your efforts when school starts next fall," Knust said. "Please try to keep things simple, fun, interesting and stimulating. But most of all, let's not forget that summer is also for relaxing, taking some time off and just being a kid!"
Keeping the mind fresh
Although the schoolbooks were left behind on the last day of school, summer break doesn't have to be a time of "if they don't use it, they'll lose it" when it comes to learning.
While it's important for children to have a chance to relax and recharge, there are a few simple things parents can do to keep their minds fresh and ready for school to start again this fall. Some creative tips for helping children with their summer learning include letting them:
* Participate in cooking family meals,
* Help plan a family "dream" vacation,
* Open a lemonade stand or plan a yard sale,
* Track the statistics of their sports activities,
* Get involved in a community service project,
* Calculate driving distances and use maps while traveling,
* Learn about the history of the family or local community,
* Track and chart summer temperatures and weather events, and
* Limit the time spent in front of the television and playing video games, just like during the school year.