Ways to fight kids’ summer brain drain

WASHINGTON — A couple months out of the classroom doesn’t have to cause “brain drain” for students enjoying summer vacation.

“Studies show that when kids read four books over the summer they completely reduce or eliminate the learning slide in reading,” says education expert Ann Dolin, who is a former Fairfax County school teacher.

Parents who make children part of the planning process will have the best success keeping kids on track with educational enrichment over the summer.

“When kids know what to expect early on, they’re more likely to comply,” says Dolin.

Dolin also recommends family involvement.

If, for example, a plan is established to spend 30 minutes reading three or four times a week, “it’s not just saying to your child — go up to your room and read for 30 minutes,” she says. Dolin says perhaps the entire family could sit down and read at a specified time such as after dinner.

An important first step to this entire process, according to Dolin, is for families to determine what they want to accomplish.

“First, you have to determine what it is you want your child to be able to master over the summer. For example, maybe you have a fourth grader who needs to know his multiplication facts,” Dolin says.

Dolin founded the in-home tutoring service Educational Connections, but says there are lots of free programs online that are helpful.

“Amazon has a really neat summer math enrichment program called TenMarks,” she says.

Dolin says the program is very scripted and consists of 20 minutes of practice, three times a week.

Also, there are programs to help parents determine whether a student’s skills are up to date. Khan Academy tailors exercises to specific grade levels.

“So, for example your rising seventh grader getting ready for seventh grade math can go onto the program and find a list of all the skills you should know going into seventh grade,” says Dolin.

Students who abandon practicing math entirely over the summer can lose up to three months of progress in the subject, Dolin says. Students can lose about 2 1/2 months of language arts skills over a lazy summer.

Find fun ideas to prevent summer brain drain on the MindShift website.

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