How to Reverse the Summer Brain Drain
Three Sure-Fire Ways to Get Your Child Motivated and Excited
Summer’s coming to a close, vacation trips are over, and back-to-school gear is popping up in all the stores. More important than your kid having the right three-ring binder and matching notebooks is that they have the right mindset for the new school year.
How can you reverse the summer brain drain while still enjoying the last bit of summer?
It used to be said that summer learning loss was only a problem in America, where the average summer vacation is longer than that of most international schools. As a result, most of the research on the topic focuses on American students. A 2015 UK study looking at American vacations and standardized test scores estimated “that students’ learning at best stagnates, or, worst case scenario, losses of up to one month of grade-level equivalent learning occurs. Furthermore, the long summer vacation creates a gap of approximately three months in achievement between children from high and low socioeconomic status households.”
Recent European studies (in which a summer vacation is typically 6-9 weeks, compared to America’s 12), however, have indicated the problem is shared among all schools with any amount of vacation.
Any quality curriculum will assume at the beginning that the student may need a refresher on the information from the previous session. But that refresher is only brief, and if your student has forgotten a significant amount over summer, they may find themselves behind before the class has really even started.Click to Tweet
Fortunately, there are exercises you can do now, a couple weeks in advance, to get a major head start on that refresher. These exercises are designed to be built into your daily life activities, so your student will thank you when he or she doesn’t have to sit in front of a textbook for hours, while his or her friends are all out playing.
…if your student has forgotten a significant amount over summer, they may find themselves behind before the class has really even started.Click to Tweet
How do you start?
These exercises are set up into three weeks, but you can adjust the pace depending on how much time you have until school starts. Most of the activities take ten minutes or less per day, so they can easily be combined.
Week 1: Dig up old curriculum
- Look up some of the lessons and projects your child worked on in their last session, and bring them up in frequent conversation. Perhaps even show them projects you saved, and ask them how/why they made it the way they did. Simply getting your child to talk about things they learned can jog their memories. Even if the memory’s hazy, the more they talk, the clearer it is likely to become. It’s like a book report without the book.
- If your student is at the stage where he or she is just beginning to spell, the critical knowledge for them is more procedural. This means it’s more important they know the steps and strategies to sound out words, write the shapes of letters and recognize sight words than it is for them to memorize a specific word list. Try the variety of free PBS games online to reinforce these skills, or make up your own game. Or for a more hands-on approach, you can play the letter drawing game, where you take turns writing a large letter on a piece of paper, and having the other person draw something around it using that shape. (A “Y” for example, could become the trunk and branches of a tree.)
- Apply lessons to everyday activities. Have them figure out which product gives a better deal at the grocery store, or how many gallons of gas you can get for $20. Talk about chemistry when they’re playing with slime. Ask them to read out the recipe and measure ingredients when you’re cooking.
Week 2: Follow their own interests
- Take a family trip to the library and let them pick out books that interest them. Many libraries also have children’s story hours or “maker space” time. See what your local branch has to offer.
- Have your summer movie night be something educational and entertaining like Planet Earth, Dead Poet’s Society, The Great Debaters, Matilda or A Series of Unfortunate Events. Just make sure it’s age appropriate.
- Take a career field trip. If they want to work with animals, take them to the zoo or a local animal shelter. If they want to be a doctor, find one who would be willing to show them around a clinic. Most people enjoy talking about their jobs, and will more than likely be excited to help an interested young student.
Week 3: Get a head start on the new stuff
- Take a look at the upcoming curriculum to see what’s in store for your child. If you homeschool, you should already have the materials, and if you do public school, a rough curriculum and reading list should be available from the school administration. You could have your kid start reading a required book or practice some of the first lessons ahead of time, or you can take a more informal approach like with the curriculum in week 1.
- Emotional preparation is just as important as educational preparation. If you sense your child is nervous about the upcoming school year, it may help him or her to tour the classroom or talk with the teacher before school starts. Or maybe they just need a new back-to-school outfit to increase their confidence. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy them all the trendiest things. As long as they know they have a reliable support system at home, they’re set to have a good school year.
So go out there, enjoy the last few days of summer, and sneak education to your kid like vegetables in spaghetti sauce. For more fun lesson ideas and other educational resources, subscribe to the YesPhonics blog or Youtube channel.